BOONE — Watauga County leaders and AppHealthCare are actively planning and determining what reopening will mean for the local community, the organizations said in a joint statement Tuesday, April 28.
The organizations referenced Gov. Roy Cooper's announcement last week that he would extend the current stay-at-home order through at least May 8, with a phased reopening to follow based on the state's COVID-19 testing and tracing capacity as well as trends in numbers of cases and hospitalizations.
"This plan relies heavily on data so that each step is informed and strategic," the statement from AppHealthCare and Watauga County stated.
Watauga County announced on April 24 that local orders banning short-term rentals and requiring 14-day quarantines for anyone arriving from an overnight stay elsewhere would remain in effect until the governor lifts the statewide stay-at-home-order.
"Watauga County requests individuals returning to the area have all medicines, prescriptions and food needed to abide by the 14-day self-quarantine order," according to the April 28 statement. "This is to ensure individuals have all the necessities they need and do not need to leave their residence for those items. After the 14-day quarantine is met and there are no signs of illness, individuals are free to engage in activities authorized by the governor’s order."
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners will be reviewing the reopening plan during its next scheduled meeting at 8:30 a.m. on May 5, according to Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque.
“We know it is important to reopen our local economy and get people back to work," Geouque said in the statement. "This will be a phased approach and done in close partnership with AppHealthCare and other stakeholders and agencies. Watauga County’s reopening will be in step with North Carolina’s phased approach and will be done in incremental steps so that we protect our community’s health."
The governor’s plan for Phase 2 of the state's reopening will “allow limited opening of restaurants, bars and other businesses that can follow strict safety protocols (reduced capacity),” the county's statement said. "We will continue to work closely with these businesses and coordinate and support them throughout this process."
“As we begin to reopen parts of our community and ease restrictions in the coming weeks and months, it will be important to be thoughtful in our approach. The sacrifices that have been made by everyone in our community has helped slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve," said Jennifer Greene, AppHealthCare health director. "However, there is still work to be done, and careful consideration and action is needed to continue that trend and lessen the impact in our community. As we reopen, we do expect to test more, which would then likely lead to more confirmed cases."
David Jackson, president and CEO of Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, praised the communication and proactive steps taken by AppHealthCare, Watauga County government and local municipalities.
"Watauga County has engaged all of our municipalities and helped lead thoughtful dialogue around the different facets of our community that have been impacted by the business and lifestyle interruptions we have faced," Jackson said. "These discussions have not only helped bring a variety of issues and ideas to the table, but the collaboration between AppHealthCare, Watauga County and our municipalities have ensured that every corner of our county, the interests of our citizens and the economic impacts facing businesses are being discussed together.
"I feel we will have a stronger plan moving toward the phased reopening because our local leadership has been willing to engage voices, listen and show the necessary leadership needed to keep our community healthy,” Jackson said.
During this time, it is important to manage your overall health, AppHealthCare stated. There are resources available if you need to reduce anxiety or stress, are experiencing suicidal thoughts, need to better manage chronic conditions and more. Visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website at ncdhhs.gov.
How to Protect Yourself & Others
- Practice social distancing: avoiding gatherings, keep 6 feet or more away from others and remain at home as much as possible.
- Frequent hand washing for 20 seconds.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
- Keep distance from others who are sick.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in common areas like doorknobs, remotes, light switches, tables and handles.
- People at high risk should stay home to the greatest extent possible.
- Wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
People at high risk include anyone who:
- Is 65 years of age or older
- Lives in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Has a high-risk condition that includes: Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma; Heart disease with complications; Compromised immune system; Severe obesity — body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher; or Other underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as diabetes, renal failure or liver disease
If You Are Sick
- Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.
- If you become ill, call your health care provider or call AppHealthCare to speak with a public health staff member before going to your provider or the emergency room.
- If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
- Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus
- NCDHHS: ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus
- AppHealthCare: www.apphealthcare.com or call (828) 264-4995 or the COVID-19 hotline at (828) 795-1970
- Appalachian Regional Healthcare System: apprhs.org/COVID19
- Toll-free hotline for non-emergency questions: 1-866-462-3821 or visit www.ncpoisoncontrol.org and select “chat.”