BOONE — Additional Watauga County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total of identified cases among Watauga County residents to 11.
One individual is an employee of Appalachian State University whose last day on campus was March 20 and the other is a subcontracted worker who last worked on campus May 13. These individuals have fully cooperated with isolation instructions and are recovering at home. Public health staff have identified close contacts, and they are in quarantine and are being provided access to testing during their quarantine period.
The university stated on May 19 that officials continue to hear of self-reported, confirmed cases that are not being tested by AppHealthCare or App State.
"As we learn of these cases, we are coordinating with local public health agencies to the greatest extent possible, in consultation with the North Carolina Division of Public Health Communicable Disease team," the university stated. "AppHealthCare continues to be a valuable university partner, helping verify tests that may have been performed in other counties."
University students who are concerned about symptoms should call student health services at (828) 262-3100 and ask to speak with a nurse or call AppHealthCare at (828) 264-4995. Faculty or staff who have concerns about students or their own health diagnoses should reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. If there's a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
“As testing guidance continues to expand, we expect to see additional cases," said Jennifer Greene, the health director of AppHealthCare. "It remains important for each person in the community to do their part to slow the spread of this virus."
Greene advised that if a community member is leaving their home, they should follow the three Ws and wear a cloth face covering, wait 6 feet apart from others and wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
"These are important actions we can all take to protect ourselves and each other," Greene said. "If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please call your healthcare provider or AppHealthCare to discuss your symptoms to determine whether testing would be appropriate."
Since the Watauga confirmed case count has exceeded 10, AppHealthCare stated it will now be transitioning its case reporting to the agency's website dashboard case count instead of issuing press releases for individual cases. However, if there is a need to release information specific to a confirmed case, the agency said it will do so in order to protect public health. Data can be found on the website dashboard and will be updated regularly at www.AppHealthCare.com.
App States will continue to keep the university community informed about verified, positive cases with potential to impact university students, faculty and staff. The latest updates regarding App State’s response to COVID-19 may be found at appstate.edu/coronavirus.
How to protect yourself
- Practice social distancing which means avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, keeping 6 feet or more between you and others and remaining at home to the greatest extent possible
- Frequent hand washing
- Cover a cough or sneeze
- Keep distance from others who are sick
- Avoid touching the face
- Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in common areas like doorknobs, remotes, light switches, tables and handles
- Wear cloth mask or face covering when out in public when around people like grocery stores or pharmacies; more information about face coverings can be found on the AppHealthCare website.
COVID-19 signs and symptoms
Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure. According to the CDC, people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of reported symptoms.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
People at high risk include those who are 65 years of age or older, live in a nursing home or long-term care facility or have a high-risk condition (such as chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, heart disease with complications, compromised immune system or severe obesity with a body mass index of 40 or higher). People at high risk also include those with other underlying medical conditions — particularly if not well controlled — such as diabetes, renal failure or liver disease.
People who are at high risk should stay home to the greatest extent possible to decrease the chance of infection.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has issued updated testing guidance to allow a clinician to test any patient in whom COVID-19 is suspected. At this time, AppHealthCare stated it wants to prioritize testing for the following populations:
- Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
- Close contacts of known positive cases, regardless of symptoms
- Anyone at higher risk of exposure or at higher risk for severe disease, regardless of symptoms, to include:
- Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (long term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farm worker camp)
- Persons who are at higher risk of severe illness
- People who come from historically marginalized populations
- Healthcare workers or first responders
- Front line and essential workers in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain
For testing, a community should call their local healthcare provider or AppHealthCare. The agency asks that people do not just show up to a health care provider without calling first.
"This will help your provider prepare should you need to be tested and lessen the potential exposure to others," AppHealthCare stated.
The agency added that it will serve anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. As is its the agency's usual day-to-day practice, a patient will not be turned away due to inability to pay.
Managing your overall health
During this time, it is important to manage ones overall health. There are resources available if there's a need to reduce anxiety or stress, if experiencing suicidal thoughts or need to better manage chronic conditions. Visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website at www.ncdhhs.gov.
AppHealthCare is available and on-call 24/7 to respond to public health emergencies. To reach the agency, call (828) 264-4995 anytime and follow the prompts. AppHealthCare has set up a COVID-19 hotline at 1+ (828) 795-1970 for information during regular business hours. The agency will continue to monitor COVID-19 in the community and will work to keep the public informed. Visit the agency's website for more information, or follow AppHealthCare on Facebook and Twitter.
Questions from agencies requesting support on COVID-19 response, planning efforts, etc. can contact email@example.com.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website can be found at cdc.gov/coronavirus.
North Carolina resources can be found on the Division of Public Health website at ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus. To view the case count for North Carolina, including a county map, please visit the NC DHHS website.
App State has a dedicated website about its response to COVID-19 at www.appstate.edu/go/coronavirus.
A COVID-19 toll free helpline has been set up to answer general, non-emergent questions at 1-866-462-3821. To submit questions online, go to www.ncpoisoncontrol.org and select “chat.”