BOONE — A third Watauga County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a March 24 AppHealthCare announcement, as the number of tests administered rose in the last week.
According to AppHealthCare, the district health department for Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties, the case had travel history, has been in isolation since being tested and is improving.
“The local public health staff have identified the close contacts, who have been quarantine for several days,” AppHealthCare stated on March 24.
The announcement comes six days after the last positive case announcement in Watauga County on March 18. The second Watauga County case was exposed to a known positive case and the first case. The first Watauga County case, reported on March 15, is a Samaritan’s Purse employee with a travel history.
AppHealthCare stated that it wanted to remind the public to share credible, reliable information and practice prevention measures like hand washing, covering the mouth when coughing and sneezing, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.
COVID-19 positive cases reported for the state have continued a rising trend in recent days, as the number increased to at least 475 cases as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, according to reports from the Raleigh News & Observer.
This number varies from reports provided by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, as the agency reported 398 positive cases as of March 24, with its reporting process occurring as a single daily update. The News & Observer is compiling the numbers of cases announced by counties throughout the day, noting that cases reported by county health departments can take up to 48 hours before they are included in the state’s numbers.
On a statewide level, NCDHHS reported a total number of 8,502 tests had been conducted for the coronavirus as of March 24, which were conducted at the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health and did not include tests at university and commercial laboratories.
According to Melissa Bracey of AppHealthCare, depending on the volume at the labs, turnaround time can vary from 24 hours to seven days.
“We have noticed the fastest turnaround has been from the N.C. State Lab for Public Health, but we know all labs are quickly adapting to the increased testing volume,” Bracey said.
Both Ashe and Avery counties have yet to report a positive case of the virus within their borders.
Johns Hopkins University and Medicine reports a total of 51,542 confirmed cases in the United States as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, a jump of more than 4,000 cases since noon and 20,000 in the previous 72 hours.
The total represents the third-largest total of cases worldwide, trailing only China and Italy. The university reported that there had been a total of 674 deaths across the country to date related to COVID-19 as of Tuesday, March 24.
To date, no deaths within the state of North Carolina have been reported, according to NCDHHS.
On March 24, Bracey said that recommendations on testing have shifted from broad-based testing to testing those who have urgent medical needs and demands for care.
“Individuals who are sick or ill can remain at home and call their provider to receive additional guidance as needed,” Bracey stated. “People with mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19 do not need testing and should be instructed to stay at home to recover. Mild symptoms include: fever and cough without shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, blue lips, difficulty breathing or confusion, call 911 or your doctor right away.”
“Testing is most important for people who are seriously ill, in the hospital, people in high-risk settings like nursing homes or long-term care facilities and health care workers and other first responders who are caring for those with COVID-19.”
AppHealthCare reported that it has collected a total of two tests in Ashe County, while outside agencies have collected a total of 22 tests to date for the county. In Watauga County, AppHealthCare reports that it has collected a total of 62 tests to date, while outside agencies have reported a total of 95 tests for the county.
H.R. 6201 – The Families First Coronavirus Response Act – states that group health plans and health insurance issuers “shall provide coverage, and shall not impose any cost sharing (including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) requirements or prior authorization or other medical management requirements” for COVID-19 testing during the current emergency period. The act also seeks to waive cost sharing under certain Medicare and Medicaid programs for certain visits relating to testing for COVID–19.
According to the hospital representative and advocacy group American Hospital Association, H.R. 6201 has a new option for states to expand limited Medicaid eligibility to the uninsured for the purpose of COVID-19 testing and related services.
According to AppHealthCare’s website, it accepts all patients regardless of ability to pay, saying that most private health insurance plans require the patient to pay a copayment to the provider and meet an annual deductible.
“AppHealthCare will work with any patient, regardless of their ability to pay for testing. As is our usual day-to-day practice, a patient will not be turned away due to inability to pay,” Bracey said on March 21. “Thankfully, many insurers are also providing support for their members to remove any barrier to care.”
Effective March 24, visitors will not be allowed at any of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s hospitals in order to help protect its patients, family members and health care workers from the spread of COVID-19, including inpatient and outpatient facilities at Watauga Medical Center and Cannon Memorial Hospital.
Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis for hospitalized minors (maximum of two family members per day); patients at the end of life (maximum of two family members per day); patients needing help with communication, decision making or mobility; and patients giving birth (maximum of two family members or support people per day).
For more information, visit apprhs.org/covid19.