COVID-19 UPDATES AND GUIDANCE

County Buildings to Close Monday – 3/28/20

Access to Transylvania County Government buildings will be restricted to the general public starting Monday, March 30. This applies to the Community Services, Election Center, Animal Services, Tax and Register of Deeds, and Administration buildings.  The main entrance doors will be locked and anyone needing services from departments in those buildings will be directed to call the appropriate department for guidance. 

  • For Public Health, including administration, women’s health, birth control, STDs, and immunizations, call 828-884-3135.
  • For Environmental Health, call 828-884-3139.
  • For WIC Services, call 828-884-1753.
  • For Vital Records, call 828-884-1743.

To speak with a public health nurse about COVID-19, call the TPH nurseline at 828-884-4007.

 

Statewide Stay at Home Order – 3/28/20

Thank you to everyone that has been working hard to help slow the spread of COVID-19 illness within our community. We understand that this can be inconvenient, frustrating, and costly, but we also know that these efforts do work. We appreciate the sacrifices that you’re making to keep yourself and others safe.

On Friday, the governor issued a Stay At Home order for the entire state of North Carolina that will go into effect on Monday, March 30 at 5 pm. Everyone in North Carolina is ordered to stay home except for work at essential businesses and for essential activities such as getting food and medicine, health and safety, and to help others. It bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other. This is a mandatory order that will remain in effect until April 29, but can be extended.

Businesses and not-for-profit organizations that are deemed essential as defined by the Order do not need any documentation from the State to continue operations. See Executive Order 121 and Guidance Document for the list of essential businesses. Employees are not required to have specific documentation to report to work under this Order. Businesses that were closed under previous executive orders 118 (dine-in at restaurants and bars) and 120 (entertainment and personal care) shall remain closed. Other non-essential businesses must close by Monday at 5 pm.  Non-essential businesses are still allowed to continue minimum basic operations, but must comply with social distancing requirements. Businesses are encouraged to get social distancing and telework plans in place immediately.

At this time, Transylvania County has not further restricted travel or ordered business closures beyond the state guidance. We will keep you informed of any changes to county restrictions and any steps you need to take.

Essential businesses and non-profit organizations that are allowed to continue operating must abide by the mass gathering and social distancing requirements: no more than 10 people gathered in any indoor or outdoor space, maintaining at least a six foot distance from other individuals, washing hands using soap and water for at least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or the use of hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and facilitating online or remote access by customers if possible.

Third Case Reported in Transylvania County – 3/27/20

Transylvania Public Health was notified of a third case of COVID-19 in a county resident. This patient is isolated at home. Communicable disease nurses are contacting people who had close contact with this person.

Public health officials continue to recommend preventative measures to limit the spread in our community, including staying at home to the extent possible, limiting group sizes, maintaining 6 feet of distance between other people, washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces with a product that destroys human coronaviruses.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath), stay at home, isolate yourself from others as much as possible, and self-treat symptoms. Testing for mild symptoms is not recommended at this time. Call your provider is you have concerns about your symptoms, or if you are in a group at higher risk for severe illness. If you experience worsening shortness of breath, trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, or blue lips, call 911. To speak with a public health nurse about COVID-19, call 828-884-4007.

Stay Home, Save Lives – 3/27/20

If you think you might have COVID-19 and have mild symptoms, the best thing you can do is stay home and recover.

When you leave your home to get tested, you could expose yourself to COVID-19 if you do not already have it. If you do have COVID-19, you can give it to others like critical health care workers and people at high risk for severe illness. Staying home really can help save lives. 

This new fact sheet from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services can help you know what to do if you are sick.

If you who have COVID-19 or believe you might have it, you should stay home and separate yourself from other people in the home as much as possible.

Testing is not recommended for people with mild symptoms. When people with mild illness leave their homes to get tested, they could expose themselves to COVID-19 if they do not already have it. If they do have COVID-19, they can give it to someone else, including people who are high risk and health care providers who will be needed to care for people with more severe illness. In addition, because there is no treatment for COVID-19, a test will not change what someone with mild symptoms will do.

Finally, with a nationwide shortage on personal protective equipment, supplies need to be preserved to allow health care providers to care for people who need medical attention. 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, health care workers and other first responders who are caring for those with COVID-19.

If you have more serious symptoms, call your doctor right away. More serious symptoms can include worsening shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, or blue lips. In the case of a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

You can go back to your normal activities when you can answer YES to all the following questions:

  • Has it been at least 7 days since you first had symptoms?
  • Have you been without fever for three days (72 hours) without any medicine for fever?
  • Are your other symptoms improved?

To stay up to date on COVID-19 in North Carolina, visit ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus or text COVIDNC to 898211. To speak with a local public health nurse about your concerns, call 828-884-4007. Call 2-1-1 (or 888-892-1162) for general questions or for help finding human services resources in your community.

Additional Case Reported in Transylvania County – 3/25/20

Transylvania Public Health was notified of a second case of COVID-19 in a county resident, associated with travel. North Carolina also reported the first deaths from COVID-19, in a Cabarrus County resident and a Virginia resident.

Public health officials continue to recommend preventative measures to limit the spread in our community, including staying at home to the extent possible, limiting group sizes, maintaining 6 feet of distance between other people, washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces with a product that destroys human coronaviruses.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath), stay at home, isolate yourself from others as much as possible, and self-treat symptoms. If you experience trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, blue lips, or confusion, call your healthcare provider or dial 911.

Updated Testing Recommendations – 3/23/20

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services revised its recommendations for testing on March 23 due to community spread of COVID-19.

People with mild symptoms (fever, cough) consistent with COVID-19 do NOT need testing and should stay at home to recover. Testing should be limited to people with symptoms that require hospitalization or whose treatment would change based on the diagnosis, as well as people in high-risk settings like nursing homes and healthcare providers.

If you have a fever and cough or trouble breathing, stay at home and contact your healthcare provider by phone. People who develop symptoms of difficulty breathing, chest pain, blue lips, or confusion should call their healthcare provider or 911. Do not go to the emergency room unless you are experiencing a true medical emergency.

Updated Definitions of People at High Risk for Severe Illness – 3/23/20

CDC revised its definition of people at higher risk for severe illness to include:

  • People ages 65 and older
  • People living in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People with existing health issues such as chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, heart disease with complications, immunocompromised including cancer treatment, severe obesity, or not well controlled diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease

Pregnant women should be monitored by their providers since they are known to be at higher risk for other severe viral illnesses.

All people at higher risk are urged to stay at home as much as possible. Everyone should practice social distancing, minimize group activities, and wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water.

Additional Changes in North Carolina – 3/23/20

Governor Roy Cooper issued two new Executive Orders on March 21 and 23 to limit the spread and assist with the response to coronavirus in North Carolina.

Executive Order 120 extended the closing of public schools until May 15, lowered the limit for the number of people at public gatherings to 50, and ordered the closure of public places such as gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys, hair and nail salons, and similar businesses starting Wednesday at 5 pm. The order also restricts all visitors to nursing homes and group homes, except for situations such as end of life. (Read Executive Order 120)

Executive Order 119 waives certain restrictions on child care, limit in-person DMV services to enact social distancing measures, and waive some requirements for commercial driver’s licenses. (Read Executive Order 119)

In addition, the US Forest Service announced that all national forest campgrounds and associated day-use areas will be closed from March 23 until at least May 15. The Blue Ridge Parkway began limiting backcountry camping permits on March 22.

Transylvania County Reports First Coronavirus Case – 3/22/20

Transylvania Public Health received notice early Sunday evening that a Transylvania County resident has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The person is doing well and is in isolation at home.

The Transylvania County resident has not had close contact with a confirmed case and has had no relevant travel history. Transylvania Public Health nurses are identifying close contacts of this person to monitor fever and respiratory symptoms. To protect individual privacy, no further information will be released.

This is the only case of COVID-19 identified in Transylvania County to date. As of Sunday, March 22, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services was reporting 255 cases across the state.

“We have been planning and preparing for cases of COVID-19 in our community,” said Transylvania County Health Director Elaine Russell. “We encourage the public to prepare for the likelihood of local community spread here, because that is what we have seen happen in other areas.”

“Transylvania County has been actively preparing resources to support ongoing critical county services should community spread become a reality. We are committed to continuing to serve out citizens through this crisis,” said Transylvania County Manager Jaime Laughter.

Because COVID-19 is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, all residents should take the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Practice social distancing efforts
  • Avoid large groups and public gatherings, especially for older adults and those with existing chronic health conditions
  • Stay informed with information from trusted sources

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our people,” Russell continued. “Now, more than ever, it is important to practice good hand hygiene and social distancing efforts, especially to protect our elders and more vulnerable individuals.”

If you develop a fever and respiratory symptoms including cough and shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider. Stay at home and do not go out until your symptoms have completely resolved for at least 72 hours. If you need medical attention, contact your provider for further guidance.

For more information, visit www.transylvaniahealth.org/COVID-19 or call 2-1-1.

Transylvania County Declares State of Emergency – 3/20/20

On Friday, March 20, Transylvania County Commissioner Chair Mike Hawkins announced that he was declaring a State of Emergency for the county, with assent from the City of Brevard and Town of Rosman.

In his letter, Hawkins explained that an emergency declaration is a tool which gives government some flexibility in responding to unusual circumstances. Circumstances in Transylvania County have not changed significantly. Hawkins said the declaration was merited in the county’s current COVID-19 response execution, due to the complexity of the response planning taking place.

Read the State of Emergency Declaration for Transylvania County.

The state and federal governments have both declared states of emergency, along with 67 other NC counties.

Slow the Spread: Social Distancing Guidance – 3/18/20

To slow the spread of coronavirus and reduce the number of people infected, organizers of events that draw people together should cancel, postpone, or modify these events or offer online streaming services.

President Trump has asked people to limit gatherings to 10 people or less at least until the end of March.  The CDC and NC DHHS recommend that gatherings be less than 50 people. For now, Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order (enforceable by law enforcement) remains at 100 people. All guidance is subject to change.

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Use good judgement. Limit group sizes, and limit the number of groups you interact with. Practice social distancing by staying approximately 6 feet from other people whenever possible. Wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizers, and practice proper respiratory etiquette including coughing into your elbow.

Community and faith-based organizations whose members may include high-risk populations (over age 65, underlying health conditions, or weakened immune systems) should take extra precautions to protect these individuals from potential exposure. Encourage these individuals to stay home as much as possible. Consider options like connecting by phone, using other technologies that support social distancing, and/or facilitating small group meetings.

Additional guidance:

NC to Close Restaurants and Bars; Expand Unemployment Benefits – Updated 3/20/20

Governor Cooper announced a new executive order in response to COVID-19. Starting at 5 pm today, restaurants and bars will close for dine-in customers but will be allowed to continue takeout and delivery orders. UPDATE 3/20/20: To clarify, state officials have confirmed that onsite consumption of food is not allowed, indoors or outdoors, pursuant to the Order of Abatement

Grocery stores will remain open. The governor asked people to not stockpile food and leave some for those who cannot afford to buy a lot of food at once.

The executive order also included an expansion of unemployment insurance to help North Carolina workers affected by COVID-19. This order (1) removes the one-week waiting period to apply for unemployment benefits, (2) removes the requirement to look for another job during this time, (3) allows employees who lose their jobs or have hours reduced to apply for unemployment benefits, (4) waives requirement that part of the application process be in person, and (5) directs that unemployment losses won’t be counted against employers.

Secretary Mandy Cohen clarified that the limit on community gatherings to be enforced by law enforcement would remain at 100 people, but that people should use good judgement in choosing to attend or host events and should maintain social distancing of approximately 6 feet. NC DHHS and the CDC recommend limiting gatherings to less than 50 people, and President Trump asked people not to gather in groups larger than 10 people for the next 10 days.

Testing Options – Updated 3/20/20

If you develop a fever and respiratory symptoms including cough and shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider to request testing. COVID-19 tests are available as needed at this time, but testing is not recommended for people without symptoms.

If you are tested for COVID-19, you will be expected to self-isolate at home at least until the test results come back. Stay at home and do not go out until your symptoms have completely resolved unless you need medical attention.

UPDATE 3/20/20: Both drive-through testing sites in Buncombe County and the drive-through site in Henderson County have suspended operations for now. 

BUNCOMBE COUNTY: Starting Tuesday, March 17, two drive-through COVID-19 screening sites will be available in Buncombe County. Testing sites will be located at Biltmore Church in Arden and at UNC-Asheville on WT Weaver Boulevard. The sites will be open from 1pm to 6 pm on Tuesday. Based on the availability of testing supplies, the sites will operate daily from 10 am to 6 pm. Testing is available to community members experiencing symptoms, regardless of income or ability to pay. Learn more from Buncombe County Health and Human Services.

HENDERSON COUNTY: Starting Monday, March 16, a free drive-through COVID-19 screening site will be available in Henderson County. Call the Pardee COVID-19 Helpline (828-694-8048), open 8:00am-8:00pm, to determine if symptoms qualify for flu and / or COVID-19 testing. If a patient meets screening criteria, they will be asked to drive to Blue Ridge Community College and follow the signs for screening. If patients arrive without having met screening criteria, they will be asked to pull out of the line and call the Pardee COVID-19 Helpline. Learn more from Pardee.

STATEWIDE, INCLUDING TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY: Testing is available from commercial laboratories, hospital laboratories, and the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health (NCSLPH).

Patients must meet one of the following criteria to be tested by the NCSLPH:

  1. Fever OR lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) AND close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days; OR
  2. Fever AND lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) AND a negative flu test

Patients are recommended to meet the following criteria for providers to order testing from other laboratories:

  1. Fever AND lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) AND a negative flu test

For more information on testing in North Carolina, visit the DHHS COVID-19 Testing webpage.

Governor’s Executive Order – 3/14/20

On Saturday, March 14, Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Executive Order prohibits mass gatherings that bring together more than 100 people in a single room or space, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theater, or other confined indoor or outdoor space, including parades, fairs and festivals. Violations of the order are punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor.

The ban on gatherings does not include airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and spaces where people may be in transit. Office environments, restaurants, factories, or retail or grocery stores are also excluded.

The order also directs all K-12 public schools to close beginning Monday, March 16, 2020 for at least two weeks. The two-week period allows time for North Carolina to further understand the impact of COVID-19 across the state and develop a plan for continued learning for students should a longer closure be needed.

Governor Cooper has appointed an Education and Nutrition Working Group to develop a plan to ensure that children and families are supported while schools are closed. The working group will focus on issues including nutrition, health, childcare access for critical health care and other front-line workers and learning support for children at home.

The order also urges everyone to maintain social distancing recommendations of approximately 6 feet from other people whenever possible and to continue to wash hands, utilize hand sanitizers and practice proper respiratory etiquette.

Updated guidance for specific groups is available on the NC DHHS website and is linked below.

Mitigation Measures – Effective 3/13/20

NC DHHS is making the following recommendations to reduce the spread of infection while we are still in an early stage in order to protect lives and avoid strain on our health care system. NC DHHS is making these recommendations for the next 30 days and will re-assess at that point.

The following recommendations pertain to persons statewide, effective Friday, March 13, 2020.

SYMPTOMATIC PERSONS

If you need medical care and have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you might have COVID-19, call ahead and tell your health care provider you have or may have COVID-19. This will allow them to take steps to keep other people from getting exposed. Persons experiencing fever and cough should stay at home and not go out until their symptoms have completely resolved.

HIGH RISK PERSONS WITHOUT SYMPTOMS

People at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should stay at home to the extent possible to decrease the chance of infection.

People at high risk include people:

  • Over 65 years of age, or
  • with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, or
  • with weakened immune systems.

WORKPLACES

Employers and employees use teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible, stagger work schedules, and consider canceling non-essential travel. Workplaces should hold larger meetings virtually, to the extent possible.

Additionally, employers should arrange the workspace to optimize distance between employees, ideally at least six feet apart.

Employers should urge high risk employees to stay home and urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.

MASS TRANSIT

Mass transit operators should maximize opportunities for cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces. People should avoid using use mass transit (e.g. buses, trains) while sick.

MASS GATHERINGS, COMMUNITY, AND SOCIAL EVENTS

Organizers of events that draw more than 100 people should cancel, postpone, or modify these events or offer online streaming services. These events include large gatherings where people are in close contact (less than 6 feet), for example concerts, conferences, sporting events, faith-based events and other large gatherings.

CONGREGATE LIVING FACILITIES

All facilities that serve as residential establishments for high risk persons described above should restrict visitors. Exceptions should include end of life care or other emergent situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit.

If visitation is allowed, the visitor should be screened and restricted if they have a respiratory illness or potential exposure to COVID-19.

Facilities are encouraged to implement social distancing measures and perform temperature and respiratory symptom screening of residents and staff. These establishments include settings such as nursing homes, independent and assisted living facilities, correction facilities, and facilities that care for medically vulnerable children.

SCHOOLS

We do not recommend pre-emptive school closure at this time but do recommend that schools and childcare centers cancel or reduce large events and gatherings (e.g., assemblies) and field trips, limit inter-school interactions, and consider distance or e-learning in some settings.

Students at high risk should implement individual plans for distance or e-learning.

School dismissals may be necessary when staff or student absenteeism impacts the ability to remain open. Short-term closures may also be necessary to facilitate public health investigation and/or cleaning if a case is diagnosed in a student or staff member.

For more information, contact Transylvania Public Health at 828-884-3135 or info@transylvaniahealth.org

CURRENT CASE COUNTS

(Updated 3/28/20 at 6:15 pm)

Transylvania Public Health has been notified of 3 cases in Transylvania County residents.

As of 3/28/20 at 10:55 am, North Carolina DHHS is reporting 4 deaths, in Cabarrus, Harnett, Johnston, and Rowan counties, and 935 cases in 63 counties* (Alamance, Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Cherokee, Cleveland, Craven, Cumberland, Davidson, Davie, Duplin, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Granville, Greene, Guilford, Harnett, Henderson, Hertford, Hoke, Iredell, Johnston, Lee, Lenoir, Lincoln, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Orange, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Person, Pitt, Polk, Randolph, Robeson, Rowan, Sampson, Scotland, Stanly, Surry, Transylvania, Union, Vance, Wake, Watauga, Wayne, and Wilson).

(*Out-of-state residents will not be reported in NC statistics. North Carolina reported 1 death of a Virginia resident in North Carolina on 3/25/20. Jackson County reported 1 case in a part-time resident on 3/23/20. Cherokee County reported 1 case in a resident of Illinois on 3/20/20, and 1 case in a resident of New York on 3/19/20. Macon County reported 1 case in a resident of New York, who was tested in Buncombe County, on 3/16/20.) 

Questions about the coronavirus outbreak? It’s important to get information from trusted sources! Here are some we recommend…

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:

  • Dial 828-884-4007 to speak to a local public health nurse about COVID-19.
  • Dial 211 for assistance with needs related to COVID-19.
  • Text COVIDNC to 898211 to sign up for regular alerts about COVID-19.

 

NEW! Updated Guidance: LEARN MORE about what you can do to prepare and respond with specific guidance from the NC Division of Public Health for:

 

 

TRUSTED WEBSITES:

 

FACT SHEETS: