MAHEC COVID Update: Surviving the Surge & 4 Other Things You Should Know

August 30, 2021

Wednesday, August 25, 2021


COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising rapidly across Western North Carolina and the state. By and large, the Individuals who are getting the sickest are unvaccinated. This month’s newsletter provides the latest information on the delta variant, vaccines, and resources you can use to keep you and your community safe.


Five Things


In this month’s news report you’ll find

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COVID-19 Trends

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Top 3 Must Reads

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Need a Boost?

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NEW COVID-19 Resources


Online COVID-19 Education

WNC COVID-19 Trends




We are currently experiencing the most rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in North Carolina since the pandemic began. In some WNC counties, the number tests coming back positive for COVID-19 is nearing 20%. This surge is being driven by the highly contagious delta variant and is primarily affecting those who are unvaccinated. The highest rate of infection is occurring in adults 18 to 24 years old followed by those 24 to 49⁠—both groups with lower vaccination rates than older adults.

Hospitalizations among people ages 20-49 are also at an all-time high. More than 90% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, and they are younger and sicker than we’ve seen before.

Vaccination remains the single most powerful tool to protect yourself from COVID-19. Earlier this week, the FDA granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine after a thorough review of all data confirmed the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine in real-world use. FDA approval for the other two vaccines is expected soon. Nearly 200 million Americans have received at least one COVID-19 shot without major complications.

The CDC recommends masks be worn indoors in public in communities with high rates of COVID-19, which is currently most of the U.S. and all of North Carolina. Some WNC businesses and communities, including Buncombe County, have mandated the use of face coverings in public indoors to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the potential for breakthrough infections.


August “Must Reads”




CDC Strengthens Recommendation for COVID-19 Vaccination During Pregnancy. Data show COVID vaccination during pregnancy is safe but contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy is not. In response to mounting evidence, CDC recommends pregnant and breastfeeding women get the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID Vax Doubled Protection for Previously Infected
. Do you need the vaccine if you’ve already been infected? Yes! Studies show the vaccine provides twice the protection from COVID-19 reinfection.

FDA Approves First COVID-19 Vaccine. Full approval of the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 16 and older comes after a careful review of 6 months of safety data. Moderna and J&J data are still under review.


One More Reason




Over the last few weeks, infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have risen sharply in every state, including North Carolina, due to the highly contagious delta variant. Across WNC, COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly, and hospitalizations have hit all-time highs. North Carolina is on track to have the highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to get vaccinated—it’s now.

Severe illness and death from COVID-19 is now preventable with vaccination. If that isn’t reason enough, here are five more:

  • The delta variant is circulating widely and 4X more contagious than the original virus. If you are unvaccinated, you are now more likely to contract COVID-19 and become severely ill from it.
  • Long COVID is debilitating and may affect up to 30% of adults and children who contract COVID-19, even those who initially had mild or no symptoms. Vaccines greatly reduce your risk.
  • Children under 12 are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. The best way you can protect them and yourself is to get vaccinated and encourage those around you to do the same.
  • Peace of mind is a common side effect of vaccination. You won’t have to worry about getting seriously ill or dying from COVID should you be exposed (and odds are, you will be exposed).
  • Extra summer cash, up to $100, is available at some locations for folks receiving their first dose; drivers who help others get to their first dose appointment are eligible for a $25 cash card.

Still not sure? Check out these reasons from more than 140 healthcare providers across our region. One of them may be yours!


Time for a Boost?




There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about COVID-19 booster shots. You may be wondering if you need a booster and when. Last week, the U.S. Surgeon General announced plans to make booster shots available beginning September 20 for adults who are at least 8 months past their second dose. Recent CDC data show vaccine immunity decreases over time, which is common with many vaccines.

Here’s the data behind the decision:

  • Vaccines provide strong protection against severe COVID illness. COVID-19 vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization for at least 6 months.
  • Vaccine immunity from mild to moderate COVID illness wanes. While effectiveness against hospitalization has remained stable, effectiveness against milder infections declines over time.
  • Delta is a doozy. Especially for those who are at risk for severe illness. Data on nursing home residents show vaccine protection declined from 75% to 53% with the delta variant now circulating.

While you can’t get a booster yet, you may want to get one 8 months after completing your vaccine series. For example, if you got your second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on April 1, you could be eligible for a booster as early as December 1.

You may need a third dose, and can get one now, if you are one of the 3% of Americans who have moderately or severely compromised immune systems. These individuals may not have the same level of immunity after vaccination as people with healthy immune systems. Read the CDC’s recommendations.


COVID-19 Community Resources




Prevention, Treatment & Vaccination


Children’s Health


Women’s Health & Fertility




Pandemic Relief

  • Buncombe County Residents may be eligible for assistance with rent, utilities, food, medical coverage, child care and other needs; call (828) 250-5500 for more information
  • HOPE Program. Rent and utility assistance may be available to North Carolina renters and their landlords; apply online or call (888) 927-5467 for more information
  • Lifeline National Verifier is a temporary federal program that can help lower the monthly cost of your phone and/or internet service


WNC Vaccine Locations (many offering walk-in service)


Online Education




Ask The Doc | Pregnancy, Fertility, and COVID-19 Vaccines | WakeMed & Wake County
Thursday, August 26, at 7 pm on Facebook Live and YouTube

2021 Asheville African American Health Symposium Preview | MAHEC
Friday, September 10, 12:00 to 1:00 pm

Bystander/Anti-Harrassment Training | Hollaback
Multiple dates

Cafecito: COVID-19 Vaccines for Teens and Adults | NC Department of Health & Human Services
Recorded Spanish-language webinar about COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 Vaccines and Young Adults | NC Department of Health & Human Services
FB Live recording

Cafecito: COVID-19 Vaccines for Teens and Adults | NC Department of Health & Human Services
Spanish-language conversation with state public health official about COVID-19 and vaccines

EDI Courses - Fall Semester | Lenoir-Rhyne University
Multiple dates from September through November

Let's Talk- Back to School Immunizations | Buncombe County Health & Human Services
FB Live recording in English and Spanish









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