WNC COVID-19 Regional Report - May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020

Friday, May 15, 2020
Our regional response partners are committed to providing WNC’s medical community with timely information on COVID-19 through weekly updates on regional trends, needs, resources, and training opportunities. Our goal is to foster collaboration and minimize duplication of effort to enhance our region’s COVID-19 response efforts.
COVID-19 Spread in WNC
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Key Observations this Week

WNC has been able to flatten the curve through adherence to stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and other safety measures. With the easing of restrictions under Phase 1 of Executive Order 138, we expect to see a rise in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks.

Data from the COVID-19 Community Research Partnership led by Wake Forest Baptist Health indicate our rate of infection in NC has been low, suggesting we are still in the early stages of this pandemic.

As we re-open our communities, it is critical for individuals, businesses, and organizations to follow the guidance below to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our region.

Help Us Ensure WNC Is Protected
Please continue to submit PPE requests through the NC DHHS website. You should have at least a 30-day supply of face shields, gloves, gowns, N95 respirators, and surgical and procedure masks.

It is important to submit requests to the state to ensure the Department of Emergency Management has an accurate understanding of regional needs to inform its procurement and distribution strategy. It is beginning to distribute an increasing supply of PPE to local communities. Governor Cooper has recently established a task force to identify NC manufacturers who can retool operations for PPE production.

The volume of requests from WNC is currently lower than other regions of the state. WNC providers will need adequate PPE to be prepared in the event of a future outbreak or surge, which are likely as we re-open our communities.

You can learn more about conserving PPE, estimating burn rate, and long-term purchasing options in our PPE Resource Guide and the CDC’s contingency planning guidance.
The Preparedness Paradox
Staying home saves lives. U.S. data indicate that an individual with COVID-19 infects between 2 and 2.5 others who subsequently infect 2 to 2.5 others and so on. Following this chain of transmission only 10 times, an asymptomatic person could unintentionally infect more than 4,000 people resulting in the loss of 40 or more lives, assuming a conservative mortality rate of 1 percent.

In the absence of universal testing, a cure or a proven vaccine, we can continue to save lives by staying home and limiting unnecessary exposure.
Caring About COVID Health Inequities
Health inequities continue to grow in WNC. The number of confirmed cases in Buncombe County from the Hispanic/Latinx community increased from 30 to 33 percent this week, even though Hispanic/LatinX people make up less than 7 percent of the population. In Rutherford County, African Americans account for 37 percent of COVID-19 cases but make up less than 10 percent of the population.

Statewide, race and ethnicity data are missing for between 25 and 31 percent of all lab-confirmed cases, making the true extent of health inequities unknown.

Buncombe County began conducting COVID-19 community testing this week in areas with identified health inequities. Free community-based testing and follow up monitoring will be available for insured and uninsured residents at different locations and times to maximize accessibility.

WNC Health Network’s COVID-19 & Health Disparities in WNC report highlights these challenges.
COVID-19 Practice Support Tip Sheets

For more practice support resources, please see MAHEC’s COVID-19 Regional Response Guidance.

Unintentional Health Consequences of COVID-19   
Across North Carolina, the number of people seeking heart attack and stroke care has dropped 25 to 30 percent, according to Mission Hospital's Chief Medical Officer Bill Hathaway, MD.

National and state health officials are encouraging the public to seek critical preventive care such as immunizations as well as treatment for emergency and chronic health conditions for which delaying care could be harmful. Telehealth is encouraged when appropriate.
Support Telehealth Pay Parity
Senate Bill 704 was recently passed by the North Carolina General Assembly to provide relief for COVID-19. This bill does NOT include the telehealth pay parity provision that was included in the House version of this legislation. WCMS is reaching out to Senator Ralph Hise and Representative Kevin Corbin to communicate the importance of this pay parity.

You can support WCMS advocacy efforts by sharing the value of telehealth for your patient population. Please email Miriam Schwarz at ceo@mywcms.org as soon as possible.
Community Resources to Help You Serve Your Patients  

Telehealth and Clinical Support

  • Extended telehealth coverage. Blue Cross NC has extended coverage for expanded telehealth services through July 31, 2020. More details are available in these webinar slides and FAQs.
  • Quick evidence-based answers to clinical questions about COVID-19 are available at 5Minute Consult (5MC). If you have questions about using 5MC, contact your local AHEC library.

 Health Inequities & Social Support

  • WCMS Interpreter Network provides medical interpretation services in 12 different languages, including phone and video support. Services are provided at no cost for Project Access patients.
  • Community-Based Services
    • NCCARE360 continues to enroll providers and community-based organizations to support individuals and families with a variety of social service needs. You can enroll quickly with this Rapid Response Partner Registration Form.
    • WCMS Project Access health access coordinators can help patients access services related to housing, utilities, transportation, employment, food insecurity, and interpersonal safety.
    • NC 2-1-1 has resources and hotlines on its website to support community needs related to financial assistance, housing/evictions, food, childcare, education, and mental health.
Regional & State COVID-19 Trainings & Virtual Support   

Five Wishes Practice Community: Virtual Advance Care Planning Conversations
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 from 12:00 to 1:00pm

MAHEC Developing Resilience for Healthcare Workforce
Mondays from 7:00 to 8:00 am

Using Telehealth: Practice Support for COVID-19 Preparedness
Mondays from 7:00 to 8:00 am

MAHEC Coordinating Community Resources in WNC
Wednesdays from 7:00 to 8:00 am, offered in collaboration with NCCARE360

MAHEC Primary Care COVID-19 Collaborative
Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:00 am

NC AHEC COVID-19 Webinars
Daily with morning, afternoon, and evening sessions available

NCDHHS COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition
Wednesdays from 1:00 to 2:00 pm
Click link above and select “add to distribution list” to receive weekly meeting invitations

Rural Talk Series COVID-19
Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:00 am

Western Carolina Medical Society: Weekly Virtual Wellness Series (FREE)

  • Group coaching, Tuesdays at 6:30 pm, with Ryan Bayley, MD, with a focus on physician wellness
  • Yoga and meditation, Saturdays at 10:00 am, with Robyn Tiger, MD; no prior experience or registration needed, and each session is family friendly
May 8 WNC COVID-19 Regional Report
May 1 WNC COVID-19 Regional Report
April 24 WNC COVID-19 Regional Report
April 17 WNC COVID-19 Regional Report
April 10 WNC COVID-19 Regional Report

If you would like to receive this weekly report, please email Sam.Blankenship@mahec.net to be added to our distribution list.
Regional Response Partners
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