WNC COVID-19 Regional Report - May 29, 2020

May 29, 2020

Friday, May 29, 2020
This week’s report updates regional trends and highlights challenges experienced by the I/DD community, CDC’s request for reports of suspected COVID-19 reinfection, economic disparities, and new resources to support PPE acquisition, safely reopening, and the LatinX community.
COVID-19 Spread in WNC
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Map and data courtesy of the News & Observer
Key Observations this Week

State and regional trends have been fairly stable over the past week, with a few notable exceptions:

  • The highest number of cases in NC (1,107) was reported on Saturday
  • The highest number of hospitalizations in NC (708) was reported Thursday
  • COVID-related deaths nearly doubled in Buncombe County over the weekend
  • PPE supply shortages include gowns and N95 respirators

As North Carolina moves into the second week of Phase 2, we will continue to monitor these trends closely to evaluate the impact of loosening restrictions on the spread of COVID-19.

Outbreaks in long-term care facilities continue to increase. As of May 26, nine WNC facilities were reporting outbreaks in four WNC counties with 336 active cases in staff and residents and 59 deaths (residents). Maintaining adequate staffing in LTC facilities continues to be a challenge. Healthcare professionals who can help meet this need are encouraged to complete this online survey.

COVID Poses Additional Challenges for People with I/DD

The COVID-19 pandemic poses added challenges for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) in WNC, particularly in congregate care settings such as group homes. People with I/DD are more likely to

  • Experience chronic illness
  • Struggle when services are provided by unfamiliar staff due to staffing changes
  • Feel isolated and disengage when facilities suspend or limit visitation and community outings

Vaya Health is working with network providers to respond to these challenges by

  • Using flexible Medicaid funds to allow agencies to provide retainer payments for direct care workers to ensure adequate and consistent staffing
  • Offering premium pay for providers, allowing staff to sleep on-site overnight, and extending work shifts to 12 hours to minimize staff changeover
  • Encouraging providers to allow visitation through windows or outside with appropriate PPE and social distancing
  • Minimizing off-site healthcare in favor of on-site clinics when possible
Call for Case Reports of Suspected COVID-19 Reinfection
It remains unclear if infection with SARS-CoV-2 results in immunity or if reinfection can occur, although case reports from China and South Korea suggest this possibility. NCDHHS is requesting NC clinicians report all suspected cases of reinfection to the Emerging Infections Network in order to help the CDC determine best practices. More information is available in this recent NCDHHS memo.
Economic Disparities Amplify COVID’s Impact on Communities of Color

Historically, communities of color are the most severely impacted during economic downturns. Early indicators show the unprecedented economic crisis associated with COVID-19 is amplifying this trend and exposing the myth that coronavirus is the great equalizer.

This week, U.S. congressional testimony highlighted that a greater percentage of the more than 30 million jobs lost to date were held by people of color. Those still employed often work in essential low-wage jobs with a greater risk of exposure. These economic factors, a higher prevalence of underlying health conditions, crowded living situations, and other social determinants of health put communities of color at greater risk during this pandemic.

Community Health Workers (CHW) are a vital resource for supporting communities of color and people experiencing inequities. This workforce is growing in our region. Some of the organizations providing CHW services include

You can also contact your local health department to see if there are other CHWs in your area.

State & Regional Re-Opening Resources
North Carolina has launched a Count on Me NC campaign to protect public health as we re-open our economy. The campaign includes online training for business on best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19, printable certificates of completion, and an online list of participating businesses.

Closer to home, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce and local and regional partners have developed a virtual Smart Restart Toolkit and additional resources to support Buncombe County and WNC businesses and organizations in safely resuming operations.
COVID-19 Practice Support Tip Sheets

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

NEW Community Resources to Help You Serve Your Patients

Clinical Support

Health Inequities & Social Support

Patient Education

WCMS Foundation Provides Access to Needed Healthcare Services 
The Western Carolina Interpreter Network (WIN) continues to partner with Buncombe County to provide language services at no cost in the community, including at COVID-19 community testing sites. Project Access® is also accepting referrals and operating virtually to ensure patients can access specialty care and support for social determinants of health as these services become available.
NEW & Ongoing COVID-19 Virtual Trainings & Support    

Southern Regional AHEC: Addressing Health Disparities During a Pandemic
Wednesday, June 3, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm

Pisgah Legal Services: Returning to Work During Covid-19 New
Thursday, June 4, from 2:00 to 2:30 pm
Facebook Live event on how to protect your health and your rights as you return to work

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

MAHEC Webinars on Resilience & Community Resources for COVID-19
Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:00 to 8:00 am

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

Virtual Support Group for WNC Healthcare Workers
Thursdays at 7:00 pm

Vaya Health Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Suicide Prevention Trainings
Each session is open to 25 participants

Western Carolina Medical Society: Weekly Virtual Wellness Series

  • Group coachingTuesdays at 6:30 pm, with Ryan Bayley, MD, with a focus on physician wellness
  • Yoga and meditationSaturdays at 10:00 am, with Robyn Tiger, MD; no prior experience or registration needed, and each session is family friendly
May 22 WNC COVID-19 Regional Report
May 15 WNC COVID-19 Regional Report
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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