Spread of Coronavirus

Across the United States, as of Friday afternoon, Aug. 14, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 5,439,661. Sadly, 170,913 people have died from the virus.
In North Carolina the number of people who are “laboratory-confirmed” to have coronavirus is 142,170. Currently, 1,049 people are hospitalized. To date, 2,313North Carolinians have died from coronavirus. NCDHHS estimates that as of Monday 116,969 have recovered. 
Much more data is available at the NC DHHS “Dashboard”. See https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard.
Locally, the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in Ashe County is 167. The number of Watauga County residents who have tested positive is 327. Of these cases, 150 are currently active. Twenty-three people in the district have been hospitalized at some point during the outbreak. The figures include Alleghany County which is part of the local health department district, and which are not separated in the hospital count among counties. One person has died in Ashe County from coronavirus. In Ashe and Watauga Counties, 131 residents are currently being monitored as possibly having Covid-19.
You can get more local data from the AppHealth Care Dashboard at https://www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-information/covid-19-data-dashboard/.
Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.
Please follow public health officials’ guidance: Wear a face mask in public settings. Wait 6 feet apart. Wash your hands frequently.

Cooper Directs Funds for Education in Light of Covid-19

Gov. Cooper is directing $95.6 million in new funding to help support K-12 and postsecondary students most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is North Carolina’s share of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, a part of the federal CARES Act. 
The Governor is directing the following investments to support K-12 students across North Carolina:$40 million to hire more school nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists in our public schools.$20 million to support the academic needs of at-risk students and students with disabilities through additional in-school supports, such as after-school programming, tutoring, or hiring more teachers or teacher assistants.In addition to funds for K-12 schools, the Governor is also directing the following investments to support students in postsecondary institutions across North Carolina: $15 million to the NC Community College System to provide tuition assistance to students enrolled in short-term workforce training programs leading to a state or industry-recognized credential in a high-demand field.$6 million to the UNC System for institutions to provide emergency assistance to North Carolina students whose ability to complete their degree has been impacted by the pandemic.$4 million to the State Education Assistance Authority for independent colleges and universities to provide emergency assistance to North Carolina students whose ability to complete their degree has been impacted by the pandemic. $566,000 to the UNC System for the NC School of Science and Mathematics and the UNC School of the Arts, each of which received limited to no federal higher education funding from the CARES Act because of the size of their high school student populations.
The remaining $10 million will be held in reserve to address additional K-12 and postsecondary needs that may arise later this year or next year. The Governor has until May 2021 to allocate the funds. Recipients have until September 30, 2022 to spend the funds.

Governor Encouraged by New Covid-19 Metrics
While saying, “We are making progress, and I’m encouraged” by the new data on Covid-19 in North Carolina, Gov. Cooper remained cautious during a briefing on Thursday, calling on all North Carolinians to continue to work to keep the virus in check to improve the key metrics that NCDHHS reviews every day.
DHHS Sec. Dr. Mandy Cohen said that “our progress is fragile” because public school and universities are going back into session which could precipitate additional outbreaks.
To view the full press conference, click on the link, scroll down to Gov. Cooper briefing (8/13/20) in English or Spanish: https://www.unctv.org/coronavirus/

Grants to Support Business and Nonprofits

Gov. Cooper announced Thursday that the N.C. Department of Commerce is accepting applications for the Job Retention Grant Program, a new program to support businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19, until Sept. 1. The fund sets aside $15 million from federal CARES Act money allotted to North Carolina earlier this year.

Completing the Census is Safe, Easy and Important!

Completing the survey is quick and easy to do. You can complete your Census questionnaire online, by phone or on paper.
The process is safe, easy and important and you can respond in one of three ways:Online by visiting my2020census.gov.By phone by calling 1-800-923-8282.  Via mail.
Help Make NC Count! View and download resource materials by checking out the NC Census Outreach & Engagement Toolkit.You can also track Census response rates near you. View the latest data here.

High School Football to Have Delayed Start in February

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced its revised schedule for the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Association’s Board of Directors met Tuesday night and voted on an amended sports calendar. Que Tucker, commissioner of NCHSAA, revealed the calendar which showed football practice will begin in February.
Read more: https://myfox8.com/sports/nc-high-school-football-postponed-until-february-other-sports-delayed/

Uncertainty, Trepidation Marks New School Year in District

District public schools will begin the year on Monday as Watauga County Schools starts the year with on-line instruction and Ashe County Schools adopts a hybrid approach of in-person and on-line classes.
Parent, teachers, and students are anxious about the year ahead of them. There is nervousness about the challenges ahead for lots of different reasons. I encourage everyone to provide an extra measure of kindness, grace, and understanding to others as we all work out the new reality we are having to embrace.

US Postal Service Dilemma

Constituents have been calling the office and emailing to find out what can be done to save the US Postal Service from debt and restructuring just as Americans are requesting absentee mail-in ballots in unprecedented numbers. The problems at the Postal Service are outlined in a Washington Post article linked below. 
The truth is that this is a federal issue, not a state issue. The Postmaster General is recommended by the board of governors that oversee the US Postal Service and is approved by the President. Current bills to aid the Postal Service are in Congress. If you want to have input in how the Postal Service operates or the bills before Congress, please contact your federal representatives: US Rep. Virginia Foxx or Senators Richard Burr or Thom Tillis.

How to Request an Absentee Ballot for the Nov. Election

Ashe County:https://nmcdn.io/e186d21f8c7946a19faed23c3da2f0da/9daed2ecce2a4df2845caa12db947e3d/files/NC-Absentee-Ballot-Request-Form.pdfNeed more information? Contact the Ashe County Board of Elections at asheelections@ashecountygov.com or call 336-846-5570.

Watauga County:http://www.wataugacounty.org/App_Pages/Dept/BOE/notices.aspxNeed more information? Contact the Watauga County Board of Elections at Matthew.Snyder@watgov.org or call 828-265-8061.
Early voting sites have not been determined yet for either county.

State BOE’s FAQ on Absentee Ballot Process in NC

Given the presence of Covid-19 in our communities, many people are considering voting by absentee mail-in ballot. Here’s a link to frequently asked questions about the process for North Carolina:https://s3.amazonaws.com/dl.ncsbe.gov/Outreach/Absentee/FAQs_Absentee_Voting_2020_FINAL.pdf
Help During the Pandemic
DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced recently the launch of a website that will assist those in need of things like help navigating the unemployment landscape, food assistance, or housing and shelter, among other things.
The NCCARE360.org website is now interactive for all 100 counties. Go to the website to request assistance from agencies in your area: https://nccare360.org/

If You have Coronavirus Symptoms…
If you believe you have symptoms of coronavirus and live in Watauga County:1) Call AppHealthCare at 828-264-4995 or (828) 795-1970 during regular business hours,2) Visit https://apprhs.org/covid19-screening/ online and follow screening instructions, or3) Call your primary care doctor.
If you believe you have symptoms of coronavirus and live in Ashe County call AppHealthCare at 336-246-9449 or call your primary care doctor.

More Information
Our public heath office, AppHealthCare, is the primary local source of information about coronavirus. See https://www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-information/
For more information from our hospitals, see Appalachian Regional’s website at https://apprhs.org/COVID19/ or Ashe Memorial Hospital’s website at https://www.ashememorial.org/ for their updates.
For information specific to North Carolina, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) provides the latest information on COVID-19 at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/Also, North Carolina coronavirus updates are available by calling 888.892.1162 or by texting COVIDNC to 898211