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WCS works with local health officials to prepare for COVID-19 virus

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AppHealthCare, Watauga County Schools, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Appalachian State University, Watauga County Emergency Management, in addition to multiple local, state and federal partners, are working together and closely monitoring COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). At this time, no cases have been identified in North Carolina and according to the NC Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS), the risk to the general public in NC is considered low. Even though the risk to the general public is low, we are preparing should we have COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) cases in our area.

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) is a new virus that causes respiratory illness. Signs and symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness and you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) or if you have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), please contact your healthcare provider. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

“We should prepare ourselves that it is likely we will see more of this virus in the U.S., and as the virus continues to spread, we will be adapting our screening protocols following CDC and NC DHHS guidance. The best thing people can do right now is practice prevention measures like frequent handwashing, staying home when you’re sick, and keeping distance from others who are sick,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said the school system was considering the possible impacts of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) and is working closely with local health officials and emergency management staff.

“We’ve already begun working with our local health service agencies to determine the best steps we can take as a school system to ensure the safety of our students in the event of increased activity of the novel coronavirus in our area,” Elliott said.

Elliott said school administration had been provided with guidance for students and staff about hygiene, monitoring of students with illness and cleaning and sanitation of classrooms, buses and facilities.

“While there is still great uncertainty about what we might see from this virus, we intend to be as proactive and prepared as possible,” Elliott said.

Elliott said Watauga County Schools Lead Nurse Shelly Klutz and nurses at each school in the district planned to spend extra time in classrooms in the coming weeks to educate students about self-care and virus prevention. Klutz and her staff are in constant communication with local health officials to ensure they have access to the most up-to-date information and best practices for prevention.

Elliott said the school system was also working to ensure that all schools have access to adequate supplies and materials approved by the CDC cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

For more information on local COVID-19 preparation, please see AppHealthCare's full press release here.