As Mission Health begins to reopen for elective surgeries and procedures put on hold during the first wave of the ongoing pandemic, the unresolved question that roiled the community just three months ago remains: Was HCA’s purchase of Mission Health healthy for Asheville?
No one ever plans on getting sick, says Lucy Ortiz, a mother of six in Henderson County. Four members of her family have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, including her 17-month-old son.
County officials said Aston Park Health Care Center and Deerfield Retirement Episcopal Skilled Nursing Home both had active outbreaks of the disease, defined by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as two or more lab-confirmed cases in staff or residents. They did not share the specific number of cases reported for each outbreak.
To date, 34 patients with COVID-19 have visited a Mission facility for treatment, said Dr. William Hathaway, the system’s chief medical officer, during a May 11 press conference. Two individuals with the coronavirus are currently receiving care at Mission, which he said has sufficient capacity of ventilators, personal protective equipment and intensive care beds.
On May 1, Greg Lowe, president of HCA’s North Carolina Division, shared the Nashville, Tenn.-based health care giant’s summary of its first-year performance with four parties.
According to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in May 2018, the Asheville-based company allegedly sought and received payment for fecal, blood and urine tests that have not been scientifically proven to diagnose any medical condition.
According to a staff report available before City Council’s meeting of Tuesday, May 12, 60 hotel rooms at the Red Roof Inn in West Asheville would replace the city’s emergency group shelter at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville, which has a capacity of 50 and currently houses 32.
Local contact tracers describe the methods used for notifying a person they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 — and what comes next. As the state formulates a plan to slowly ease restrictions on public life, contact tracing will be a key part of the strategy, and hundreds of new workers will be needed to help handle the load.
Meagan Taylor and her seven-year-old daughter, Fred, are missing out on hugs and cuddles right now. The two have found themselves forced to face the challenges of the pandemic while living physically apart.
The legislative change allows the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to use $5 million from its Tourism Product Development Fund — which previously had to be allocated to nonprofit entities or local government and spent on capital projects — for grants of up to $50,000 in support of tourism businesses other than lodging.
The two bills signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on May 4, both unanimously passed by the General Assembly, together designate nearly $1.6 billion for the state’s COVID-19 response and grant flexibility in many areas of regulation.
“My whole world seems to be closing,” says Danny Bernstein, an Asheville-based outdoors writer who regularly leads hikes for the Carolina Mountain Club and Friends of the Smokies. “Staying 6 feet apart is easy on the trail. But how can we have outdoor activity if almost every piece of public land is closed?”
For women expecting to deliver babies this spring and summer, the coronavirus pandemic has radically reshaped much of the experience of pregnancy and birth. From online prenatal visits to limitations on the number of people who can be present at the birth to uncertainty about the medical implications of the virus for moms and babies, parents and health care providers are figuring it out as they go along.
Even as people resume small gatherings, they will be expected to maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet and follow public health guidance on sanitation and masks. The county’s cap on wedding and funeral attendance remains at 10 people, less than the state limit of 50.
Cancer therapies, joint replacements and other elective procedures that had been postponed due to the initial COVID-19 response will be the first to return. Since North Carolina’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was announced on March 3, the Mission system has treated just over 20 inpatients for the disease.
While many local residents laud efforts to ensure safety for shoppers and employees at retail stores that remain open — among them grocers, drug stores and hardware retailers — others criticize certain stores and fellow shoppers for failing to wear masks or be mindful of social distancing requirements.
“It’s important to get our economy moving forward. We’re helping with unemployment payments, stimulus money and the businesses that continue to be open,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at an April 23 press conference. “But I won’t risk the health of our people or our hospitals. And easing these restrictions now would do that.”
Staffers at Mission Hospital have recently been feeling the love from all corners of the community, with restaurants delivering meals around the clock, schools and businesses manufacturing personal protective equipment for medical workers and local residents stepping forward to donate masks and other supplies.
Investigative reporters reviewed thousands of death certificates statewide to reveal a complicated picture of who is dying from illness related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a conference call held April 20 and open to the community, Mission officials gave new details about rapid coronavirus testing capabilities the hospital acquired two weeks ago. The Cepheid and BD Max molecular diagnostic tests, as well as the chemicals required to run them, are among the hottest products on the medical market.
“Consider the consequences if we move to open things up too early or too fast: We risk losing all the gains and advantages our proactive and aggressive measures have afforded us,” said Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator. “If we get rid of our parachute too early, we’ll go into another free fall.”