WCU, Brevard College see new COVID-19 cases

TAKE NOTE: Since Western Carolina University students returned to campus at the beginning of August, 172 students, employees and subcontractors have tested positive for COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

It’s midterm season for many Western North Carolina college students, but the COVID-19 pandemic means things look very different across the region’s campuses. As of Oct. 8, the New York Times had reported more than 178,000 coronavirus cases linked to higher education; in North Carolina, there are now more than 7,500 cases at 47 colleges and universities.  

According to Western Carolina University’s COVID-19 dashboard, 17 students tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 12. The week before, 28 students and two employees had tested positive, bringing the university’s cumulative case total to 172 infected staff, students and subcontractors. Put another way, over a quarter of the campus’ COVID-19 cases since July 1 were reported within the last week. 

WCU has a student population of more than 12,000. As of Oct. 12, the campus COVID-19 test positivity rate was 5.3%. The university continues to hold in-person, online and hybrid classes. 

In contrast, Brevard College announced Oct. 10 that all classes would shift to remote learning for the week of Oct. 12 after three COVID-19 cases were confirmed on one athletic team. Residential hall visitation for the student population of 650 is suspended for the week, and all dining services will be “grab and go.” 

To date, Brevard College has reported five infected students and one infected employee. Three of those individuals have recovered, according to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard

Other area colleges and universities have reported low viral spread. UNC Asheville, with a student population of 3,500, has recorded 20 COVID-19 cases among employees and students since the start of the semester; one individual tested positive the week of Oct. 5, per the school’s dashboard. Montreat College reports one active student case, Mars Hill University reported seven active cases as of Oct. 9, and Warren Wilson College has not had any confirmed cases

COVID-19 numbers are not available for A-B Tech Community College, which continues to hold a mix of virtual, in-person and hybrid classes for roughly 24,000 students. 

NCDHHS announces funding for child care programs

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will dedicate $35 million from federal coronavirus relief funds to support child care facilities providing in-person service during the pandemic, Gov. Roy Cooper announced at an Oct. 6 press conference. 

“Our child care programs have been on the frontlines since the start of this pandemic, keeping their doors open so other workers could keep our economy running and the public safe,” Cooper said. “A strong and safe child care system is essential to our recovery.”

All licensed child care providers operating in person from August to October will be eligible for funding to offset additional expenses incurred to meet health and safety guidelines, according to a press release from NCDHHS. Funding amounts will depend on program size, quality and inclusion of both infants and toddlers. 

In other news

  • Mission Health System has partnered with EVERFI to launch a virtual mental health and wellness course for middle and high school students in McDowell, Macon and Buncombe counties. The program will benefit students impacted by mental health challenges and those who want to “positively impact the mental health of a friend or peer,” said EVERFI founder Jon Chapman, in a statement announcing the move.  
  • Two Haywood County residents have been diagnosed with La Crosse Encephalitis, says health director Patrick Johnson. The viral disease is transmitted via mosquitos, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 80-100 cases of LACV are reported each year. 
  • The city of Hendersonville has canceled its Treat Street Halloween carnival due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Additional Halloween safety guidelines can be found here.
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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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