Asheville residents may have hunkered down for the holidays under a blanket of snow and ice, but across the region, the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. Here’s what you may have missed over the Christmas holiday.
It’s time to celebrate the creativity of our community’s response to the pandemic, even as we acknowledge the pain, uncertainty and loss that surely still lie ahead. Community members weigh in on the successes that fill them with pride as they look back on 2020.
Xpress Assistant Editor Daniel Walton and local community figures discuss how the year’s events have accelerated many of the issues that were already facing Western North Carolina.
While there’s light at the end of the proverbial COVID-19 tunnel, Western North Carolina residents cannot let down their guard. Over the last week, the percent of positive COVID-19 tests has risen to 7.8% in Buncombe County; the county’s daily COVID-19 case counts now average 100 or higher.
Asheville Yoga Center, a pillar of the city’s emerging “wellness district” in the area around South Liberty Street, is up for sale. The transition represents the next phase of changes brought about by the divorce of the center’s founders, Stephanie and Sunny Keach, according to Melissa Driver, the company’s general manager. Also in brief: prostate cancer screening tips for men, new programs and services and a new website that illustrates the impact of the opioid epidemic on the local community.
Despite a lack of definitive evidence that COVID-19 can spread through heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, residential and commercial property owners are looking for ways to preemptively protect themselves and their customers from potential airborne transmission.
In April, Pardee UNC Health Care notified MountainCare that it would no longer donate the use of the 6,000-square-foot building that houses MountainCare’s Henderson County adult day program. MountainCare now must move out by the end of the year to allow Pardee to reuse or sell the building and seeks a free or low-cost space where the program can continue operating.
Interventions by ‘strike teams’ help manage outbreaks at nursing homes; COVID-19 cases mount at Mission Health; St. Luke’s hastens test results through a partnership.
Instead of bringing students back to the classroom under the Plan B model outlined by Gov. Roy Cooper, as had been announced on July 14, the Asheville City Board of Education voted unanimously to follow the remote-only Plan C for at least nine weeks at a July 23 special called meeting.
Two new programs, High Intensity Parenting and Lifeline, will provide enhanced training and round-the-clock access to supportive resources for foster parents, including financial incentives.
As confirmed by Mission spokesperson Nancy Lindell on June 11, the health system’s legal representatives have chosen not to file an objection regarding how a pre-election hearing was conducted. The National Labor Relations Board will now consider testimony to determine what nurses would be represented by the union, when the vote will take place and how employees will be allowed to cast ballots.
“Most breast cancers require a combination of different treatments, and the order and combination of those things is a whole lot more complicated today than ever before,” says Dr. Blair Harkness, a gynecological oncologist at Hope Women’s Cancer Centers, an arm of Mission Health. Xpress explores the state of modern breast cancer treatment in the region — including how it’s been affected by COVID-19.
Restaurants, pools and personal care services — including salons and barber shops — will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, while child care facilities, day camps and overnight camps can open with “enhanced cleaning and screening requirements.”
Area hospitals have taken somewhat differing approaches to the question of whether to stop performing elective surgeries and other medical procedures. There are worries nationally about whether there will be enough personal protective gear like masks and gloves for health care workers, but hospitals in the Asheville area say they have good supplies for now.
“Often we can reach folks better through technology than we can face to face,” says Shane Lunsford of the Center for Psychiatry and Mental Wellness. As telehealth service offerings and technological capabilities expand, providers around the region are excited about the possibilities of new models of seeing patients and providing care.
A celebration of the courage of pediatric cancer patients at Well Played Board Game Café on Wall Street in downtown Asheville will collect new and unused Legos and the card game UNO for patients. Attendees can also create greeting cards and paint “kindness rocks” for patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and Mission Children’s Hospital.
Fundraisers to support injured Hendersonville Fire Department Capt. Josh Poore abound, while Western Carolina presents a program exploring the connection between wilderness and wellness.
Grants to help agencies providing health care services and studying better ways to deliver those services continued to flow in Western North Carolina. Some recent examples include a grant to Project Dignity for feminine supplies, funding to expand how telehealth services might be expanded in rural areas and support for a study of resources available to kidney patients.
Antibiotic resistance has become a serious problem, causing infections that can’t be treated and thousands deaths every year in the U.S. as a result. Many hospitals, including several local ones, have created antibiotic stewardship programs, which develop strategies for the appropriate use of antibiotics while decreasing the chance of bacteria becoming resistant to them.