Dr. Scott Elliott, Watauga County Schools Superintendent, received his vaccine along with his wife Laura, a middle school teacher at Parkway School. Linda Campbell, CRNA administers the shot.
A collective sigh of relief was heard among Watauga County’s teachers and public school employees as they received their first COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, February 24 at the Watauga Community Recreation Center.
Earlier this month, Governor Roy Cooper announced that childcare workers and pre-K to 12th grade school employees would be eligible for the vaccine under Group 3 of the state’s phased rollout process.
Sean Burroughs, Director of Pharmacy for ARHS said, “I’m so pleased with the progress of our community’s vaccine roll out to the senior population, and thrilled to be able to vaccinate K-12 Watauga school employees and childcare workers this week.”
ARHS and AppHealthCare were able to vaccinate nearly 600 childcare and school employees in a single day, due to the spacious and easy-to-access location at the Recreation Center. Those who didn’t receive their shot this week will be eligible to sign up for future clinics through ARHS or AppHealthcare.
“It’s incredibly exciting to know that we’ve made it this far, and that we are able to provide this level of protection for our teachers and staff,” said Dr. Scott Elliott, Watauga County Schools Superintendent, who received his vaccine along with his wife Laura, a middle school teacher at Parkway School.
“I cannot thank ARHS and AppHealthCare enough for their great partnership, their advocacy for our educators, and for making this so easy,” Elliott continued. “With every educator who is vaccinated we add another layer of protection for our entire community. Suddenly it feels like we’re beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Parkway teacher Lauren Collier is vaccinated by Lance Campbell, CRNA, while son, John, documents the occasion.
Traci Hartley, Data Manager at Valle Crucis is vaccinated by Michelle Dollar, RN, BSN, of ARHS.
Parkway School teacher Lauren Collier came to the clinic with her son, John, in tow. “I feel great!” she said. “It feels great knowing that I am doing everything I can to help us as a community move through this pandemic. Knowing that this step will keep my son and family, my colleagues, and my students safe is important. I am blessed for this opportunity.”
Traci Hartley, Data Manager at Valle Crucis said, “I am so grateful and excited for this opportunity. I was shocked that it’s happening so fast. I have two very high-risk family members that we protect.” Hartley’s husband is a cancer survivor and her daughter has Cystic Fibrosis.
Scott Carter, Principal at Cove Creek school was vaccinated with his wife, also a Watauga County Schools employee. “I am excited to protect our teachers and to bring kids back safely to our schools,” he said. “We have missed them terribly. I’m also very ready to see my great grandmother who lives in a nursing home. Hardin Park teacher Corrie Freeman said she was feeling hopeful. “This is an avenue back to normal for my kids, me and our community. I feel like I can take a deep breath. I just appreciate all the volunteers, ARHS and AppHealthCare for being here today and helping us do this together. This whole operation is very impressive.”
School nurses Ashley Greene (Parkway) and Amanda Combs (Cove Creek) were on site, along with the county’s other school nurses, helping to give vaccinations. Both were honored to be a part of the effort. “It’s amazing to be here and to witness teachers being vaccinated in addition to kids coming back to our schools. It’s a comfort – we are going to be ok!” Combs said.
School employees across the state proudly posted their vaccine photos on social media using the hashtag #sleevesup4students.
ARHS vaccinated about 400 people at Watauga County Community Recreation Center on February 3.
February 12, 2021
There’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the fight against COVID-19. Vaccines have been rolling out for those most vulnerable, and healthcare workers say vaccination is the number one thing we can do right now to save lives and slow the spread.
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) began its COVID-19 vaccination clinics in January and they are fully underway for first and second doses. Community members in Groups 1 and 2 of North Carolina’s rollout plan are currently receiving vaccines – frontline healthcare workers and those age 65 and over.
As of February 5, ARHS has given a total of 3,504 first-dose vaccines and has used 100% of the supply it has received from the state. After a drastic reduction in weekly supply to Watauga County, only 190 first-dose vaccines were scheduled for the week of February 8-12 through ARHS.
Wednesday, Governor Cooper announced a plan to move into Group 3 soon to include teachers, principals, childcare providers, bus drivers, custodial staff, cafeteria workers, and other education workers in pre-K through 12 schools and childcare centers.
But with supplies so limited, the healthcare system is concerned about adding this group to the already long list of those 65 and older waiting their turn. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), people age 65 and older account for 70% of hospitalizations and 83% of deaths in the state.
“We are administering the vaccines as fast as we receive them from the state. We are ready to handle several times the number of appointments we currently have; all we need are the doses in order to scale up our efforts and vaccinate more people,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of ARHS.
Latino Health Program’s Dinora Hernandez (back left) and bilingual volunteer Brent James (back right) assisted hispanic community members. Several other bilingual volunteers were on hand to help.
Thanks to a partnership with Watauga County Parks and Recreation, ARHS is using the Watauga County Community Recreation Center building. They have plenty of space, plenty of staff, and plenty of volunteers. What they need now are the vaccines.
“With the system and patient flow we have set up, we could easily administer 1,000 first doses and 1,000 second doses per week or more,” said Sean Burroughs, Director of Pharmacy at ARHS.
A total of 75 community volunteers have assisted with the Recreation Center clinics so far, and many more want to help. Most volunteer spots are full because of the limited supply, but the healthcare system is hoping to be able to schedule more clinics and use more people in these roles.
Volunteer Mary Scott served by escorting patients to their vaccine station after check-in. “The conversations I have had with people during these clinics has been so wonderful. I enjoy talking with folks and helping them feel more comfortable about the whole process. Several people told me how they were so impressed with how organized, relaxed and friendly everyone was,” she said.
ARHS continues to work together with the Appalachian District Health Department (AppHealthCare) and state health officials to formulate a plan for Group 3 vaccinations when the time comes.
For more information about ARHS’s COVID-19 efforts, including testing and vaccines, visit apprhs.org/covid19.
[Left to Right] ARHS President and CEO Chuck Mantooth with Sean Burroughs Director of Pharmacy, and LaRaye Ruducile, Director of Population Health and Clinical Operations, as they prepare vaccinations.
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) held its first COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Monday, January 11 for their patients who qualify according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) four-phase rollout plan. North Carolina is currently in phase 1b, group 1, which includes all adults 75 years or older.
“Right now, we’re asking those younger than 75 years of age not to sign up for a vaccine clinic meant for older folks,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of ARHS. “It’s so important that we vaccinate the most vulnerable among us first, and the state of North Carolina has made it clear that anyone who wants a vaccine will eventually be able to get one.”
Bryan Payne, ARHS Senior Director of Organizational Effectiveness, explains the procedure and potential side effects before Paul and Carol McCubbins receive their vaccinations.
Phase 1b includes the following groups:
Group 1: Anyone 75 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation
Group 2: Health care workers and frontline essential workers 50 years or older
Group 3: Health care workers and frontline essential workers of any age
The CDC defines frontline essential workers as first responders (e.g., firefighters and police officers), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.
Michele McCubbins brought her parents, Paul and Carol to the first vaccine clinic at AppFamily Medicine in Boone. “I am just so excited for the opportunity to protect my parents with this vaccine,” she said.
Dr. Anderson vaccinates Katie Lineback at AppFamily Medicine
ARHS staff members and providers are volunteering to participate in vaccination efforts. Steven Anderson, MD, orthopedic surgeon at AppOrtho, vaccinated Katie Lineback, whose husband had undergone knee surgery with him previously. She was delighted to see a familiar face.
LENOIR, NC – Samaritan’s Purse will begin the construction of a 30-bed, emergency field hospital on the grounds of Caldwell UNC Health Care in Lenoir, NC on Friday, January 1st. The unit will provide regional COVID-19 care support, assisting five health systems in western North Carolina:
Caldwell UNC Health Care (Lenoir)
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (Boone)
Catawba Valley Health System (Hickory)
Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge (Morganton)
Frye Regional Medical Center (Hickory)
The Caldwell UNC site was selected for this field hospital due to its central location and ability to provide support services. Patients receiving treatment at the field hospital will be limited to those who are COVID- positive but do not need the support of a ventilator.
“On behalf of all the health systems participating in this effort, I’d like to thank Samaritan’s Purse for making this investment in the well-being of our communities. Planning for this added capacity now will help us provide the level of care our communities need as volumes continue to grow in our region,” noted Laura Easton, President and CEO of Caldwell UNC Health Care.
Samaritan’s Purse has extensive experience in this type of response, having deployed field hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic in both New York City and Italy. The organization has agreed to construct, supply and coordinate staffing for the 30-bed field hospital and has received overwhelming interest from medical personnel across the United States who are willing to serve.
With international headquarters in Boone, NC, Samaritan’s Purse is a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine. Organizers and participating hospitals say more operational details will become available as the field hospital nears completion.
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s first COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Tuesday, December 22 at Watauga Medical Center. Occupational health nurse, Crystal Minton, RN, vaccinated Kevin Wolfe, MD, a pulmonologist who is treating COVID patients at the hospital, followed by Emergency Department nurse Madison Bakken, RN.
Kevin W. Wolfe, MD, Pulmonologist Watauga Medical Center, receives the vaccine from ARHS Occupational Health Nurse Crystal Minton.
“We feel so fortunate to be able to begin vaccinating our frontline workers who are taking care of COVID patients each day,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of ARHS. “Protecting them means they will stay healthy and continue to be available for the community.”
There was an air of excitement in the room as Dr. Wolfe received his dose, and those within view erupted in applause. Many healthcare workers see these vaccinations as a first step in defeating this virus, and have a renewed sense of hope.
When asked why Dr. Wolfe decided to take the vaccine, he stated, “When you look at the risk and you look at the benefit of taking the vaccination, I believe the benefits far outweigh the risks.” Dr. Wolfe is proud to be a role model for the rest of the community in taking this important step to fight the pandemic.
Madison Bakken, RN, Emergency Department Watauga Medical Center receives the vaccine
“I’m incredibly honored to have had this opportunity,” said Bakken. “Today is the first glimmer of hope for us in this dark year.” Madison said she is proud to receive the vaccine in support of her fellow healthcare workers and excited that one day soon she may be able to safely embrace her parents and loved ones again.
The State of North Carolina’s plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines
North Carolina is currently in Phase 1a of the state’s four-phase plan, which calls for vaccines to be available to healthcare workers and long-term care staff and residents. Phase 1b calls for vaccinating adults at highest risk of severe illness and those at highest risk for exposure according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). Those seeking more information about the state vaccine distribution plan should visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.
For more information about the ARHS COVID-19 situation, including testing and vaccination, visit: apprhs.org/covid19/.
On Tuesday, December 15, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) was notified by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) that it would receive 800 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, as part of NCDHHS’s December 21 weekly allocation.
“We were told yesterday (December 15) that our first allocation of vaccines will ship to us next week,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of ARHS. “So it appears that Christmas will come early. Our organization has been anxiously awaiting this news for several weeks. This is overwhelmingly good news,” he added.
This first shipment assumes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will grant Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination at its hearing on Thursday, December 17. When the FDA grants the EUA, Moderna will immediately begin shipping nearly 6 million doses of the vaccine across the US.
Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination is part of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative. At the direction of the U.S. government and the Centers for Disease Control, the State of North Carolina and NCDHHS has been working on a COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.
This first 800 dose allocation for ARHS is Phase 1a of the State’s four-phase Vaccination Plan, which calls for vaccinating frontline healthcare workers first.
ARHS has been preparing to receive these vaccinations for months. However, until this week, ARHS was not sure if it would receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccination. Because both vaccines have unique storage and dosing requirements, ARHS needed to plan for both.
“We began thinking about how to operationalize it. From shipping and logistics — to how and where we would store it. We ordered an ultra-low temperature freezer. We began evaluating the roles of our workers to ensure that those on the front lines would receive it first. We planned how and where our vaccine clinics would occur. We want to make it as easy as possible for our employees to get the vaccine,” Mantooth said.
ARHS has more than 1,400 employees but also works with hundreds of contractors and non-employed providers in caring for the community. To ensure that frontline workers receive the vaccine quickly, ARHS stratified employees, contractors and non-employed providers into high- and low-risk categories and pre-loaded those high-risk employees into the State’s COVID-19 Vaccine Management System (CVMS) database. Mantooth added, “the 800 doses we get this week will not be enough—so even within the high-risk group, we placed priority on personnel who lay hands on patients. The risk of being exposed to the virus is greater for them, so they will receive the vaccine first.”
ARHS employees in the high-risk category who wish to receive the vaccination in Phase 1a will receive an email from CVMS to confirm their registration and a separate communication from ARHS to register for a time slot to receive the vaccination.
“At this point, COVID-19 vaccinations are not mandatory for our employees. However, we are doing all we can to educate them, so they’ll be able to make an informed decision. Of course, our hope is that they will see the vaccine as our best option for fighting the virus,” said Mantooth.
ARHS is still awaiting information about the availability of additional shipments of the vaccine to support subsequent phases of the vaccination plan.
Summary of the four phases of North Carolina’s vaccination plan:
Healthcare workers at high risk for exposure to COVID-19—doctors, nurses, and all who interact and care for patients with COVID-19, including those who clean areas used by patients, and those giving vaccines to these workers.
Long-Term Care staff and residents—people in skilled nursing facilities and in adult, family and group homes.
Adults with two or more chronic conditions that put them at risk of severe illness as defined by the CDC, including conditions like cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes, among others.
Adults at high risk of exposure including essential frontline workers (police, food processing, teachers), health care workers, and those living in prisons, homeless shelters, migrant and fishery housing with 2+ chronic conditions.
Those working in prisons, jails and homeless shelters (no chronic conditions requirement).
Essential frontline workers, healthcare workers, and those living in prisons, homeless shelters or migrant and fishery housing.
Adults under 65 with one chronic condition that puts them at risk of severe illness as defined by the CDC.
College and university students.
K-12 students when there is an approved vaccine for children.
Those employed in jobs that are critical to society and at lower risk of exposure.
Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.
Mantooth concluded by asking for continued diligence from the community. “The arrival of the vaccines represents hope for all of us…a bright light, at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel. But it will take time to get everyone vaccinated. In the meantime I want to respectfully ask that everyone continue to practice the 3Ws. Wear a mask. Wait six feet apart. Wash your hands. It’s the best way to protect each other until everyone has had their shot.”