To comply with federal and state regulations, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) requires masking by all employees, volunteers, patients and visitors in all facilities, regardless of vaccination status. For the continued safety of our patients and visitors, all employees, visitors and contractors should continue to mask when in hallways, public spaces, and patient care areas.
Covid positive cases and hospitalizations have risen in the High Country and face coverings have been proven to slow the spread of the disease, including the Delta variant, which we are seeing in our community according to AppHealthCare (Health Department).
Protect yourself with the COVID-19 vaccine
Vaccines are readily available throughout the community. ARHS has Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines available. Adults age 18 and older are welcome to request an appointment online or walk into one of the following clinic times. Scheduling an appointment is preferred.
Emergency Department Nurses practice COVID-19 precautions
Masks are still required inside ARHS patient care areas
We know that many of our patients are happy to see a decline in COVID-19 infections in our community and were excited to hear the CDC’s recent mask updates. However, the new CDC guidance states that certain settings would still require masks and other safety measures.
Everyone, including individuals who are fully vaccinated, are still required to wear a mask in healthcare settings such as hospitals and doctor’s offices. As ARHS continues to follow CDC guidelines, all patients and visitors are required to wear a face mask over the mouth and nose, during their visit to any of our facilities.
General COVID-19 Visitor Guidelines
At Hospitals, Outpatient Offices and other ARHS Locations, visitors must:
Wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times (except while eating in select areas).
Have a health screening check when they enter the building.
Be at least 18 years old.
Be in good health (free from respiratory illness, fever, cough, etc.).
Stay in the patient room visiting the patient, they cannot roam the hospital.
Follow all social distancing and safety guidance. This includes wearing masks, staying six feet from others and hand washing.
If a visitor does not follow the guidance above, it can cause serious safety concerns. They will be escorted out of the building in order to keep our patients and staff safe.
Special circumstances will be managed by the House Supervisor or Practice Manager.
Visitors may NOT enter If they have COVID-19 or are waiting on COVID-19 test results.
Watauga Medical Center & Cannon Memorial Hospital
Visiting hours are 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Two (2) visitors will be allowed for adult patients at any given time. Each room will have two visitor badges, which must be worn by visitors at all times. Visitors may change throughout the day and may leave the facility and return during the same day. If both badges are checked out from a room, additional visitors may not enter.
Patients having surgery may have one (1) visitor with them until they are in their patient room, even if they arrive before 7:00 a.m. Once they are in their patient room, they may have up to two (2) visitors from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Patients under 18 may have two (2) parents or guardians visit any time of day, however these visitors may not change and must remain the same throughout hospitalization. This is to minimize any risks to newborns and to allow for rapid tracking should a COVID infection occur.
WMC Birthing Center
Laboring patients may have two (2) designated visitors, which may not change and must remain the same throughout hospitalization. After the birth of the baby, only one (1) designated overnight visitor may stay. The second visitor may return at 7:00 am and must leave by 8:00 pm. A doula will be considered the second visitor.
Emergency Departments patients are allowed one (1) visitor any time of day, unless otherwise approved by the clinical team. Two (2) parents or guardians are allowed if patients are under 18. Visitors must wear a badge with the room number identified.
If the Emergency Department is busy, visitors will not be allowed in waiting rooms. Visitors will have to remain outside the Emergency Department (in their vehicle) until the patient is placed in a room.
Exceptions will be managed by the ED Charge Nurse.
Inpatient Behavioral Health
Visiting hours are 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. One (1) visitor will be allowed for a period of 30 minutes, by appointment only. Potential visitors should call (828) 737-7000 to schedule an appointment.
Medical Practices/Doctor’s Offices
One (1) visitor will be allowed to come to doctor visits with adult patients. Two (2) parents or guardians are allowed to come to visits if patients are under 18.
For special situations, the Provider will work with the office manager to find the best solution for the patient.
Patients and/or Visitors may be asked or choose to wait in their vehicles and be called on their cell phones when a room is ready if space is limited or they do not wish to wait in the public area.
End of Life Situations
Patients with COVID-19 (End-of-Life Situations)
One (1) visitor is allowed during end-of-life situations. Otherwise, visitors are not allowed.
Visitors must wear a gown, gloves and a surgical mask.
Physician and House Supervisor will determine what is considered “end of life”
Non-COVID-19 Patients (End-of-Life Situations)
Up to four (4) visitors are allowed at a time, and visitors may switch out during the day.
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.
[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.
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/.