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COVID-19 Testing in Watauga and Avery Counties

COVID-19 Testing in Watauga and Avery Counties

Who can get tested?

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 or who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should consider getting tested. NCDHHS issued updated guidance on who should be tested for COVID-19. The new guidance recommends that clinicians test any patient in whom COVID-19 is suspected.

Symptoms include: fever/chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle/body aches, headache, new loss of taste/smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea/vomiting and/or diarrhea.

If you are experiencing severe, life threatening symptoms (for example, severe difficulty breathing, altered thinking, blue lips), seek immediate medical care or call 9-1-1.

 

How to get tested

DO NOT come to the Emergency Department for COVID-19 symptoms unless you have a true emergency. For non-life-threatening symptoms, call your primary care provider, health department, urgent care, or telemedicine provider.

No referral is needed to be tested through the health department or local pharmacies

Referral is needed for testing through ARHS: 

1. Call a healthcare provider

Call your primary care provider for a referral to the ARHS testing site.​

2. Provider refers for testing, if needed

If the provider determines that you meet the criteria for testing, he/she will help you make your appointment at a testing location in Watauga or Avery County. Please DO NOT travel to the testing location without an appointment.

3. Follow instructions after testing

If your test is positive for COVID-19, you will need to be isolated for up to 14 days. The testing facility will provide education for you and your family whether you test positive for the virus or not.

AppFamily Medicine

148 Hwy 105 Extension, Suite 102
Boone, NC 28607
Phone: (828) 386-2222
Fax: (828) 386-2223
AppFamily Medicine website

Baker Center for Primary Care

Baker Center for Primary Care

436 Hospital Drive, Suite 230
Linville, NC 28646
Phone: (828) 737-7711
Fax: (828) 737-7713
Baker Center website

Elk River Medical Associates

150 Park Avenue
Banner Elk, NC 28604
Phone: (828) 898-5177
Fax: (828) 898-8306
Elk River Medical Associates website

Billing and Insurance Information

ARHS provider visits (in-person or telehealth) will be covered by your insurance just as a normal office visit would. If testing is needed, it will be billed separately.

If you do not have health insurance:

  • Call your nearest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). If you feel you may have COVID-19, be sure to disclose that when you call to obtain an appointment. FQHCs are community-based health care providers that receive federal funds to provide needed health services in communities across the state.
  • Apply for Financial Assistance with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.  Call the Financial Counseling Office at (828) 262-4110.

 

 

COVID-19 Diagnostic Test Cash Price: $98

Initial office visit is NOT included in the COVID-19 cash price. During the COVID-19 emergency period declared by the Public Health Act, providers are required to make public the cash prices for the diagnostic test for COVID-19 [Reference: CARES Act Sec. 3202]. 
 
NOTE: All healthcare providers and testing facilities are required to report all positive results to the health department.
ARHS partners with local law enforcement to provide face masks for the community

ARHS partners with local law enforcement to provide face masks for the community

ARHS donates masks to local law enforcement

Photo (left to right): Captain Kelly Redmon, Chief Deputy for the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Len Hagaman, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Chuck Mantooth, President & CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Andy Le Beau, Police Chief of Boone Police Department, and Aaron Miller, Police Chief of Blowing Rock Police Department.

On Friday, June 26, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order went into effect requiring face masks be worn in public spaces where physical distancing of six feet is not possible. To help the community adhere to this requirement, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) donated 800 washable, reusable cloth face masks for local law enforcement officers to distribute as needed. Face masks will soon be donated to Avery County law enforcement officers as well.

The donated face masks will enable law enforcement officers to use a problem-solving approach to the enforcement of the order, offering a face mask to those without one. Hopefully, these additional mask resources can turn a potential confrontation into an opportunity to help keep the community safe.

“We realize that we have a role to play in supporting our law enforcement officers who are responsible for enforcing the mask requirement,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of ARHS. “This is a good opportunity for us to give back to the community and reinforce the importance of the three Ws – wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart, and washing hands.”

ARHS, Appalachian District Health Department (AppHealthCare), and other local businesses have been partnering to promote the “Show Your Love” campaign, highlighting the importance of following the three Ws. “At this time it is imperative that our community continue to come together to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and ARHS is committed to doing what we can,” Mantooth said.

“Boone Police are grateful for our partnership with ARHS. It is our duty to respond to violations of the Governor’s Executive Order requiring masks to be worn in many circumstances,” said Andy Le Beau, Chief of Police of the Boone Police Department. “The first part of our duty is to educate citizens about the requirement. With the masks supplied by ARHS we can now hand them a mask as well as provide education. We have many visitors from other areas who simply are not informed about the requirements. This supply of masks not only makes our job easier, but helps make our community safer.”

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, “law enforcement personnel cannot criminally enforce the face covering requirements of this order against individual workers, customers, or patrons. However, if a business or organization does not allow entry to a worker, customer, or patron because that person refuses to wear a face covering, and if that worker, customer, or patron enters the premises or refuses to leave the premises, law enforcement personnel may enforce the trespassing laws.”

To learn more about how ARHS is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit apprhs.org/covid19.

Face masks required for all inside ARHS facilities

Face masks required for all inside ARHS facilities

Lady with Mask On Tuesday, April 28, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) began requiring masks for all who enter an ARHS facility. This new requirement applies to all employees, even those in non-clinical areas, patients and vendors. Additionally, in those rare instances where visitors may be allowed inside an ARHS facility, they too will be required to wear a face mask.

“We understand it may feel different to wear a mask. However, the smallest things can sometimes make the biggest difference,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. “Masks help prevent people spreading COVID-19 to others before they know they are sick, and we all have a part to play in protecting each other. Our employees are leading by example because we deeply care about our community. We will continue to adapt and do everything we can to ensure the health and safety our patients, staff, vendors and visitors.”

Why is ARHS implementing this requirement? 

The CDC updated their recommendations for healthcare personnel on April 13 by communicating, “as part of source control efforts, healthcare personnel should wear a face mask at all times, while they are in the healthcare facility.”

Read more about CDC recommendations >

The Joint Commission also believes that universal masking within healthcare settings is a critical tool to protect staff and patients from being infected by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals and should be implemented in any community where coronavirus is occurring.

Read more about Joint Commission recommendations >

What type of face mask is required and how can I get one?

Patients will be encouraged to arrive wearing a cloth face mask. If they do not, they will be provided with a cloth (or OSHA approved yellow) face mask when they enter the entry checkpoints at Watauga Medical Center (WMC) and Cannon Memorial Hospital (CMH).

Patients entering an outpatient medical office will be provided with a cloth (or OSHA approved yellow) face mask at check-in.

Per CDC guidelines, face masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

If you have additional questions about wearing a face mask to your appointment, please call the appropriate facility prior to your arrival.

 

face_mask_requirements

ARHS expands access to care through new telehealth program

ARHS expands access to care through new telehealth program

Lindsey Henley, FNP-C after first telehealth visit

Lindsey Henley, FNP-C of AppGastro with her medical office assistant Kayla Welch, CMA

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) has launched a new telehealth program to ensure patients have safe, convenient access to their providers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Through telehealth visits, patients can meet with a healthcare provider using a computer or mobile device from the safety of their own homes. Telehealth is most appropriate for routine visits such as simple acute care (sick visits), follow-up, wellness visits, and behavioral health concerns like depression, anxiety or grief.

Dr. Anderson after telehealth visit

Dr. Anderson of AppOrtho with his medical office assistant Amelia Lowe- CMA

Appalachian Regional Medical Associates providers have been piloting the program and are pleased with the results. Telehealth appointments are available throughout the week during regular office hours. In-person appointments will be alternated with telehealth appointments to limit the number of patients in each office in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

“We are incredibly proud of our providers and staff for moving quickly to implement this telehealth program for the benefit of our patients,” said Dr. Danielle Mahaffey, Chief Physician Executive, “They were asked to drastically adapt how they practice medicine, completed training, and began seeing patients within 14 days.”

During the telehealth visit, if the healthcare provider determines that an in-person visit is needed, they will stop the virtual visit and schedule the patient for an in-person appointment. The patient and their insurance will not be billed for the telehealth visit if an in-person appointment is required

Dr. Price

Dr. Price of Davant Medical Clinic with his medical office assistant Lacon Parsons, CMA

The first ARHS providers to utilize telehealth visits were Dr. David Kimmel of Elk River Medical Associates, Dr. Lynda Gioia-Flynt of Harmony Center for Women, and Dr. David Brendle of AppFamily Medicine. Since its launch, the program has expanded to about 30 providers throughout the healthcare system.

Dr. Steven Anderson, orthopedic surgeon at AppOrtho has been participating in telehealth visits with his patients. Patients of all ages were easily able to log on and complete the telehealth visit. “For a time like this, it’s a great way to communicate with patients while abiding by social distancing guidelines,” said Anderson, “There are also instances where telehealth makes sense in general, such as reviewing MRI results.” According to Anderson, every patient he has seen via telehealth has enjoyed the visit.

For Dr. Lynda Gioia-Flynt of Harmony Center for Women, telehealth is appropriate for things like medication follow up, contraception counseling, procreative counseling, STD prevention and exposure counseling, postpartum depression and postoperative visits with incision checks. “Telemedicine has helped bridge the gaps that would occur otherwise with social distancing,“ said Gioia-Flynt, “If we delay too many visits we could not only miss caring for our patients now, but also might over-burden the system later once restrictions lighten.”

“The telehealth visits felt more personal than I anticipated, and I was able to really connect with my patients well through the platform,” said Dr. Grasinger, a gynecologist at Davant Medical Clinic in Blowing Rock, “This option is safer for patient as well as staff, and patients have been happy with the visits.”

Patients will not need to download apps or software to participate. To request a telehealth visit, patients should call the office directly or request an appointment online as if they were scheduling an in-person appointment.

While the telehealth program was launched as a way to increase access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope to continue in the future as a safe, convenient way to receive care at any time.  ARHS is continually looking for new ways to serve the community and telehealth is the latest result of that commitment.

Pictured below are some of our providers, joined by their medical office assistants, who have enjoyed telehealth visits with their patients so far.

Dr. Califf of AppOrtho with Susan Young, RN

Dr. Chidester of Baker Center for Primary Care with Leslie Pollard, MOA

Dr. Stark of Appalachian Regional Internal Medicine Specialists with Tracey Berner, MOA

Amber Stern, NP-C of The Heart & Vascular Center

Sarah Seaver, MSN, NP of Baker Center for Primary Care

Dr. Smith of Appalachian Regional Internal Medicine Specialists with Hailey Beshears, CMA

Dr. Parker of AppOrtho with Kaitlyn Walker, CMA

Dr. Bullers of AppOrtho with Brandy Rawson, CMA

Shauna Stadelmaier, PA-C of AppOrtho with Santana Buchanan, CMA


How does a telehealth visit work?

 

  1. The patient should call the office or request an appointment online just as if they were scheduling an in-person appointment.
  2. At the time of the visit, they will receive an email with a link and instructions for how to join the visit.

 

Which patients can request a telehealth visit and for what types of visits?

 

Telehealth visits are available for patients who do not require a physical exam. Patients must reside in North Carolina and have reliable internet access, an email address, and a device with a camera and microphone such as a smartphone, computer or tablet.

 

Providers can usually address the following types of issues through telehealth:

 

  • Medication management/refill visits
  • Wellness visits
  • Follow-up visits
  • Simple acute (sick) visits
  • Allergies
  • Upper respiratory symptoms
  • Rashes
  • Sore throat
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Behavioral health visits

 

Which practices and outpatient clinics offer telehealth options?

 

The following practices and outpatient clinics currently offer telehealth services. More clinics may add the service in the future. Call the office or clinic to ask about specific offerings.

 

Appalachian Regional Medical Associates

 

Cannon Memorial Hospital

 

Watauga Medical Center

 

Dr. Califf of AppOrtho with Susan Young, RN

Dr. Chidester of Baker Center for Primary Care with Leslie Pollard, MOA

Dr. Stark of Appalachian Regional Internal Medicine Specialists with Tracey Berner, MOA

Amber Stern, NP-C of The Heart & Vascular Center

Sarah Seaver, MSN, NP of Baker Center for Primary Care

Dr. Smith of Appalachian Regional Internal Medicine Specialists with Hailey Beshears, CMA

Dr. Parker of AppOrtho with Kaitlyn Walker, CMA

Dr. Bullers of AppOrtho with Brandy Rawson, CMA

Shauna Stadelmaier, PA-C of AppOrtho with Santana Buchanan, CMA

ARHS takes care of employees with CDO supplemental pay

ARHS takes care of employees with CDO supplemental pay

Photo: Chuck Mantooth with ARHS employees

Emergency Department staff with Chuck Mantooth, 2019

On Thursday March 27, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) announced a new supplemental pay program, called COVID Days Off (CDO) to assist full time and part time employees whose hours have been reduced due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Patient volume in ARHS hospitals and clinics has been drastically reduced, which means employees may be asked to work fewer hours.

Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO, said that the reduction in patient volumes was self-imposed, stating, “over the past two weeks, in preparation for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases, we chose to postpone elective procedures, surgeries and routine office visits in our clinics. Effectively, we set aside much of what we normally do to deal with COVID-19. Due to this decline, we asked some employees to take time off.”

The CDO program gives employees an opportunity to work in other areas at ARHS, when their regular hours are reduced. It also allows them to earn their same rate of pay, regardless of the new assignment. If an alternative assignment cannot be found, employees who have agreed to participate in the CDO program automatically receive CDO pay up to their normal compensation amount. Employee participation in CDO is by choice. In lieu of CDO, employees may also use accrued paid time off. Currently the CDO program will be offered through April 18, 2020.

“The purpose of CDO is to ensure that ARHS employees have a full paycheck, as we work together against COVID-19,” said Mantooth. “Right now our employees are experiencing so much stress related to COVID-19. Hopefully this program will help relieve their financial strain until economic relief is available.”

Blue ridge energy donates N95 masks to ARHS

Blue ridge energy donates N95 masks to ARHS

Blue Ridge Energy Building On Monday March 23, 2020, Blue Ridge Energy donated hundreds of N95 masks to ARHS in an effort to help ARHS protect its caregivers.

An N95 mask is a special type of mask used among health care workers to protect against dangerous airborne particles. As the coronavirus continues to spread, supplies of such masks may become limited, and many companies are donating from their own supplies. At this time there are no shortages of needed medical supplies at Watauga Medical Center or Cannon Memorial Hospital.

“Having enough personal protective equipment to ensure that our dedicated caregivers are appropriately safeguarded is one of our highest priorities, and we can’t thank Blue Ridge Energy and our community partners enough for their generous contribution to that cause,” said Chuck Mantooth, ARHS President and CEO.

Blue Ridge Energy is a member-owned electric cooperative serving some 77,000 members in northwest North Carolina. Its propane and fuels subsidiary also serves customers in the cooperative’s service area and beyond, including parts of Virginia, Catawba and Burke counties in North Carolina.

If You Would Like to Donate Supplies

Organizations or community members that are interested in donating PPE supplies to ARHS should contact Brian Whitfield at (828) 262-9105 or bwhitfield@apprhs.org. Thank you for your generosity in helping to support our organization and the patients we serve.

At this time we are accepting gifts of personal protective equipment to include:

  • Medical grade surgical and procedure masks
  • N95 respirator masks
  • Face Shields
  • Gloves
  • Gowns
  • Hand Sanitizer

If you would like to receive a tax receipt letter, please contact Brian Whitfield at bwhitfield@apprhs.org or 828-262-9105.

 

Learn more about ways you can help >