On Wednesday April 8, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) was notified by AppHealthCare (the health department) that an ARHS employee who had recently traveled has tested positive for COVID-19.
The employee did not provide direct patient care, has been in quarantine and is recovering at home. Additionally, ARHS has been working with the health department to identify other staff who may have been in contact with the employee who tested positive. Each of these employees has also self-quarantined.
“As a healthcare organization operating in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), we take very seriously our commitment to preserving protected health information and respecting the privacy of individuals infected by the virus,” said Rob Hudspeth, Senior Vice President for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.
ARHS will continue to work closely with AppHealthCare and local, state, and national health officials to ensure we are taking the strongest possible precautions to keep employees and patients safe.
For more information about Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s COVID-19 response, please visit apprhs.org/covid19/.
AppHealthCare and Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) are following the guidance for use of cloth masks or face coverings by the general public as issued by the recommendations recently issued by the CDC. The CDC recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
“We know that community transmission is occurring in North Carolina and even though we have a lower number of identified cases in our communities at this time, we believe additional tools should be added to our toolbox to help lessen the effects of COVID-19. The use of cloth masks or face coverings by the general public should not replace social distancing and other everyday prevention measures like handwashing, covering your cough or sneeze or staying home when you are sick,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.
“The use of cloth masks makes so much sense toward combating the spread of COVID-19. As such, we encourage everyone to use them, particularly in public locations where social distancing is difficult to maintain,” stated Rob Hudspeth, Senior Vice President, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS).
The use of cloth face coverings will not protect you from other people’s germs. It is meant to protect other people in case you are infected. This would be important if someone is infected with COVID-19 but does not have symptoms. According to the CDC, recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms (asymptomatic or presymptomatic). This is why it remains important for people to stay home as much as possible and only go out for essential trips.
Important Points about Cloth Masks and Face Coverings
They should cover your nose and mouth.
They can be worn when out in public where you may be near people like grocery stores or pharmacies.
They are not a substitute for social distancing. People should still keep 6 feet of distance and stay home to the greatest extent possible.
They can be made from household items with common materials at low cost.
They should not be used on children under the age of 2, people who have trouble breathing or anyone who would be unable to remove the covering without assistance.
They should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use. You can wash the face covering in the washing machine.
After you remove a cloth covering from your face, you should be careful not to touch your face and wash your hands immediately after removing.
Due to the short supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), surgical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders. A healthcare worker or first responder should continue to use surgical masks and N95 respirators since these provide better protection from infectious diseases.
We are encouraging people to protect themselves to help lessen the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. There are many ways we can all protect ourselves and our communities.
How to Protect Yourself
Practice social distancing which means avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, keeping 6 feet or more between you and others and remaining at home to the greatest extent possible
Frequent hand washing
Stay home when you’re sick
Keep distance from others who are sick
Avoid touching your face
Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in common areas like doorknobs, remotes, lightswitches, tables and handles
Wear cloth mask or face covering when out in public where you may be around people like grocery stores or pharmacies
If you have surgical masks or N95 respirators and are willing to donate them, they can be dropped off at the front entrance of Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital in Linville or at the security checkpoint at Watauga Medical Center in Boone.
We appreciate those in our community who are willing and able to make homemade face coverings.
AppHealthCare is available and on-call 24/7 to respond to public health emergencies. To reach us, call (828) 264-4995 anytime and follow the prompts. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 in our community and will work to keep the public informed. Please visit our website for more information – www.AppHealthCare.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is seeking donations of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
“Our normal suppliers are not able to keep up with the demand and have cancelled the orders we placed previously,” said Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President for ARHS.
Businesses or individuals with extra hand sanitizer are asked to help. We will gladly accept gifts of any size or container of hand sanitizer, including travel size bottles and spray pens. Donations must be alcohol-based, not homemade, and contain at least 60% alcohol.
If you have hand sanitizer to donate, please bring it to the security checkpoint at Watauga Medical Center or the front entrance at Cannon Memorial Hospital. If you have questions, please contact Brian Whitfield at email@example.com or 828-262-9105.
The third Friday of each March is known as Match Day in the medical school community. Match Day culminates a long process which “matches” soon to be medical school graduates with programs offering residency training. This year, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) was a part of Match Day as they prepare to welcome the inaugural class of medical residents to the new Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) Boone Rural Family Medicine Residency Program that begins in June.
Molly Benedum, M.D., Director of the MAHEC Boone Rural Family Medicine Residency Program commented: “We are enormously excited to welcome the first class of residents whom we are especially pleased are all from North Carolina. Their interest in our program indicates their strong commitment to spending their careers meeting the primary healthcare needs of communities across the state. We look forward to what they will accomplish in the years to come and to welcoming them to the High Country this summer.”
The following residents from the Class of 2023 will join the MAHEC Boone Rural Family Medicine Residency Program this summer:
John Cunningham, M.D.
Fayetteville, NC Dr. Cunningham received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is attending The University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Jeb Fox, M.D.
Bethel, NC Dr. Fox received his undergraduate degree from North Carolina State University and is attending The University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Erinn Murphy, D.O.
Dr. Murphy received her undergraduate degree from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is attending The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Virginia.
Lindsey Shapiro, D.O.
Davidson, NC Dr. Shapiro received her undergraduate degree from Appalachian State University and is attending The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Carolinas.
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.”
The COVID-19 pandemic creates new challenges daily for ARHS and for our patients. We are fortunate to have so many in our High Country community ask us how they can help in the response to these unprecedented times. Here, we’ve listed several ways you can help. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from community members, local businesses, and organizations so far.
On Friday, April 4th, the CDC made an announcement regarding the use of simple cloth face masks and recommends individuals wear homemade cloth face masks in addition to adhering to the 6-foot social distance requirements and frequent hand washing to slow the spread of the virus.
ARHS employees working in non-clinical areas are encouraged to wear homemade cloth face masks, and ARHS will continue to accept homemade cloth mask donations
Donors can drop these items off at the front entrance of Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital in Linville or the security checkpoint at Watauga Medical Center.
For more information about donating masks please contact Brian Whitfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 262-9105.
Donate to the ARHS COVID-19 Response Fund
You can donate to support the ongoing efforts of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System to respond to COVID-19, or to directly support patients in need.