Safety precautions set for large outdoor and some indoor venues
North Carolina will ease cautiously some restrictions while continuing safety measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 as the state’s metrics remained stable in September, Governor Roy Cooper announced today.
“Our top priority remains getting children back to in-person learning. This month marks a major shift for many families now and in the coming months as schools open their doors, some for the first time since the pandemic,” said Governor Cooper. “The virus continues to spread, so we must take the next steps methodically, and responsibly.”
“We must continue our hard work to slow the spread of this virus,” said Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “By practicing the 3Ws — wear, wait and wash, — getting your flu shot, and downloading the SlowCOVIDNC app, each of us can protect the progress we have made.”
Dr. Cohen reviewed the state’s key metrics:
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
No-cost testing events are being deployed across the state and testing turnaround times are improving. New contact tracers are bolstering the efforts of local health departments. A new NCDHHS app, SlowCOVIDNC, is notifying users of exposure to the virus. Personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.
As these metrics and capacity remain stable, the state will ease some restrictions starting Friday. Executive Order 169 begins Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. and continues for three weeks through October 23. Its new provisions include:
Read Executive Order 169.
Read the FAQs on Executive Order 169.
Read the slides from today's briefing.
NCDHHS Updates Nursing Home Visitation Order as State Has Stabilizing Metrics, Mandated Testing and Strict Infection Control Measures
As North Carolina’s key metrics continue to remain stable and strong infection prevention and control requirements remain in place, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today issued a Secretarial Order updating visitation guidelines for nursing homes to allow indoor visitation.
“We have focused on protecting the health of nursing home residents since the start of this crisis. Our progress in testing, infection control and slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities allows us to move forward with safe indoor visitation in accordance with federal guidance,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Indoor visitation will only be permitted in nursing homes with no COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days and in counties with a percent positive testing rate of less than 10%, reflecting guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The updated order reflects the state’s dimmer switch approach to responsibly ease restrictions, while maintaining strong prevention measures. North Carolina continues to build on the early and aggressive actions it took to protect nursing home residents and staff. In addition to restricting visitation at the start of the pandemic, the state has provided personal protective equipment; helped fill staffing shortages; provided infection prevention and control training, support teams and targeted funding; mandated testing; and completed on-site infection control inspections of North Carolina’s more than 400 nursing homes.
Local community transmission levels are the key factor for nursing home outbreaks, emphasizing the importance of community-wide adoption of proven prevention practices (the 3 Ws). Facilities allowing in-person visitation will be required to follow strict infection prevention guidelines.
Throughout NCDHHS’s pandemic response, its five-point strategy for long-term care facilities has focused on prevention, staffing, testing, outbreak management and oversight. The department’s innovative universal testing strategy within skilled nursing facilities has been cited by the Rockefeller Foundation as a national model.
Franklin, NC- September 24, 2020- A section of the Bartram Trail on the Nantahala National Forest will be closed while Duke Energy replaces a line in the Nantahala Gorge starting September 28. Work is anticipated to be completed by November 20.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced today it will provide additional benefits through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to help families purchase food for children whose access to free and reduced-priced meals at school has been impacted by remote learning this fall due to COVID-19. The program provides a benefit on an EBT card that can be used to buy food at authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores.
“Children need access to enough healthy food every day to learn, play and develop to their full potential,” said NCDHHS Secretary K. Mandy Cohen, M.D. “This program will provide extra help buying groceries for children who would normally have access to free and reduced lunch at school but are now doing remote learning at home.”
In the P-EBT program this fall, children are eligible if they had access to free or reduced-priced meals at school last year, their school district or charter school is eligible to provide free or reduce-priced meals at school this year, and their school district or charter school utilized remote learning for all students for at least five consecutive school days between Aug. 17 and Sept. 30.
This is different than the eligibility criteria for P-EBT benefits in the spring, which was available to all children who normally access free or reduced-priced meals, regardless of school circumstance. The new eligibility criteria are based on requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To find out whether your child’s school district or charter school is receiving fall P-EBT benefits, view the list HERE.
Families do not need to apply for P-EBT. Eligible families already receiving Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) benefits will receive an additional benefit on their existing EBT card. Families who received P-EBT in the spring and are eligible under the new criteria will receive additional benefit on their original P-EBT card. Eligible families who do not have an FNS or P-EBT card will be mailed a card. Families being mailed a new card will receive the card within the next two to three weeks.
If someone has lost or destroyed their original P-EBT card, they can order a new card at www.ebtedge.com, on the EBT Edge mobile app or by contacting the North Carolina EBT Call Center at 1-866-719-0141.
P-EBT benefits are entirely federally funded. Earlier this year, North Carolina was the fourth state to receive federal approval to provide P-EBT benefits. More information about the P-EBT program can be found at www.ncdhhs.gov/PEBT.
For the latest information on COVID-19, visit nc.gov/covid19.
YOUNG HARRIS, Georgia— Blue Ridge Mountain EMC (BRMEMC) held its 82nd Annual Meeting on Thursday, Sept. 24 at the Co-op’s headquarters in Young Harris. Due to COVID-19 precautions, modifications were made and the meeting was a drive-in style meeting.
Members and guests that attended entered through the gated operations entrance and drove through the warehouse to register, enter door prizes and vote in-person before proceeding to the designated parking space in front of the truck shed where the business meeting was held. Attendees remained in their vehicles at all times and tuned their FM radio to a station they could listen to the business meeting.
Board of Directors President Ray Cook welcomed members and guests, and read a resolution created for former BRMEMC Board Director Charles Jenkins who passed away earlier this year. Outgoing General Manager Jeremy Nelms gave a farewell message thanking the Membership, employees and Board of Directors for their support during his time here at the Co-op and shared successes he experienced during his four-year tenure. Nelms introduced Interim General Manager Erik C. Brinke.
Brinke, an 18-year employee of BRMEMC, shared a brief biography before delivering an executive summary from this past year. He was pleased to share that BRMEMC maintained a strong financial position in terms of equity and paying down long-term debt; electric rates held steady over the past year; and BRMEMC will be passing through to its members a temporary rate reduction from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) beginning Oct. 1, 2020. The average residential electric customer will see a reduction of around 1.4% for their KWH usage. This rate reduction will be in effect from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 20, 2021. In continuing the executive summary, Brinke highlighted the unprecedented growth our service area continues to see. BRMEMC now maintains 54,537 meters, 47,000 members, 6,200 miles of electric lines, and over 10,000 broadband customers. He gave an example from this past July and August that spoke of the growth our area is experiencing. In these two months, BRMEMC added a net total of 400 new members; the customer service department took 24,000 calls and served 1,200 walk-ins, and 571 work orders were completed. All this while continuing to maintain the Co-op’s five county power grid and working safely through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brinke also shared through partnerships with TVA and CoBank, BRMEMC was able to secure $30,000 in monetary funds to the five counties local food banks. BRMEMC installed its first electric vehicle charging station at the Blairsville-Union Chamber of Commerce to promote and further adopt electric vehicles in our service area. This was completed in partnership with the Blairsville-Union Chamber of Commerce. In closing, Brinke assured the Membership that the Co-op will continue serving its members with the best reliable energy, continue expanding broadband, and provide exceptional customer service.
The meeting moved directly into the business session where Board of Directors Secretary Roy Perren shared the determination of a quorum, read the notice of the meeting, and the Membership made the motion to approve the minutes. Legal Counsel Charles Autry gave a report of the Nominating Committee and the report of the nominations by petition. Board President Cook asked the Membership if there was any unfinished business before moving into new business. No unfinished business or new business was discussed.
Legal Counsel Autry presented the election results. 5,960 members voted in this year’s election. Board of Directors incumbents Jeff Ledford from Clay County, North Carolina; and Bert Rogers from Towns County, North Carolina were re-elected. Incumbent Danny Henson won the contested Union County, Georgia Board of Directors seat. Also, on the ballot was the by-law amendment for directors to remain in their elected position for no more than five consecutive three-year terms from the time of their respective election at a meeting of the members. The by-law amendment passed 77% in favor to 23% not in favor.
Board President Cook adjourned the Annual Meeting at 5:50 p.m. and thanked those in attendance as well as the employees for their continuous hard work and making this year’s Annual Meeting a success.
The 83rd Annual Meeting is scheduled for September 2021.
For more information on Annual Meeting visit brmemc.com/annualmeeting.
About Blue Ridge Mountain EMC
Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation is a member-owned electric cooperative headquartered in Young Harris, Georgia, serving nearly 47,000 members in Cherokee and Clay Counties in Western North Carolina, and Towns, Union and Fannin Counties in Northeast Georgia. Organized locally in 1937, BRMEMC has invested well over $280 million in physical infrastructure in its mission to provide reliable electric and broadband services to its members where those services would not otherwise have been available. Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.
The following press release has been issued by Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the September 24, 2020 arrest of 39-year-old Benito Morales Mendez of Andrews, North Carolina for sexual assault of a child.
In January 2020, a complaint was made with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office of an allegation of sexual assault involving a minor child. Pursuant to this allegation, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation which identified Mendez as suspect in the case.
As the case was being investigated, assistance was provided by HAVEN Child Advocacy Center, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee County Department of Social Services and Cherokee County Schools. These agencies provided assistance in collecting statements from the victim and witnesses.
During the investigation, several electronic devices and other items of physical evidence were collected for examination.
As the investigation continued, an additional allegation of Violation of a Domestic Violence Protective Order was made against Mendez and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Additionally, an arrest warrant was issued for Mendez’s arrest for the allegations involving the sexual assault of the child.
When Detectives attempted to arrest Mendez, information was made known that he had fled from North Carolina. Further, information was made known that Mendez was not a legal citizen of the United States.
Assistance was requested from the United States Marshal Service Fugitive Apprehension Task Force and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations who assisted in locating Mendez several months later in Texas where he had fled. Mendez refused to waive extradition and a Governor’s warrant was issued and Mendez was brought back to Cherokee County where the North Carolina warrants were served on him.
Benito Mendez is currently charged with STATUTORY RAPE OF A CHILD BY ADULT and VIOLATE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTION ORDER. Mendez was taken before the North Carolina Magistrate who set a $500,000.00 secure bond. Additionally Mendez has a ICE Detainer which has no bond. Mendez is expected in Cherokee County District Court October 1, 2020 for his first appearance.
Sheriff Derrick Palmer stated, “As you can see it takes a team effort and one of the reasons we work so closely with our local and federal partners. Due to the age of the victim, we will not be making any further press releases.”
To report suspicious activity and suspect violations of the law please call 828-837-1344 or submit a tip at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services launched a COVID-19 Exposure Notification app called ‘SlowCOVIDNC’ yesterday, Sept. 22. The app will help North Carolinians slow the spread of the virus by alerting them when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. It is completely anonymous and does not collect, store or share personal information or location data.
SlowCOVIDNC, which leverages Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification System (ENS), alerts users who have the app if they have been in close contact with an individual who later tests positive for COVID-19. It is voluntary to download and use and designed to enhance the state’s existing contact tracing efforts. The app completed Beta testing earlier this month and can now be downloaded for free through the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
“With SlowCOVIDNC App, North Carolinians have another powerful tool to help slow the spread of COVID-19 right in their pockets. Downloading SlowCOVIDNC is a practical step each of us can take to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our state,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Here’s how SlowCOVIDNC will work:
To learn more about SlowCOVIDNC and to download the app, visit https://www.covid19.ncdhhs.gov/slowcovidnc, which also includes an FAQ.
Steady numbers allow for large outdoor venues to open at 7% with safety precautions
Some North Carolina small businesses that have experienced extraordinary disruption to their operations due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic may benefit from a $40 million relief program to help offset fixed costs like rent, mortgage interests and utility bills, Governor Roy Cooper announced today.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy – powering our local communities and giving back in so many ways. They deserve our support, and this new initiative can help them weather this tough time,” said Governor Cooper.
The N.C. Mortgage, Utility and Rent Relief (MURR), administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, can provide up to $20,000 in relief funds per qualifying business location. Business applicants from certain industry sectors that have not been able to operate during the COVID period may apply for up to two of their business locations.
Applicants can apply for up to four months of mortgage interest or rent expenses, and utility expenses. The help offers relief for some of the fixed costs a business cannot easily control on its own. Applications to the program should open next week and will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants must certify that they were closed during the period April 1 through July 31, 2020; they expect to be able to operate after the COVID crisis has passed; and they have not been reimbursed by any other federal source for the expenses for which they seek reimbursement through this program.
Eligible applicants include:
Business leaders can learn about the MURR program by registering for one of the free educational webinars offered by the Department of Commerce over the next two weeks.
For the webinar schedule and additional information on the program, visit www.nccommerce.com/murr.
Large, Outdoor Venues
Governor Cooper and NC DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen also announced that effective October 2, large outdoor venues would be permitted to open at 7% capacity with key safety precautions in place. The announcement was made today so these locations could begin putting safety measures in place in order to operate.
Large entertainment venues are those that can seat over 10,000.
“We will continue analyzing our data and indicators as we determine how to move forward safely in other areas that may be included in the new order on October 2nd. In it, we hope to ease some other restrictions, while still keeping safety protocols like masks, social distancing, and mass gathering limits in place,” said Governor Cooper.
”With more things open and people moving around more, we need everyone to stay vigilant about wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart, and washing their hands often,” said Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Our progress is fragile and will take our continued hard to work to protect it.”
State and public health officials will continue watching the key COVID-19 trends over the next week to determine if any further restrictions can be eased when the current Executive Order expires October 2 at 5 pm.
After several weeks of stable COVID-19 trends and continued low virus spread in school settings, Governor Roy Cooper today announced that beginning on October 5, North Carolina public school districts and charter schools can choose to implement Plan A for elementary schools (grades K-5). Plan A continues to include important safety measures like face coverings for all students, teachers and staff, social distancing, and symptom screening, but does not require schools to reduce the number of children in the classroom.
“We are able to open this option because most North Carolinians have doubled down on our safety and prevention measures and stabilized our numbers,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “North Carolinians are doing the hard work to improve our numbers and trends. Many people are wearing masks, keeping social distance and being careful to protect others as well as themselves. We have shown that listening to the science works. And I’m proud of our resolve.”
As the Governor announced in July, every district will continue to have flexibility to select Plan A, B or C based on their unique needs. In addition, districts should still provide an option for families to select all remote learning for their students. Read the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit to learn more about the requirements under each plan.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shared an update on North Carolina’s data trends. Dr. Cohen explained that North Carolina has seen a sustained leveling or decrease of key metrics.
“Our trends show that we are on the right track. It’s up to all of us to protect our progress. Our individual actions like those 3 Ws will help keep our school doors open.,” said Secretary Cohen.
Dr. Cohen also explained that as schools have opened, the current science shows that younger children are less likely to become infected, have symptoms, experience severe disease or spread the virus.
“It’s great news today that we are a step closer to providing the option of in-person learning to families who want their children to return to school,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson. “While the Governor, the State Board of Education, and I have our differences, I join with them today to encourage local school board members to take advantage of this change and open all schools safely. I thank the many parents and teachers across North Carolina who have been vocal advocates on this important issue.”
“For the past 6 months, superintendents, principals, teachers and local BOE have worked diligently to care for the safety of our students and staff while educating our children. While we are anxious to return all students, we know that teachers, principals, and students need a gradual transition over the next 3 months. I ask our parents to remain patient, knowing that we are moving as quickly as is safely possible. And I ask our teachers to continue to assist our students by supporting this deliberate, thoughtful transition," said Eric Davis, Chairman of the State Board of Education.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days
Personal Protective Equipment
North Carolina education leaders gave statements in support of Governor Cooper’s announcement.
Mark Johnson, Superintendent of NC Department of Public Instruction: “It’s great news today that we are a step closer to providing the option of in-person learning to families who want their children to return to school. While the Governor, the State Board of Education, and I have our differences, I join with them today to encourage local school board members to take advantage of this change and open all schools safely. I thank the many parents and teachers across North Carolina who have been vocal advocates on this important issue.”
Eric Davis, Chair of NC State Board of Education: “For the past 6 months, superintendents, principals, teachers and local BOE have worked diligently to care for the safety of our students and staff while educating our children. While we are anxious to return all students, we know that teachers, principals, and students need a gradual transition over the next 3 months. I ask our parents to remain patient, knowing that we are moving as quickly as is safely possible. And I ask our teachers to continue to assist our students by supporting this deliberate, thoughtful transition."
The Erlanger Heart and Lung Institute announces Dr. Harish Manyam has successfully performed the first procedure in the country to implant a unique dual chamber implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). The same day, he was also the first in the country to implant a single chamber ICD. This latest advancement features compatibility with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Bluetooth communication for a better connection between patients and their doctors.
The Erlanger cardiology team is now offering these ICDs and cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator (CRT-D) devices for patients with abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure. The high voltage devices offer a smartphone app and Bluetooth communication for improved remote monitoring and streamlined communications to help doctors tailor therapy to a patient's unique clinical needs.
“This new innovative device, especially in the time of a pandemic, allows patients to have health care remotely and without being in the hospital,” Dr. Manyam, Chief of Cardiology at Erlanger Health System explained. “It continues to improve access to patients, the ability to live their life without worrying about a home monitor as the device can transmit via their phone. We continue to bring the newest and most innovative techniques to the region and are excited about the opportunity to improve health care in this region.”
The new system pairs with an intuitive smartphone application designed to help streamline communication between doctors and their patients. The app provides access to data, device performance, and transmission history, which helps patients take an active role in their healthcare. Through the app, physicians can continuously monitor their patients remotely, allowing for identification of asymptomatic episodes as well as patient-triggered transmissions, which can lead to earlier intervention.
The CDC estimates that as many as 6.1 million people in the United States battle cardiac arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms. ICDs are often recommended to help reduce the risks of life-threatening arrhythmias. For patients with heart failure or in situations when the heart's chambers beat out of sync, CRT-Ds can be used to restore the heart's natural pattern of beating.
For more information about treatments offered at Erlanger Heart and Lung Institute or to make an appointment, visit Erlanger.org/heart.