Continuity in the time of COVID-19

Confirmed cases of COVID-19

Posted 10/17/20 at 9:30 p.m.

Students, faculty and staff:

Appalachian State University and Appalachian District Health Department (AppHealthCare) are working closely together to investigate and respond to 5 individual active cases in 6 clusters of confirmed COVID-19. A cluster is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as a minimum of five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases. It is possible, as with two clusters listed below, that all cases are inactive at the time the clusters reach the definition above. Clusters are considered active until there have been no cases in isolation for a 28-day period.

Currently, there are:

  • Alpha Phi sorority: One active individual case recovering in isolation and 8 past the isolation stage.

  • Mountaineer residence hall: Two active individual cases recovering in isolation and 3 past the isolation stage.

  • Newland residence hall: One active individual case recovering in isolation and 6 past the isolation stage.

  • Doughton residence hall: One active individual case recovering in isolation and 5 past the isolation stage.

  • East residence hall: All 6 cases are past the isolation stage.

  • (Formerly named) Lovill hall: All 7 cases are past the isolation stage.

Of the 92 App State students who are currently considered active cases, 26 are in residence halls, representing about half of one percent of the residence hall population.

AppHealthCare and App State have been providing support to the students and staff and have been working with them to continue to identify and reach out to all identified close contacts. A close contact is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as someone who has been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. 

App State holds pop-up testing events every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday in the Rivers Street Parking Deck from noon-5 p.m. Students, faculty and staff can walk up or drive up for a free COVID-19 test. No appointments are required, but you will be asked to show your AppCard. AppHealthCare and App State encourage members of the university community to take advantage of these testing opportunities. The more information we have, the better we are able to respond to active cases and help prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

AppHealthCare has been working closely with App State throughout the COVID-19 response, and continues to provide public health recommendations and guidance for infection and virus transmission prevention. AppHealthCare will closely monitor the active cases and continue to conduct response testing in coordination with App State.

The university has heightened safety, prevention and control measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.  App State is offering on-campus students the ability to voluntarily opt-out of their housing contracts if they want to return to their hometowns and is implementing large-scale testing in residence halls with active clusters.

What each of us can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

The actions of each person can help flatten the App State curve:

  • Remember to perform your daily health check each day before leaving your residence hall or coming to campus. If you are feeling sick or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please do not attend class or be around others.

  • Students, faculty and staff can report illness or exposure using this online web form.

  • Follow the 3Ws when you leave your home and are around others: wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer and wait to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others.

  • If you receive a call from public health, it is critically important to cooperate with the contact tracing process. This allows public health and the university to work together in implementing the appropriate measures to control the spread of this virus. The information we receive from individuals who are positive or are close contacts is intended to guide our response efforts. There is no punishment for individuals who disclose their close contacts, and AppHealthCare and university staff will not share personally identifying information.

  • Even when outside and in appropriate-sized groups, all members of the university  community are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings and maintain distance.

  • Download and utilize the free SlowCOVIDNC exposure notification app, available for free from the App Store or Google Play. This application records the signal strength and duration of exposures to others who have anonymously reported a positive test and determines if you have met a threshold to receive an exposure notification. It uses an anonymous “token” or randomized combination of letters and numbers for your device that changes every 10-20 minutes and is never linked to your identity or location, but is linked to date. Read more about how it works.

Compliance and enforcement:

While on-campus compliance with the university’s COVID-19 safety measures has been excellent, the university will exercise every measure under the Code of Student Conduct for violations.

  • Whether on or off campus, all students are required to comply fully with the social activity, face covering and social distancing restrictions put in place by the university as well as the governor, Watauga County and the Town of Boone.

  • Students who live in residence halls must comply with additional visitor and group gathering restrictions.

  • Compliance with these measures is critical to slow the spread of COVID-19. Serious and/or repeated violations will result in suspension.  

In some instances, the definition of a cluster is not met until after a number of the cases in the clusters are no longer active. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including the number of cases identified in a 14-day time period, contact tracing to identify and determine plausible epidemiologic linkage, and COVID testing and results. Responding to calls and inquiries from public health officials who are tracing close contacts is extremely important for a rapid response from AppHealthCare and App State.

How to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

The actions of each person can help flatten the App State curve:

  • Remember to perform your daily health check each day before leaving your residence hall or coming to campus. If you are feeling sick or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please do not attend class or be around others.

  • Students, faculty and staff can report illness or exposure using this online web form.

  • Follow the 3Ws when you leave your home and are around others: wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer and wait to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others. 

Contact tracing:

Contact tracing is under the purview of public health; however, the university assists using trained contact tracing staff. If you receive a confirmed positive COVID-19 result or are determined to be a close contact to a known positive case, public health staff will reach out to you to provide guidance, support and ensure you are able to safely isolate or quarantine. These efforts help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

If you receive a call from public health, it is critically important to cooperate with the contact tracing process. This allows public health and the university to work together in implementing the appropriate measures to control the spread of this virus. The information we receive from individuals who are positive or are close contacts is intended to guide our response efforts. There is no punishment for individuals who disclose their close contacts, and AppHealthCare and university staff will not share personally identifying information.

  • Answer the call: In response to questions about how contact tracing calls are identified, AppHealthCare has shared that calls from public health may show up as “NC Outreach” or “Contact Tracing” or from 844-628-7223 or 828-264-4995; however, some cell phone carriers may flag the call as spam. If you receive a message, please return the call.

  • Download and install the SlowCOVIDNC mobile app for free from the App Store or Google Play to anonymously share a positive COVID-19 result or receive a notification if you have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Your privacy is protected. Learn more at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/slowcovidnc.

Where to get a COVID-19 test:

App State will hold pop-up testing events every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday in the Rivers Street Parking Deck from noon - 5 p.m. Students, faculty and staff can walk up or drive up. No appointments are required, but you will be asked to show your AppCard.

Additionally:

  • If you are a student, contact Student Health Service for an appointment. Tests are conducted weekdays. Clinic hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Wednesday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information on the types of tests available and how to make an appointment to get tested are available on the Student Health Service website.

    • Students who are ill are not turned away for testing elsewhere. Same-day testing appointments are reserved for more severely ill students.

    • Students who are symptomatic are given a triage appointment, and are screened by a nurse via telephone. Upon screening, if it is determined they are more severely ill and need a test, they will be worked in for a rapid antigen test, with molecular (PCR) testing as a backup, per clinician’s judgement in the event of a negative rapid test.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) offers two additional tools to help you determine whether you should be tested and find testing sites:     

Find information about additional testing options for App State students, faculty and staff on the university’s dedicated coronavirus website.

How to Protect Yourself and Others:

This virus spreads most commonly through respiratory droplets when someone coughs or sneezes and is in close contact with another person. Close contact is defined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as 6 feet of distance or less for 15 minutes or longer. In a setting where people are in close contact with others and not practicing the 3Ws, there is an increased risk of exposure. 

  • Wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth

  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer

  • Wait at least 6 feet from others

  • Stay home when you’re sick 

  • Keep distance from others who are sick

  • Avoid touching your face 

  • Avoid crowded areas 

  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in common areas like doorknobs, remotes, light switches, tables and handles.

  • Download and install the SlowCOVIDNC mobile app for free from the App Store or Google Play to anonymously share a positive COVID-19 result or receive a notification if you have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Your privacy is protected. Learn more at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/slowcovidnc.

Symptoms of COVID-19:

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of reported symptoms. These include:

  • Fever or chills

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

Where to find more information:

For more information related to COVID-19, including local data, visit AppHealthCare’s website. AppHealthCare reports data to App State for students, employees and subcontractors who are confirmed positive. App State maintains a data dashboard for cumulative confirmed cases and active cases. University-specific information and data are available on the App State coronavirus website.

AppHealthCare’s COVID-19 call center is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day to take COVID-19 related inquiries. Call 828-795-1970. You can also email questions to preparedness@apphealth.com. 

AppHealthCare is available and on-call 24/7 to respond to public health emergencies. Call anytime and follow the prompts:

  • Watauga County: 828-264-4995

  • Ashe County: 336-246-9449

  • Alleghany County: 336-372-5641

For more information, visit www.AppHealthCare.com and follow AppHealthCare on Facebook or Twitter.