On Friday, May 14, App Health Care in partnership with the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce held its first pop-up vaccine clinic in downtown in West Jefferson. The event gave local residents who had not yet had the opportunity a chance to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, while also opening access to individuals with limited technological and transportation needs.
“The event on Friday, in partnership with the Ashe Chamber, was the first time we have hosted a pop-up clinic. We have hired a team of vaccinators, and they will be able to go out into the community to administer vaccines. They will also continue providing the vaccine to homebound individuals who request the vaccine at their home,” said Melissa Bracey, director of communications for App Health Care. “We are very grateful for local partnerships like the Ashe Chamber who are willing and able to help provide more access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Between the hours of 2 and 6:30 p.m. individuals were able to swing by The Venue beside the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce located at North Jefferson Avenue, Suite C in downtown West Jefferson to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccines were offered free. After filling out some brief paperwork, people who stopped by the pop-up clinic were then able to choose between their choice of the Moderna or the Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
According Bracey, App Health Care hopes that the pop-up clinics will help make the COVID-19 vaccines more accessible, especially to individuals who may have limited access due to their geographic location or means of transportation.
“Our hope for the COVID-19 vaccine pop-up clinics is that they provide more access and opportunity for individuals to be vaccinated,” Bracey said. “This is another way we are working collaboratively with local partnerships to provide another option for people to be vaccinated and will reduce transportation, technology and geographic barriers.”
App Health Care hopes to hold more pop-up vaccine clinics in the future. Organization’s hoping to set up a pop-up clinic at their location can fill out the pop up vaccine clinic interest form found at the App Health Care website at www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-vaccinations/.
“We have a team of vaccinators and staff who help coordinate this type of event so we are ready, willing and able to have more clinics like this in the future,” said Bracey.
The form is available in English and Spanish. Individuals can also call the COVID-19 call center at (828) 795-1970 to learn more or to request a pop up clinic.
JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Board of Commissioners met in regular session on Monday, May 17 to hold presentations with monthly proclamations, advocacy and updates.
Commissioners in attendance were Chair Todd McNeill, Vice Chair William Sands, Jonathan Jordan, Chuck Olive and Jerry Powers.
The meeting took place in the commissioner courtroom on the third floor of the Ashe County Courthouse and the board saw a large turnout as presentations ensued.
Generations Ashe Senior Center Director Glenda Luther and Senior Tarheel Legislative Representative Delegate and Alternate Charles and Louise Caudill presented the Older Americans Month Proclamation and Advocacy to the board, asking for approval and a signature.
The board approved and signed the proclamation. Charles Caudill then spoke to the board, hoping that the older generation in Ashe can have more transportation means in which they need to get to their doctors and special appointments.
“Many older people have no way to get to the doctor for treatment of all kinds,” said Caudill. “It doesn’t seem like a big thing to you and I, but our senior population in Ashe County is going. If there’s any way possible, we need things in place to take care of things 10 years down the road.”
The board reflected on their comments and gave their appreciation for their presence.
County Manager Adam Stumb then presented the fiscal year 2021-22 budget.
“There have been plenty of uncertainties surrounding the pandemic. Some revenue numbers have been growing while sales and occupancy tax are driving gains,” said Stumb.
Stumb also said that with the stimulus packages and extra funds, they are unsure that these numbers will continue.
He then went on to discuss the current year, saying that certain projects are to be completed on time and also discussed the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office and its new additions.
In highlight of the budget, Stumb said that law enforcement has been able to purchase four new vehicles, vests, tasers and fund of 41 full time positions.
In education, with the new middle school being built, the county will begin to finalize budgets and payments this coming July. Construction prices could rise to nearly $55 million for the project. Both the board of commissioners and board of education have dedicated their time to completing this project.
“This budget is a compilation of all of the hard work that each of our county departments to provide high level service while being good stewards to the money entrusted to us by the public,” said Stumb.
Michele Baldwin with Ashe Backs the Badge then presented Law Enforcement Advocacy to the Board. The attendance for this presentation included an array of individuals who spoke with the board on current law enforcement situations.
Speakers included Amanda Howell, Beulah Stout, Amanda Williams and many more who are the spouses and family of law enforcement officers.
In reflection of the April 28 shooting in neighboring Watauga County, many of the speakers said they had been filled with anxiety all day as their loved ones were at the scene. They shared in detail how the officers were handled in the situation with lack of shielding and other protection. As the situation ensued, many officers and their families had grown weary of the outcome, not knowing when it would end. The people and officers impacted have left the initial shock behind, but the experience will live with them for the rest of their lives.
Many officers head home to their wives and children, but that day, two of them did not. This was something crucial to the speakers, saying these law enforcers risk their lives everyday, not knowing if they’ll come home. They asked for better protection and treatment of the officers, so if a situation were to ever happen they would be prepared.
Sheriff Phil Howell then spoke on the matter, thanking all of the speakers for sharing their stories and saying he was touched by every single one. He then asked for a round of applause for every single law enforcement officer.
The commissioners ended with agreeing to look into further protection and resources for the officers.
WEST JEFFERSON — Spectators lined the streets along Jefferson Avenue as a steady stream of vintage cars rolled into downtown during a cruise-in which took place on Saturday, May 15.
The cruise-in was hosted by the Blue Ridge Midnight Runners, a local car group made up of individuals who enjoy cruising the the countryside in their hot-rods, classic and muscle cars.
Visitors were encouraged to bring their families, grab some refreshments from local businesses and enjoy the festivities as dozens of classic cars spanning a variety of time periods and styles made their way into town.
According to the Blue Ridge Midnight Runner’s Facebook group the next West Jefferson cruise-in is being planned for June 19. The riders for will meet at the Ashe County Courthouse from 2-3:30 p.m. before cruising from there into West Jefferson.
For more information about this event visit the Midnight Runner’s social media page www.facebook.com/groups/304621767216869.
RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced May 14 that all mandatory capacity and gathering limits, social distancing requirements and most mandatory mask requirements will be lifted effective immediately.
Cooper said most indoor or outdoor settings in the state will no longer require people to wear a mask or be socially distant.
“Because of our strong safety protocols, vaccines and the hard work of North Carolinians, we have been able to slow the spread of this virus and reduce deaths when other states saw surges in their cases,” Cooper said. “It’s good that our metrics are stable or declining.”
Previous limits included indoor mass gathering limits at 100 and outdoor mass gathering limit at 200.
According to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines guidelines, fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
Cooper said CDC guidance affirms that getting vaccinated is the way through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to reach all of them to turn the corner on this pandemic once and for all, Cooper said. “North Carolinians have shown that we have resolve and the compassion to do what’s needed even when times get hard. If we keep doing that, we’ll get through this.”
More information on the CDC guidelines can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html.
“I have a message for people who have not been vaccinated, and especially those who will choose not to wear a mask: get vaccinated now,” Cooper said. “If you don’t listen to me, ask your doctor and do what your doctor tells you.”
North Carolina Department of Health and hUman Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said masks are strongly recommended for everyone regardless of vaccination status in large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances.
“Now, businesses may choose to continue to require that their customers wear masks,” Cohen said. “For example, we’re hearing that places like Starbucks and Home Depot will keep their policies mandating shoppers and employees wear masks.”
Cooper also said that local governments and businesses can still require masks, but he said most local governments have been aligned with the state for most of this pandemic.
Cohen said that the best protection is to get vaccinated.
“Just under half of North Carolinian adults are not vaccinated,” Cohen said. “We still want to reach our goal of two thirds of North Carolinians 18 and older with at least one vaccine goes, that’s when we believe we will have enough protection across our community to be able to live more safely with this virus.”
Cooper said that the lifting of restrictions is putting more personal responsibility on North Carolinians.
The full executive order can be found at files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO215-Lifting-COVID-19-Restrictions.pdf.