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COVID-19 update: NC State Veterans Home incentivizes vaccinations, other outbreaks continue

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
In total, 43% of staff members and 87% of resident veterans have received vaccines so far.

North Carolina State Veterans Home has vaccinated 65 staff members and 73 veterans, the center announced. In total, 43% of staff members and 87% of resident veterans have received vaccines so far.

Vaccines have been offered to all employees and veterans at the facility.

The veterans center is currently listed by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as having an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. A weekly report on outbreaks in congregate living settings, updated each Tuesday and Friday, lists the center with 12 staff cases, 12 resident cases and one resident death as of Feb. 5.

A mandate for employees to receive the vaccine has not been issued by PruittHealth, which provides long-term health care to various centers in the Southeast, though the company says it is "aiding employees in their decision making through proper education and incentivization."

Employees receive a gift card after receiving their first vaccine dose and are automatically placed in a weekly drawing for various electronics.

A monthly drawing has also been added for cash prizes, which increases as centers complete their vaccination clinics, with rewards ranging from $1,000-$10,000.

Ben Grant, who works with the home's therapy department, said his decision to take the vaccine was out of respect for the veterans.

"With our population of Veterans that we have the privilege to serve and spend time with, it just made sense to protect them by getting this vaccine," Grant said. "They fought hard for us to live the life that we do in this great country. We wanted to show our respect to them, our families and our community by rolling up our sleeve."

The center notes that 101-year-old veteran Virginia Dixon, who was among the first to receive its first vaccinations, has received her second vaccination.

County numbers

Buncombe County has reported 13,932 cases and 265 deaths by the state. The county has counted 578 cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week span from Jan. 22 to Feb. 5.

Increases of 1,632 cases and 28 deaths have been reported since Jan. 22 following a near 4,000-cases increase between Dec. 11 and Jan. 22.

Black Mountain's 28711 ZIP code is listed with 668 cases and 25 deaths. This is an increase of 39 cases and one death in the last two weeks.

Montreat College, which Montreat relies on as a more localized reporting of 28757 ZIP code data, lists two student and two employee cases as of Feb. 4. COVID-19 data for Montreat's ZIP code is suppressed because of its designation as a P.O. box-only ZIP code.

Town commissioners say that residents should rely on data reported for both the nearby college and Black Mountain's 28711 ZIP code.

Local outbreaks

Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Treatment Center and Mountain Ridge Health and Rehab having continuing outbreaks, the NCDHHS reports.

Black Mountain Center is listed with 86 staff cases, 55 resident cases and five resident deaths. This is an increase of 12 staff cases and two resident cases since Jan. 22.

Mountain Ridge has reported eight total cases, with seven among staff and one among residents.

Mountain Ridge Health and Rehab is listed by the state as having a COVID-19 outbreak with two staff cases.

The county recognizes its death total as a correlation to cases in long-term care facilities like Black Mountain Center and Mountain Ridge.

The semiweekly NCDHHS report lists the number of cases and deaths throughout congregated living settings. Reports include all cases and deaths for nursing homes, residential care facilities, correctional facilities and “other,” which is listed as a cumulative recording for homeless shelters and migrant worker housing.

Any facility with less than 10 residents is not included in the state report.

Local health departments record virus cases and outbreak investigations before then entering the data into the N.C. Electronic Disease Surveillance System.