Health director answers questions about pandemic

  • Image by rottonara from Pixabay
    Image by rottonara from Pixabay

Clay County Health Department Director Stephanie Johnson answers questions about the coronavirus each week. Our readers are encouraged to send questions to the newspaper and we will forward them to the health department. Email: publisher@claycounty-

Clay County Health Department Director Stephanie Johnson

Below are the latest questions:

Our positive case number is relatively small compared to other places and many people are ready to get back out in the community. What are your concerns about the possibility of some folks getting lax in their daily activities to help slow/prevent the spread of COVID-19?

I understand the concern and all about wanting to resume with normal activities. Balancing the needs of our economy with best the known public health practices can be tough and the longer it continues the more difficult that decision can become. At the end of the day all you can do is what you know is best for yourself and your family.

Do we have an adequate number of tests for Clay County? What do you perceive as an idea situation as far as testing for the public is concerned?

We have never been in a situation where we were unable to test any resident or non-resident that needed testing. My ideas on what is an ideal situation for testing is what we already have in place and have been practicing thanks to the help of our partners and the Dogwood Health Trust.

Regarding COVID-19, who pays for testing and does most insurance cover it?

The state of North Carolina did make arrangements by insurance companies to cover the tests with no co-pay.

Individuals with no insurance may donate to help cover the costs, but we do not want any barriers to testing. Any testing that is not covered will be applied to for the state for reimbursement. The Clay County Health Department will never turn down a resident because of an inability to pay.

Does it make a difference where you go to get tested?

No. Testing is offered at both the Clay and Cherokee County Health Departments, Erlanger Urgent Care in Hayesville, Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital and Union General facilities, amongst others. It is my understanding that Towns and Union County Health Departments have begun testing or will be soon.

Have you seen a rise in social problems related to the stay at home order? For example, have you seen a rise in domestic violence, alcohol or drug related issues?

I have not personally or within the programs and services we offer.

If someone is experiencing mental health problems, is there a source they or a loved one can reach out to for help?

There are numerous call lines listed for mental health concerns, some are specialized for healthcare workers, some are general needs, and there is also a suicide prevention line. Those numbers are:

• Suicide Hotline: (800)- 273-TALK or test “TALK” to 741741.

• SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: (800) 985- 5990.

• Hope4Healers (for front line responders and their families: (919) 226-2002.

• Hope4NC Helpline: (855) 587-3463.

• Optum Emotional Support: (866) 342-6892.

• Hopeline: (919) 231-4525 or (877) 235-4525.

• National Domestic Hotline: (800) 799-7233.

Clay County, nor the country it appears, has ever experienced anything on this scale. What insights have you gained from this experience?

Communication and strong regional partnerships are key. The Clay County Leadership Team met early and often. I attribute that to a lot of the success we have had in presenting prevention methods and keeping the community and government staff up to date on key information and opportunities to prepare governmental departments and community businesses. When this is all over, I know I will value the friendships made and the opportunities we have had to grow together to make things happen for the health of all of us.