by Bob Keith

Background: Late last year, Dr. Rivers Woodward, Blue Ridge Health, reached out to then Chairman, Jack Barton, Hickory Nut Gorge Foundation to introduce himself as he was new to our area. In prior years the Foundation made grants to then MAHEC for X-Ray equipment and to Blue Ridge Health for Telemedicine equipment to link professionals at BRH to administer at Lake Lure Classical Academy. After a good introductory conversation, Dr. Woodward and Jack agreed to “keep in touch” about possible future community projects.

Fast Forward: Early this year Jack called Dr. Woodward about the COVID vaccine and inquired about what opportunities there might be in Lake Lure. Jack offered whatever help HNGF could provide. Dr. Woodward indicated that there would be a significant allocation to Lake Lure that would require a sizable clinic, volunteers, technology and coordination. The operation would be more than BRH could handle at their site on their own. Jack arranged the first of three Zoom calls that included Dr. Woodward and Dr. Kate Sloss (BRH), Laura Doster (HNG Chamber), Mayor Carol Pritchett, Laura Krejci (Town Communications), Crystal Morrison (Chamber and Foundation), and Crystal Redmon (LLCA Nurse) to discuss what would be required. 

The team sprung into action. LLCA Board members and Crystal Redmon quickly got approval to use the back parking lot at LLCA to administer vaccinations in a drive through clinic. Russ Pitts and Ned Kiser of the Academy’s Technology Committee, in a matter of days, set up a WIFI communications hotspot, a prerequisite to support the iPads and computers for data collection and entry. The Chamber provided tents and volunteers, the Town provided volunteers and BRH provided the staff from other BRH locations to give the shots and handle the data capture into the State reporting systems.

A proof of concept with a small dose of vaccinations was done on January 22nd. BRH reached out to their patients age 65 and older and relied on word of mouth to fill in the additional spots. On January 25th, a cold and rainy day, 290 vaccinations were administered with nobody having to leave their cars. Despite the raw and dreary weather, it was a very successful event.

This has paved the way for future clinics as the vaccine becomes available. As a matter of fact, a second clinic by BRH is taking place today at LLCA as I compose this article. (2/12)

We salute Drs. Woodward and Sloss, and all the members of the Lake Lure team for their leadership, dedication and drive in making this happen. Please be advised that future supplies will be limited but please get vaccinated. Please see BRH Vaccine Policy/Practices on an adjacent page. We need everyone to get protection from this ugly, debilitating virus so that we can reduce the fear of contracting COVID19 and get back to normalcy. With a smile in my heart, I can envision a mask burning bonfire sometime this summer on the beach in Lake Lure. 

As I have concluded many of my Breeze articles, it’s all about community spirit! 

_________________________________________________________________________________

Blue Ridge Health Vaccination Policy/Practices

Please DO NOT call to inquire about vaccine availability or to schedule an appointment. Numerous calls interfere with our ability to serve onsite patients with medical emergencies.

Vaccine supplies are limited. We get an allocation which varies from week to week. Hence, we are unable to create a regular schedule.

Signups must be online. If there are no appointments available, please do not call or email.

We do not maintain a waitlist. A waitlist is maintained by the county health department. We coordinate with them.

BRH is committed to the communities we serve in the COVID19 vaccination rollout. When we do have vaccines available, we give them within a few days of receiving them.