COVID-19 Update

By Dr. Richard Ellin


BA.5 is currently the most common variant in the US and is one of the most highly contagious variants so far. Fortunately, it appears to be somewhat less virulent, meaning that it is not causing as much serious disease as some previous variants. This is true also because many people have been vaccinated and boosted, which largely prevents more severe disease. Some people who become infected remain without symptoms; most others develop typical cold/flu symptoms, such as sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, mostly dry cough, fatigue, and low-grade fever. However, a few people develop more serious symptoms, such as high fever, productive cough, and breathing issues. They often require hospitalization and are at risk of dying from the disease.

At this time, because Covid-19 is so prevalent in most communities, anyone developing any of the symptoms listed above should assume they have Covid-19 until proven otherwise.

If one develops SYMPTOMS they should:

  1. Be tested for Covid-19 using a rapid antigen test, either at home or at a local testing site. Many pharmacies and other establishments now offer testing. Results are typically available in 15 minutes. If the test is positive, you can be virtually certain you have Covid-19. If it’s negative, which it often is in the first 1-3 days of symptoms, test again 2-3 days later, but begin isolating. One can also go for a PCR test, which may turn positive earlier in the course of the disease compared to the rapid antigen test.
  2. Isolate according to current CDC guidelines, which can be found at
  3. If you are at higher risk for more serious Covid-19, talk to your physician about taking either Paxlovid or molnupiravir, 2 medicines that can sharply reduce the risk of serious disease, especially in unvaccinated people. A current list of such conditions can be found at These medicines must be started within the first 5 days of symptoms to be effective, highlighting the importance of testing early and if positive, contacting your physician as soon as possible.

If one is EXPOSED to Covid-19 and has no symptoms, one need not isolate. One may test themselves, and if negative, test again if symptoms develop, or 3 days after the initial test if still no symptoms, for further assurance that they do not have Covid-19. If one does test positive, even with no symptoms, they should isolate according to CDC guidelines.

One may OBTAIN TESTS in several ways. For current information go to

To PROTECT oneself, do the following:

  1. Wear a KN95 or N95 mask when in public places, such as restaurants, theaters, stores, etc, or, if you are at higher risk of severe disease, avoid these places altogether.
  2. Maintain social distance (ie 6 feet) from others when in public places, when possible.
  3. Wash your hands frequently using soap and water.
  4. Get vaccinated and fully boosted and continue to get boosters as new ones become available. Vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent severe disease (pneumonia, oxygen deprivation, hospitalization and death).

Dr. Richard Ellin is a board certified physician and is a member of the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation Board of Directors

Children’s Immunizations Now Available on the Highlands Cashiers Plateau

Blue Ridge Health-Highlands Cashiers (BRH-HC) has received approval from the State of North Carolina and is expanding their services to include immunizations to be offered at their local site. Board certified physicians Ann Davis, M.D. and Kristy Fincher, D.O., along with their clinical support team will be administering the clinic.

“Having an approved North Carolina Immunization Clinic is a tremendous boost for our community” said Ann Davis, M.D. “This North Carolina approval guarantees that everyone will be seen, and no one will be turned away. This means that every child in our community now has easy access to these very important vaccinations.”

BRH-HC will be offering a full range of vaccinations, immunizations, and services by appointment. These services include “Well Child” appointments for established and new patients, as well as vaccination only appointments. Most of these appointments can be completed within an hour, with some completed in as quickly as fifteen minutes.

“It is very exciting to be able to offer a full range of immunizations at the clinic” said Kristy Fincher, D.O. “Children will now have local access to the vaccinations they will need not only to be able to attend school, but to have the proper foundation for good health as they continue to grow.”

In North Carolina, children are not allowed to attend school (whether public, private, or religious) or a childcare facility, unless they have received all immunizations appropriate for their age. Vaccination records are checked when they enter a childcare facility, when they enter kindergarten, seventh and twelfth grade, as well as when they enter a college or university.

“Providing local access to high quality primary care for everyone is the key reason why our Foundation is funding BRH-HC” said Robin Tindall, CEO & Executive Director of the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation. “With the news of this recent state certification, we are especially pleased that parents will no longer have to travel off the plateau to obtain essential immunizations for their children.”

As part of the North Carolina children’s immunization approval, all patients requesting a vaccination will be accepted regardless of insurance type or status. Appointments will be scheduled on Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. Most appointments can be scheduled within the same week, and walk-in appointments are available. If a patient is from out of state, additional information from their home county health department may be necessary.

Many parents have questions about the vaccines their children need and whether they are up to date with their immunizations. For more information, or to make an appointment with BRH-HC please call 828-482-6160.




Recommended Time Administered


Hep B, HIB, DTap, Polio

6 weeks through 4 years of age


Dtap and Polio

4 years through 6 years of age

Gardasil 9


Starting at age 9 years old


Hep A

12 months


Hep B



MMR and Varicella

12 months through 12 years of age



9 months through age 55

Prevnar 13


2 months through 15 months & to older children as needed



2, 4 and 6 months



As early as 10 years of age


Notes: The above list includes combination vaccines. BRH-HC will offer the individual vaccines as well. COVID vaccines are available for adults.


About Blue Ridge Health-Highlands Cashiers
Blue Ridge Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) comprised of more than 50 locations in clinics, public schools, and other sites through ten Western North Carolina counties. We work closely with local communities to meet ever-changing healthcare needs with high-quality, compassionate, and affordable services.

The Highlands Cashiers location of Blue Ridge Health is supported by the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation through generous donations from community donors and grants. Located in the Jane Woodruff Clinic on the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital campus, Dr. Ann Davis, Dr. Kristy Fincher, and staff offer a comprehensive continuum of health care services for all ages from infant to seniors, including healthy lifestyles and nutrition programs, screenings, treatments for acute illnesses and minor injuries, physical exams, women’s services, minor office procedures and chronic disease management… all under one roof. Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid are accepted and a sliding-fee scale is available for eligible patients, ensuring that all people are served regardless of ability to pay. For more information, you may visit and

About Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation
The Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation was established on February 1, 2019, as a 501(c)3 public charity to improve the health and well-being of Highlands, Cashiers and surrounding communities. Together with generous donors, the Foundation aims to make positive and lasting change by supporting projects and programs that improve health and well-being in the communities we serve. Visit and to join us in Lifting Health and Well-Being, Together.

Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation Names Josh Bryson as Marketing Specialist

The Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation (HCHF or Foundation) is pleased to announce that Josh Bryson has joined the staff in the role of Marketing Specialist.  In this role, Bryson will be responsible for planning, coordinating, and executing marketing, communications, and development activities to support the Foundation’s organizational objectives.


“We are thrilled to welcome Josh to our Foundation team” said Robin Tindall, Foundation CEO and Executive Director.  “His broad experience in public relations and communications, combined with his enthusiastic commitment to service, will be instrumental in keeping our communities informed about our mission-focused work to support transformational programs and services through grant partnerships,”


Bryson is a 2002 graduate of Chowan (College) University with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education with an emphasis in Sport Management.  While at Chowan, Bryson served as part of the Leadership Scholars Program, Chowan Ambassadors, Student Government Association, and in 2002 was inducted into the Chowan College Order of the Silver Feather.


Bryson most recently served as a Project Manager with Bryson Grading & Paving. Pryor to his work at Bryson Grading & Paving, Bryson spent 18 years working in college athletics at Florida State University, College of Charleston, and the Southern Conference.


While at Florida State, Bryson served as Director of Event Management. His responsibilities included serving as the primary event and facility manager for baseball. He served as the stadium operations manager for Doak Campbell Stadium and the secondary event manager for football.  He also oversaw the bid process, budget and administration for hosted ACC and NCAA Championships.


At College of Charleston, Bryson created, developed, and served as Executive Producer of the Charleston Sports Network, the College of Charleston’s in-house television production venture. He worked with national, regional, and local television affiliates to distribute Charleston broadcasts, as well developing marketing and sales plans for the network.  Bryson also managed construction of the TD Arena and renovations to the Patriots Point Athletic Complex.  While at the College, his day-to-day oversite included the areas of Event Management, Facility Management, Technology, Tickets, hosted events, and championships.


“It is an honor and privilege to be joining the team at the Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation,” Bryson said. “I have always had a heart for serving and, as a fourth generation Highlander, I am so excited for this opportunity give back to my home community.  I look forward to working with the tremendous staff, board, advisors, and donors to tell the story of the Foundation and join them in working together to lift health and well-being on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau and throughout western North Carolina.”


Bryson and his wife, Carrie, have two daughters, Madalynne and Emory.  The Bryson’s currently reside in Highlands.



About Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation

The Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation was established on February 1, 2019, as a 501(c)3 public charity to improve the health and well-being of Highlands, Cashiers and surrounding communities. Together with generous donors, the Foundation aims to make positive and lasting change by supporting projects and programs that improve health and well-being in the communities we serve. Visit HCHF’s website ( to join us in Lifting Health and Well-Being, Together.

What Does Primary Care Mean?

Healthy Homes Initiative Press Release

Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation, Nantahala Health Foundation & Dogwood Health Trust Team Up for Healthy Homes Initiative

“Safe and affordable housing is essential to health and well-being.” – Robin Tindall, CEO & Executive Director – Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation

Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation (HCHF), Nantahala Health Foundation (NHF) and Dogwood Health Trust are pleased to announce a new collaborative initiative to address the need for home repairs in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary.

“The leadership from all three of these foundations believe that health and wellness begin when people are safely and affordably housed,” said Dr. Susan Mims, interim CEO, Dogwood Health Trust. “Providing support for the Healthy Homes Initiative will allow Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation and Nantahala Health Foundation to address the most critical needs for home repairs among those who need it most.”

The initiative is targeted to owner-occupied homes of individuals at 60% of the area median income (AMI). Many of these homeowners are unable to afford the repairs needed to maintain the safety and health of their home’s occupants. Others require home modifications to ensure they can safely age in their homes or to address physical challenges or disabilities. Affordability of repairs and home modifications have been further compromised by supply chain and labor challenges exacerbated by COVID-19. Dogwood Health Trust is supporting the Healthy Homes Initiative and the work of HCHF and NHF with a $400,000 grant.

On September 15th HCHF & NHF will open a new grant cycle specifically requesting proposals from non-profit, governmental and faith-based organizations that have demonstrated success in the past identifying and implementing critical home repairs and rehabilitation projects.  Both Foundations’ leaders say they look forward to reviewing applications, awarding grants and working together to address safe, equitable and affordable housing for those in need throughout our service area.

Robin Tindall, CEO and Executive Director of HCHF, says, “We are grateful to Dogwood Health Trust for providing our Foundations this collaborative grant opportunity, which will undoubtedly increase our capacity to improve health and well-being for those who struggle to repair their homes. By partnering with NHF, we aim to correct housing conditions that threaten life and safety, such as failing septic systems, defective heating systems, or damaged flooring, etc.”

Nantahala Health Foundation Executive Director Lori Bailey concurred with Tindall’s assessment, adding, “We all know safe and secure housing is a fundamental building block for improved health and wellness for everyone. Yet for many in our community, their safety and wellbeing are compromised because the expense of housing maintenance or needed modifications is beyond their means. We greatly appreciate Dogwood’s faith in our organizations to ensure these funds will make an immediate impact for those who need it most.”

Grant applications will be accepted until the closing date of October 15th, 2021.  Information regarding the grant application process can be found at Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation or at Nantahala Health Foundation.

Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation

The Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation was established on February 1, 2019, as a 501(c)3 public charity to improve the health and well-being of Highlands, Cashiers and surrounding communities. Together with generous donors, the Foundation aims to make positive and lasting change by supporting projects and programs that improve health and well-being in the communities we serve. Visit HCHF’s website to join us in Lifting Health and Well-Being, Together.

About Nantahala Health Foundation

Working as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration, Nantahala Health Foundation seeks to partner with nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary to achieve better health and wellness outcomes for all. By working to address the upstream, root causes of health inequities and by removing barriers to positive social determinants of health, NHF’s success is seen best in partnerships with regional change-makers. Since its establishment in 2019, NHF has awarded nearly $2.5 million in support to some 78 programs throughout the region. Visit NHF’s website to join our Healthy Future Movement.

About Dogwood Health Trust

Dogwood Health Trust is a private foundation based in Asheville, North Carolina, with the sole purpose of dramatically improving the health and well-being of all people and communities of 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary in Western North Carolina. Dogwood Health Trust focuses on innovative and equitable ways to address the many factors that contribute to overall health and wellness. With a focus on housing, education, economic opportunity and access to care and health resources, Dogwood Health Trust works to create a Western North Carolina where every generation can live, learn, earn and thrive, with dignity and opportunity for all, no exceptions. To learn more, please visit Dogwood Health Trust’s website.


BRH – HC Information Page

Dr. Kristy Fincher, Primary Care Physician at Blue Ridge Health–Highlands Cashiers

Crossroads Chronicle Recognizes HCHF Efforts to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19

The Crossroads Chronicle – 12/30/2020