NEWLAND — The number of cases of COVID-19 sharply increased within the past week, as county health officials reported 71 new cases of the virus within a congregate living facility, while the county also reported its first death in relation to COVID-19.

Toe River Health District announced Avery County’s first death related to COVID-19 in a press release on Thursday evening, Sept. 3.

“Avery County Health Department, a part of Toe River Health District, was notified today of its first COVID-19 associated death in Avery County. The individual was in their 60s. To protect the family’s privacy no further information about the patient will be released,” according to the release.

“We want to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this individual,” said Toe River Health District Health Director, Diane Creek. “This virus continues to spread within our communities and has the potential to cause fatal results to anyone infected. This is one reason why it is important for everyone to comply with the face covering requirement and reduce the spread of this virus.”

The district reported on Friday, Sept. 4, that Avery County had been informed of 71 new positive cases, increasing the county’s total case count of Coronavirus at that time to 245 positive cases, with 142 have recovered and 102 active cases.

“Of the 71 positive cases today, three of those are community members and 68 are in a congregate setting,” TRHD stated in a Sept. 4 media release. “A congregate setting is a group living situation. This particular group living situation is not a long-term care facility and it is not a risk to the general public.”

Creek provided additional information through social media following the announcement.

“Please continue to be careful with this virus. I know everybody is sick and tired of not being able to do the things they did before CoVID. We are too. We also wish it was over, but it’s not,” Creek noted. “...You can socialize, go to the lake, have a BBQ, whatever activities you like to do, but please wear a mask and social distance when you’re doing those things.”

On its website, the NC Department of Health and Human Services reported on Sept. 7 that the agency has experienced technical issues with submissions of hospitalization data for its ongoing dashboard.

“Since Friday, Sept. 4, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has experienced continued technical and submissions issues with hospital systems data, which have been exacerbated by the holiday weekend, resulting in incomplete hospitalization data,” NCDHHS noted. “NCDHHS is working with all parties to resolve these issues. Because the COVID-19 NC Dashboard displays only data that it is received, it is likely that actual hospital numbers are higher than what is on the current dashboard.”

The dashboard provides an overview on the metrics and capacities that the state is following.

Local, state and national statistics

As of Tuesday, Sept. 18, according to latest available dashboard data, COVID-19 cases in North Carolina had increased by approximately 10,600 cases over the previous seven-day mark, as the state has more than 177,919 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state has experienced a significant decrease in hospitalizations over the span of the last week, however, as NCDHHS reported on Sept. 8 that 765 people were hospitalized, compared to 923 hospitalizations reported seven days earlier.

NCDHHS reports an additional 195 North Carolinians have died related to the virus in the same seven-day span, as the agency reports 2,897 overall deaths.

In a September 6 release, TRHD reported one new additional case in Avery County, which puts the county’s total case count at 181 positive community cases, 68 congregate setting positive cases, for a total of 249 total positive cases, with 142 having recovered, 106 active cases and one death.

Avery possesses the greatest number of cases per 10,000 people in the High Country with its recent uptick, according to NCDHHS data, with 128 cases per 10,000 residents. In comparison, NCDHHS reports Watauga has 88 cases per 10,000 residents, while Ashe has 84 cases per 10,000 residents. Only Cherokee County (174 cases per 10,000 residents) has a higher ratio of all Western NC counties bordering neighboring Tennessee.

“Public health staff is working to complete the investigations and they are contacting close contacts to contain the spread of disease. To protect individual privacy, no further information about the cases will be released,” the Sept. 6 release stated. “The Yancey, Mitchell and Avery County health departments will keep the public informed by announcing any additional cases that may arise through our local media partners.”

Yancey County had two new positive cases on Sept. 6, which puts the county at 191 positive cases, with 163 having recovered, 27 active cases and one death.

Mitchell County on Sept. 6 reports 150 positive cases, with 140 having recovered, six active cases and four deaths.

Nationwide, Johns Hopkins University & Medicine reports more than 27.1 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with a total of 6,282,823 cases in the U.S. as of Tuesday morning, Sept. 8, with 188,979 reported deaths nationwide and more than 2,315,995 individuals across the country reported as having recovered from the virus.

The N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health, reporting hospitals and commercial labs report 2,459,582 completed tests as of Monday afternoon, Sept. 7, according to N.C. DHHS. The estimate of people presumed to have recovered from the virus as of Sept. 7 as 156,652 statewide, with the estimate provided each Monday by NCDHHS. NCDHHS estimates a median time to recovery of 14 days from the date of specimen collection for non-fatal COVID-19 cases who were not hospitalized, or if hospitalization status is unknown. The estimated median recovery time is 28 days from the date of specimen collection for hospitalized non-fatal COVID-19 cases.

In neighboring counties, Watauga County has reported 491 positive tests among residents, Caldwell County has 1,483 positive tests as of Sept. 7 with 17 deaths, while Wilkes County has 1,081 reported cases and 26 deaths, according to NCDHHS. Ashe County has 227 cases and one death, and the department reports McDowell County with 832 cases and 24 deaths. Burke County reports 1,926 cases and 31 deaths attributed to the virus, according to NCDHHS.

In Tennessee, Johnson County reports 506 cases with one death, while Carter County reports 992 cases and 24 deaths as of Sept. 7, according to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Statewide, Mecklenburg County has reported the most cases with 26,301. Wake County is reporting 15,819 cases and Durham County reports 7,129 cases, according to Sept. 7 NCDHHS statistics. At least 46 of North Carolina’s 100 counties report at least 1,000 COVID-19 cases.

The reported testing numbers could be incomplete due to differences in reporting from health departments and other agencies. Sources include Toe River Health District, AppHealthCare, NCDHHS, Caldwell County Health Department and Tennessee Department of Health.

Updated news and information on the coronavirus pandemic and the state’s response can be found by clicking to covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard.

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