RALEIGH — As vaccinations begin to make an impact in Avery County through local health department rollout, statistics for COVID-19 on the local and state levels continue to concern health officials.

During and after the holiday season, the state saw its highest daily case totals yet. Through Monday, Jan. 11, the state was averaging 8,430 new cases per day.

Avery County Health Department announced on January 11 that COVID-19 vaccines are now available for anyone 75 years or older at the Agriculture Extension Center (661 Vale Road above Ingles in Newland) from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. this week through Friday, Jan. 15, and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, Jan. 20 to 22. No appointments are necessary, according to the release, and patients are requested to bring their insurance card and wear appropriate clothing for easy access to have the vaccination in their upper arm. Masks are required, and if patients have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners, they are asked to contact their physician for written documentation to receive the vaccine. Questions and more information concerning the vaccine can be found by calling (828) 733-8273.

As the vaccinations ramp up, Toe River Health District also provided an update on January 10 regarding its sign-up program for vaccinations within the Avery/Mitchell/Yancey district.

“We’re currently vaccinating group 1a and 1b1. We are also working with community partners to provide several mass vaccination clinics. So far we have not experienced any shortage of vaccine. We continue to get regular shipments of vaccine, so we don’t think there is any reason to think anyone who wants a shot won’t be able to get one,” a social media post from TRHD stated. “We are getting the Moderna vaccine, which requires two shots, 28 days apart. Once we vaccinate the majority of group 1b1 (those who are 75 years old or older, regardless of health condition) then we will move on to group 1b2. We can’t predict when vaccine will be available to group 2, 3 and 4... We’ve been working after hours on our spreadsheet that has over 4,200 entries on it to get it organized, so we can contact the people in group 1b1. The more organized we are, the faster we can move through the groups so we can get everyone vaccinated who wants one. Thank you for your patience.”

Additionally on a local level, Samaritan’s Purse has established a 30-bed field hospital in Lenoir at Caldwell Memorial Hospital to help curtail any recent or pending surge in COVID-19 patients served by area hospitals Caldwell UNC Health Care in Lenoir, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System in Linville/Boone, Catawba Valley Health System in Hickory, Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge in Morganton and Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory.

Local, state and national statistics

As of Monday, Jan. 11, according to latest available dashboard data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the total number of coronavirus cases rose by more than 59,000 cases statewide over the previous week, with the state reporting 629,124 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.

An executive order was extended for three weeks until 5 p.m. on January 29 that enacted a modified stay-at-home order for residents from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., with a number of exceptions. On Dec. 21, Cooper signed Executive Order No. 183 allowing restaurants and bars to deliver or carry-out mixed beverages, while also signing a moratorium extension for evictions in the state through January 31.

The state experienced an increase in hospitalizations of 208 individuals over the span of the past week, as NCDHHS reported on January 11 that 3,843 people were hospitalized. NCDHHS reports that deaths in the state attributed to the virus has eclipsed the 7,500 mark, as 7,578 people have passed away in connection with COVID-19, including 637 North Carolinians who have died related to the virus over the past seven-day period.

NCDHHS reported on January 11 that Avery County has reported a cumulative total of 1,555 positive community cases, an increase of 172 cases from the previous week. NCDHHS reports Avery with 16 deaths associated with the virus. Toe River Health District reported in a December 30 social media post, however, that the cumulative total of COVID-19-related casualties reported by the agency is 21 in all.

NC Department of Public Safety reported on January 11 that the local prisons have 501 total positive cases between Mountain View Correctional and Avery/Mitchell Correctional facilities, with 375 cases having recovered and 61 active cases.

Avery, as well as Mitchell County, remains as two of 84 “red” counties listed as “critical” in association with the NCDHHS County Alert System which identifies the highest levels of community transmission of COVID-19 statewide.

According to NCDHHS Dashboard data on January 11, Avery reports 132 cases per 10,000 residents over the previous 14-day period. In comparison, Mitchell County reports 61 cases per 10,000 residents, while Yancey County reports 69 cases per 10,000 residents. Watauga County reports 80 cases per 10,000 residents, while Ashe County has 109 cases per 10,000 residents during the same 14-day period.

“Public health staff is working to complete the investigations and they are contacting close contacts to contain the spread of disease,” TRHD reported. “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.”

According to latest NCDHHS Dashboard data on January 11, Mitchell County reported a total of 953 positive cases. Toe River Health District reported on Dec. 30, however, that Mitchell County possessed 987 total cases, while a January 5 news release reported the county’s 23rd COVID-19-related death. NCDHHS reports Yancey County with 1,140 total cases as of January 11 with nine deaths. TRHD reported on Dec. 30, that Yancey had 1,115 total positive cases, while a January 5 news release reported the county’s 12th COVID-19-related death.

Nationwide, Johns Hopkins University & Medicine reports more than 90.84 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with the U.S. totaling 22.59 million cases in the nation as of January 11. Johns Hopkins reports the United States with 375,903 deaths nationwide.

The N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health, reporting hospitals and commercial labs report 7,611,324 completed tests as of Monday, Jan. 11, according to N.C. DHHS.

The estimate of people presumed to have recovered from the virus as of Jan. 11 is more than 521,475 statewide, with the estimate provided each Monday afternoon 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 reports 3,248 positive tests, with 178 active cases and 22 deaths among residents, while Ashe County reports 1,646 positive cases, with 135 active cases and 37 deaths as of January 11, according to AppHealthCare statistics.

Caldwell County has 6,866 positive tests as of Jan. 11 with 31 deaths, while Wilkes County has 4,532 reported cases and 80 deaths, according to NCDHHS Dashboard data.

NCDHHS reports McDowell County with 3,691 cases and 39 deaths. Burke County reports 7,084 cases and 85 deaths attributed to the virus, according to NCDHHS.

In Tennessee, Johnson County reports 1,921 cases with 30 deaths, while Carter County reports 4,941 cases and 103 deaths as of Jan. 11, according to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Statewide, Mecklenburg County has reported the most total positive cases with 72,177. Wake County is reporting 51,999 cases and Guilford County reports 28,775 cases, according to Jan. 11 NCDHHS statistics. A total of 83 of North Carolina’s 100 counties report at least 1,000 total positive 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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