RALEIGH — Advisors to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on September 17 the Pfizer-BioNTech (COMIRNATY) COVID-19 booster shot is safe, effective and recommended for individuals who have been fully vaccinated for at least six months and are:

  • 65 years and older;
  • At high risk of severe COVID-19; and,
  • At high risk of occupational exposure.

As a next step, the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot must be reviewed and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to further define these groups before it will be made available for use. That meeting will take place this week.

“COVID-19 boosters are another effective way to fight this pandemic and prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “We look forward to the CDC’s final guidance next week so that we can begin administering booster shots in North Carolina when it is time to do so. In the meantime, if you’re not yet vaccinated, don’t wait. Get vaccinated today.”

NCDHHS will provide additional information related to eligibility of boosters but reminds North Carolinians that they are not yet available to the public until the CDC issues its final recommendations.

People 12 and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and fully vaccinated with either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are already eligible to receive an additional dose. Studies indicate their immune systems do not always build the same level of immunity after vaccination compared to people who are not immunocompromised.

NCDHHS encourages everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and to continue to practice the 3Ws – wear a mask, wait six feet apart and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to protect yourself and others.

Click to for more COVID-19 information and updates and to find a vaccine location near you.

Area, state vaccination totals

NCDHHS reports 3,323 people as hospitalized as of September 20, a decrease of 191 patients from one week ago. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday, Sept. 20, reported 3,257 new COVID-19 cases, down from 5,962 the previous day and 6,605 on Sept. 18.

Roughly 68% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 63% have been fully vaccinated, according to state statistics. State officials round vaccination numbers to the nearest whole number.

The organization reports that more than 10.98 million total doses of vaccine have been administered in the state as of Sept. 20, noting that of individuals 65 years of age and older, 90 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 87 percent have received their full allotment. Of individuals 12 and older, 66 percent of the state’s residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, with 61 percent being completely vaccinated.

Locally, NCDHHS data indicates that Avery County has administered a total of 9,078 first doses of vaccine, or 52 percent of Avery County residents who have received their first-dose vaccine as of Sept. 20, with 47 percent of the overall county population, or 8,288 individuals, having received a second-dose vaccination.

Click to for more information on vaccines and vaccine distribution statewide, and to learn more about North Carolina’s vaccine rollout, click to

Latest local, state and national COVID-19 statistics

As of Monday, Sept. 20, according to available dashboard data from the NCDHHS, the total number of coronavirus cases total 1,346,316, and NCDHHS reports that 15,776 people have passed away in connection with COVID-19 since the onset of the virus in March 2020.

NCDHHS reported on Sept. 20 that Avery County has 2,493 total positive community cases. The department reports Avery with 28 deaths associated with the virus.

According to NCDHHS Dashboard data on September 20, Avery reports 67.2 cases per 10,000 residents over the previous 14-day period, In comparison, Mitchell County reports 63.5 cases per 10,000 residents, while Yancey County reports 133.4 cases per 10,000 residents. Watauga County reports 53 cases per 10,000 residents, while Ashe County reports 77.9 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 September 20, Mitchell County reported a total of 1,838 positive cases and 17 deaths. NCDHHS reports Yancey County with 2,571 total cases as of September 20 with 29 deaths.

Nationwide, Johns Hopkins University & Medicine reports more than 228.8 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with the U.S. totaling 42.15 million cases in the nation as of Sept. 20. Johns Hopkins reports that the United States has experienced 674,346 deaths related to COVID-19 as of Monday, Sept. 20.

The N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health, reporting hospitals and commercial labs report more than 17.15 million completed tests as of Monday, Sept. 20, according to NCDHHS.

The estimate of people presumed to have recovered from the virus as of September 20 is more than 1,255,168 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 5,906 positive tests, with 79 active cases and 37 deaths among residents, while Ashe County reports 3,241 positive cases, with 61 active cases and 55 deaths as of September 20, according to AppHealthCare data.

Caldwell County reports 12,132 positive tests as of September 20 with 111 deaths, while Wilkes County has 9,731 reported cases and 153 deaths, according to NCDHHS Dashboard data.

NCDHHS reports McDowell County with 7,670 cases and 95 deaths. Burke County reports 14,119 cases and 165 deaths attributed to the virus, according to NCDHHS.

In Tennessee, Johnson County reports 3,118 cases with 43 deaths, while Carter County reports 9,455 cases and 192 deaths as of September 20, according to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Statewide, the top four counties reporting total positive cases are Mecklenburg County (146,038), Wake County (119,602), Guilford County (61,136) and Forsyth County (47,275), the sum of which comprises 27.7 percent of all confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, according to September 20 NCDHHS statistics.

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

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