AVERY COUNTY — The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the local school system, as a class at a fourth school within the Avery County Schools district has had to alter its schedule due to positive cases of COVID-19, while Toe River Health District also announced a fourth Avery individual has died in connection with the virus.

According to a Nov. 5 press release from the Avery County School System, a student at Banner Elk Elementary has tested positive for COVID-19, and the system is transitioning students in the related classroom to remote learning.

Due to the possibility of exposure, students in the classroom will learn remotely in order to allow for a quarantine period through Thursday, Nov. 19. Students in the classroom will return to in-class instruction on Friday, Nov. 20.

All ACS faculty and staff members are reporting to work during the quarantine period in accordance with their regular work schedules.

“Individuals who may have come in contact... have been notified by the Avery County Health Department or the school administration. All schools... have been and will continue to be deep cleaned. We will continue to follow all safety protocols and work in partnership with the ACHD to ensure a safe learning environment is maintained throughout our school system,” ACS Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman stated in a release.

Avery County Health Department reported a fourth COVID-19-associated death in Avery County in a Sunday, Nov. 8, press release. The individual was in their 80s and was hospitalized. To protect the family’s privacy no further information about the patient will be released.

“We want to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this individual,” Toe River Health District Health Director Diane Creek said. “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 cases of community spread continue to rise within our counties. Remember to practice the 3 W’s at all times: Wear, a face covering when out in public and you cannot physically distance yourself from others, Wait at least six feet away from others and Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer if you do not have access to soap and water. It is also imperative for those testing positive to stay at home.”

Local, state and national statistics

As of Tuesday, Nov. 10, according to latest available dashboard data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, COVID-19 cases in North Carolina had increased by approximately 17,000 cases over the previous seven-day mark, as the state has more than 294,860 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The state has experienced a slight increase in hospitalizations over the span of the last week, as NCDHHS reported on Nov. 10 that 1,169 people were hospitalized. NCDHHS reports an additional 225 North Carolinians have died related to the virus over the past seven-day period, as the agency reports 4,615 overall deaths.

Following Toe River Health District’s latest release of county statistics on Monday, Nov. 9, TRHD reported Avery County with a total of 444 positive community cases, with 295 community members having recovered and 145 community members active and four deaths. TRHD noted in its daily reporting during the week that “quite a few of Avery’s positives are from congregate living.”

NC Department of Public Safety reported on Nov. 10 that the local prisons have 367 total positive cases between Mountain View Correctional and Avery/Mitchell Correctional facilities, with 340 cases having recovered and nine active cases.

According to NCDHHS Dashboard data on Nov. 10, Avery reports 48 cases per 10,000 residents over the previous 14-day period. In comparison, Mitchell County reports 83 cases per 10,000 residents, while Yancey County reports 45 cases per 10,000 residents. Watauga County reports 23 cases per 10,000 residents, while Ashe County has 51 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. To protect individual privacy, no further information about the cases will be released,” 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.”

TRHD reports that Yancey County has 421 total positive cases of COVID-19 as of its latest release of statistics on Nov. 9, with 372 having recovered and three total deaths.

Mitchell County reported a total of 347 positive cases, with 300 having recovered and five deaths, as of TRHD’s Nov. 9 statistics.

Nationwide, Johns Hopkins University & Medicine reports more than 50.91 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with a total of 10,110,552 cases in the U.S. as of November 10. Johns Hopkins reports 238,251 reported deaths nationwide and more than 3,928,845 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 4,386,435 completed tests as of Tuesday morning, Nov. 10, according to N.C. DHHS. The estimate of people presumed to have recovered from the virus as of Nov. 9 is more than 261,719 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 reports 1,888 positive tests and 16 deaths among residents, while Ashe County reports 638 positive cases and 13 deaths as of Nov. 10, according to AppHealthCare statistics.

Caldwell County has 2,888 positive tests as of Nov. 10 with 19 deaths, while Wilkes County has 2,077 reported cases and 42 deaths, according to NCDHHS Dashboard data.

NCDHHS reports McDowell County with 1,471 cases and 34 deaths. Burke County reports 2,975 cases and 57 deaths attributed to the virus, according to NCDHHS.

In Tennessee, Johnson County reports 1,287 cases with 15 deaths, while Carter County reports 2,000 cases and 39 deaths as of Nov. 10, according to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Statewide, Mecklenburg County has reported the most cases with 36,464. Wake County is reporting 23,223 cases and Guilford County reports 13,032 cases, according to Nov. 10 NCDHHS statistics. At least 64 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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