The following COVID-19 information is compiled from local and state agencies from Aug. 17 to Aug 24.
Watauga County experienced an increase of 105 total COVID-19 cases since Aug. 17 to reach 5,140 total cases as of Aug. 24. The active case count has increased during the course of the week with 87 active cases as of Aug. 24.
AppHealthCare reported no new deaths the week of Aug. 17 to Aug. 24. The agency did report one new death during the week of July 6 to July 13 bringing the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Watauga County to 32.
The Triad HealthCare Preparedness Coalition region — which includes Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Caldwell, Catawba, Davie, Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Stokes, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin — reports 773 people are hospitalized with 206 of those in the ICU as of Aug. 23.
AppHealthCare reported two active clusters in Watauga County as of its last situation update on Aug. 20. In its COVID-19 situation report, AppHealthCare reported clusters at:
- Watauga County Detention Center with three cumulative cases. The last positive result came on July 30, and as of the last report zero cases are active.
- Watauga County Parks and Recreation Summer Camp with 11 cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Aug. 9, and as of the last report one case is active.
The App State COVID-19 dashboard reports 30 active COVID-19 cases among students and four among employees as of Aug. 23. For the week ending on Aug. 23, 510 COVID-19 tests were conducted with 53 — 10.4 percent — coming back positive. Since Aug. 1, the university has conducted 1,012 on-campus tests with 80 — or 7.9 percent — coming back positive.
The university stated it will update its COVID-19 dashboard every Monday.
On Aug. 23, the Appalachian District Board of Health approved a position statement in support of the ongoing public health response to COVID-19 in the AppHealthCare three county district.
The board also gave authorization to AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene to write a letter to governing bodies, and any other entity in the health district, suggesting the adoption or strengthening of mask wearing requirements and encouraging COVID-19 vaccines.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports Watauga County has administered 29,706 first dose COVID-19 vaccines as of Aug. 23 — an increase of approximately 200 doses from last week. NCDHHS also reports 27,638 people have completed the vaccine series in Watauga County as of Aug. 16 — up approximately 150 from last week.
As of Aug. 23, 53 percent of the population in Watauga County has been at least partially vaccinated and about 49 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to NCDHHS.
App State reports that 49 percent of its students are vaccinated and 87 percent of its employees are vaccinated as of Aug. 23.
As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge across North Carolina, the use of monoclonal antibodies for treatment of COVID-19 increased by 18-fold since late June from 100 administrations for the week of June 23 to 1,874 for the week of Aug. 11, NCDHHS announced Aug. 20. Statewide, there are more than 130 sites offering monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 as this treatment can decrease the likelihood of hospitalization related to COVID-19.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is not a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19, according to NCDHHS. However, it can reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and decrease the likelihood of hospitalization, especially in high-risk patients. If a person tests positive for COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy must be administered within 10 days of their first COVID-19 symptoms, so it is crucial to get tested early.
Anyone who has symptoms of or been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible, NCDHHS stated. Testing is widely available across the state. To find a testing site nearby, a community member can go to ncdhhs.gov/GetTested. People who are not experiencing serious symptoms should not go to the emergency department for routine COVID-19 testing. People should seek medical attention immediately for serious symptoms such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face.
Vaccines are the best protection from COVID-19 related hospitalization and death, as well as complications from the virus and the vast majority of people in the hospital or dying with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, according to NCDHHS. Research has shown even people who had a mild case of COVID-19 may struggle with long-term effects like shortness of breath, chest pain and brain fog.
NCDHHS recommends people talk to their health care provider to see if monoclonal antibody therapy is an option. More information is available by calling the Federal Monoclonal Antibody Call Center for assistance at 1 (877) 332-6585 (English) or 1 (877) 366-0310 (Spanish). Some people may qualify for preventative treatment before showing symptoms. More information, including answers to frequently asked questions, are available on NCDHHS’ COVID-19 website at tinyurl.com/zz7p4jf9.
The federal government is providing monoclonal antibody therapy at no cost to patients. However, health care providers may charge an administration fee for treatment. Medicare and many commercial insurance companies are covering all costs for patients.
Monoclonal antibodies are proteins made in a laboratory to fight infections, in this case, the virus that causes COVID-19, and are given to patients directly with an IV infusion or a shot. Some early evidence suggests this treatment can reduce the amount of the virus, or viral load, that causes COVID-19 in a person’s body. Having a lower viral load may reduce the severity of symptoms and decrease the likelihood of hospitalization.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued an Emergency Use Authorization to allow the use of monoclonal antibody therapies for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in certain high-risk patients. Additionally, the FDA authorized this treatment for use in some patients who are exposed to COVID-19 even if they do not have symptoms, according to NCDHHS. People who are not fully vaccinated or who have immunocompromising conditions, including those taking immunosuppressive medications, and have either been exposed to COVID-19 or are at high risk of exposure due to where they live or work may qualify for preventative treatment.
Vaccination is the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, according to NCDHHS. Rigorous clinical trials among thousands of people ages 12 and older have proven vaccines are safe and effective. Almost 200 million Americans have been safely vaccinated.
In addition to getting vaccinated, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect communities, NCDHHS recommends that everyone wear a mask in indoor public spaces if they live in area of high or substantial levels of transmission as defined by the CDC until more people are vaccinated and viral transmission decreases. In North Carolina, all 100 counties show high transmission.
Free COVID-19 vaccines are widely available across the state to anyone 12 and older. To get a vaccine nearby, visit MySpot.nc.gov or call (888) 675-4567.