Covid trend

The trend of COVID-19 cases in Watauga County as of Dec. 28.

The following COVID-19 information is compiled from local and state agencies from Dec. 21 to Dec. 28.

Cases

Watauga County has reached 6,755 total COVID-19 cases as of Dec. 21 — an increase of approximately 197 cases from the previous week. The active case count has decreased during the course of the week with 62 active cases as of Dec. 28. Forty-five people have been directed to quarantine as of Dec. 28.

AppHealthCare reported two deaths in its Dec. 28 update to bring the total number of deaths among Watauga County residents to 45. AppHealthCare also reported one death on Dec. 9, another death on Dec. 10 and another one on Dec. 14.

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 536 people are hospitalized, with 131 of those in the ICU as of Dec. 28.

AppHealthCare reported five active clusters in Watauga County as of its last situation update on Dec. 17. In its COVID-19 situation report, AppHealthCare reported clusters at:

  • The Hospitality House with five cumulative cases. The last positive result was on Dec. 3 and as of the last report zero cases were active.
  • The Cottages of Boone with 17 cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Nov. 22 and as of the last report zero cases were active.
  • Thunder Hill Residence Hall with 17 cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Nov. 23, and as of the last report zero cases were active.
  • The Standard at Boone with 13 cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Dec. 1, and as of the last report zero cases were active.
  • The Foley Center with three cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Dec. 8, and as of the last report two cases were active.

The App State COVID-19 dashboard reports 13 active COVID-19 cases among students and eight among employees as of Dec. 10. For the week ending on Dec. 10, 545 COVID-19 tests were conducted with 7 — or 1.3 percent — coming back positive. Since Aug. 1, the university has conducted 24,845 on-campus COVID-19 tests with 632 — or 2.5 percent — coming back positive. The dashboard will be updated again on Jan 18.

Vaccines

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports Watauga County has administered 33,076 first dose COVID-19 vaccines as of Dec. 28. NCDHHS also reports 30,866 people have completed the vaccine series in Watauga County as of Dec. 28.

As of Dec. 28, 59 percent of the population in Watauga County has been at least partially vaccinated and 55 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to NCDHHS.

App State reports 71 percent of students are vaccinated and 84 percent of employees are vaccinated as of Dec. 10. The App State COVID-19 dashboard will next be updated on Jan. 18.

State update

Programs that provide overdose prevention and syringe access are serving more people and potentially saving more lives, according to the 2020-2021 North Carolina Safer Syringe Initiative Annual Report released by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Dec. 17.

This report highlights the work that syringe services programs are doing across the state. The SSPs have responded to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, increases in overdoses and other challenges. Supporting SSPs is a key priority included in both the NC Opioid and Substance Use Action Plan and the NCDHHS strategic plan.

SSPs are an evidence-based strategy to reduce overdose deaths, reduce transmission of diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV), and connect participants to treatment and care. SSPs provide a variety of social and health services for people with substance use disorder, often serving as the primary avenue to meet their health needs. SSPs have been at the frontlines of addressing the intersecting epidemics of overdose and infectious disease by scaling up their naloxone distribution, expanding the reach and scope of their programs and helping participants access COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

In the 2020-2021 reporting period, there were 42 registered SSPs serving residents from 83 counties and one federally recognized tribe in North Carolina. Programs received reports of 12,392 overdoses that were reversed with the life-saving medication, naloxone; this is an increase of more than 43 percent from the previous year. These programs also:

Served more than 26,500 people, an increase of 73 percent from the previous year

  • Provided participants with a total of 1,973 referrals to substance use treatment
  • Distributed more than 8 million sterile syringes, and more than 89,500 naloxone kits were distributed across the state
  • Administered more than 3,000 HIV and Hepatitis C tests

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve lost ground in our fight against opioids,” said Kody H. Kinsley, NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary for Health. “Focusing on interventions that meet people where they are and connecting them to care is key to regaining ground and saving lives.”

Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show between April 2020 and April 2021, overdose deaths in the U.S. surpassed 100,000, which was a 28.5 percent increase from the previous year.

“The United States and North Carolina are seeing heartbreaking increases in overdose deaths, making these programs even more important,” said Dr. Elyse Powell, the State Opioid Coordinator. “We need to double down on what works to prevent overdoses, and COVID-19 has demonstrated that Syringe Services Programs offer essential services for preventing overdose deaths and connecting people to much needed care.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency, NCDHHS has provided more than 230,000 doses of naloxone directly to all registered SSPs across the state.

For more information and to view the North Carolina Safer Syringe Initiative Annual Report, visit www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/north-carolina-safer-syringe-initiative.

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