Cases

The graph above shows the active COVID-19 case trends in Watauga County as of Nov. 2.

The following COVID-19 information is compiled from local and state agencies from Oct. 25 to Nov. 2.

Cases

Watauga County has reached 6,007 total cases as of Nov. 2 — an increase of 78 cases from last week. The active case count has dropped during the course of the week with 44 active cases as of Nov. 2.

AppHealthCare reported two new deaths from Oct. 25 to Nov. 2. AppHealthCare reported one death on Oct. 28 and one death on Nov. 1 to bring the total deaths due to COVID-19 among Watauga County residents to 39.

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 284 people are hospitalized, with 86 of those in the ICU as of Oct. 25.

As of Nov. 1, ARHS reported 13 COVID-19 patients in Watauga Medical Center with 10 unvaccinated. There were nine deaths in October and all of them were unvaccinated, according to ARHS senior vice president for system advancement Rob Hudspeth.

AppHealthCare reported four active clusters in Watauga County as of its last situation update on Oct. 29. In its COVID-19 situation report, AppHealthCare reported clusters at:

  • Thunder Hill Residence Hall with 16 cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Oct. 21, and as of the last report one case was active.
  • The Standard at Boone with 11 cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Oct. 20, and as of the last report one case was active.
  • The Cottages of Boone with 14 cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Oct. 25, and as of the last report two cases were active.
  • The Watauga County Detention Center with 8 cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Oct. 23, and as of the last report 7 cases were active.

The App State COVID-19 dashboard reports 20 active COVID-19 cases among students and two among employees as of Nov. 1. For the week ending on Nov. 1, 1,597 COVID-19 tests were conducted with 20 — or 1.3 percent — coming back positive. Since Aug. 1, the university has conducted 19,101 on-campus COVID-19 tests with 570 — or 3.0 percent — coming back positive.

Vaccines

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports Watauga County has administered 31,881 first dose COVID-19 vaccines as of Nov. 1. NCDHHS also reports 29,852 people have completed the vaccine series in Watauga County — up approximately 100 from last week — as of Nov. 1.

As of Nov. 1, 57 percent of the population in Watauga County has been at least partially vaccinated and about 53 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to NCDHHS.

App State reports 69 percent of students are vaccinated and 75 percent of employees are vaccinated as of Oct. 25.

State update

NCDHHS has joined approximately 40 cross-sector health care organizations committing to using and sharing high-level data about race, ethnicity, language and gender to inform best practices to promote health equity.

NCDHHS is the first government agency to sign on to the pledge, according to the department.

A lack of demographic data hinders a more comprehensive understanding of health disparities across race, ethnicity or gender, according to NCDHHS. Recognizing data are too often limited to describe and inform health equity efforts, a Health Evolution Forum work group has been convening over the past year to agree on a consistent set of measures and an approach to collecting, stratifying and analyzing health disparities data. Already, approximately 40 organizations have signed the corresponding Health Equity Pledge, committing to collect data about race, ethnicity, language and gender and then share what they learn to develop best practices across the industry.

“Health equity only exists when all people have the opportunity to attain their full health potential, and no one is disadvantaged because of their social position or other socially determined circumstance,” said NCDHHS Chief Health Equity Officer Victor Armstrong “Transparent review of demographic data shines a light on where gaps still exist and will help focus efforts so we achieve our collective goal of equitable access to health care.”

COVID-19 shed new light on the historical and on-going systemic disparities in the U.S. health care system, many of which were worsened because of the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, NCDHHS has prioritized data transparency to hold ourselves and our partners accountable to promote equity in our COVID-19 prevention and response efforts, the department stated.

The department, for example, stated it requires reporting race and ethnicity data for all COVID-19 vaccinations, resulting in North Carolina being nationally recognized for its vaccination equity data. NCDHHS used these data and data on areas hardest hit by COVID-19 to inform where COVID-19 vaccine was distributed earlier in the pandemic.

The department stated it has also required reporting of race and ethnicity data for COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment, which is helping inform efforts for more equitable treatment access. Most recently, the NCDHHS expanded demographic data available on its public dashboard to help identify equity gaps by race/ethnicity and age.

In October, NCDHHS hired Armstrong as its first Chief Health Equity Officer and launched the new Office of Health Equity to lead the department’s overarching strategy and operational goals to promote health equity, diversity and inclusion across all health and human services. Armstrong and NCDHHS Assistant Secretary of Equity and Inclusion Angela Bryant will be responsible for helping to embed health equity strategic initiatives into every aspect of DHHS’ programs, including outcomes and internal employee culture.

Going forward, the Health Evolution Forum will convene executive leadership and subject matter experts to develop real-world solutions to increase collection of gold-standard, voluntarily self-reported demographic data, dismantle barriers to data collection and drive adoption of consistent data standards to improve review.

“A concerted commitment to such collection and stratification for all key quality and performance metrics is critical to understanding and, most important, redressing disparities,” said Health Evolution President Richard Schwartz. “We are pleased to serve as a learning lab for this important endeavor and welcome other industry leaders to join in.”

“Too few organizations are actually analyzing disparities data internally, developing dashboards, embedding it into clinical workflows and making it public,” said Laurie Zephyrin, M.D., a Forum Fellow, and Vice President, Advancing Health Equity, at The Commonwealth Fund.

These substantial gaps limit awareness and ability to implement equity-focused interventions and establish accountability mechanisms that strategically address health disparities. NCDHHS stated it is proud to join in the effort to leverage data to address inequities in health and human services.

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