Active Cases

The graph above shows the active COVID-19 case trends in Watauga County as of Sept. 21.

The following COVID-19 information is compiled from local and state agencies from Sept. 14 to Sept. 21.

Cases

Watauga County experienced an increase of 293 total COVID-19 cases since Sept. 14, to reach 5,934 total cases as of Sept. 21. The active case count has risen slightly during the course of the week with 95 active cases as of Sept. 21.

AppHealthCare reported two new deaths from Sept. 14 to Sept. 21. AppHealthCare reported one death on Sept. 17 and one death on Sept. 20 to bring the total deaths due to COVID-19 among Watauga County residents to 37.

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 815 people are hospitalized, with 200 of those in the ICU as of Sept. 21.

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

  • The App State baseball team with seven cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Sept. 14, and as of the last report seven cases were active.
  • Watauga County Detention Center with six cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Sept. 1, and as of the last report one case was active.
  • Thunder Hill Residence Hall with eight cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Aug. 30, and as of the last report zero cases were active.
  • Goodnight Brothers with eight cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Aug. 27, and as of the last report zero cases are active.
  • The Standard at Boone with five cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Sept. 9, and as of the last report three were active.
  • The Cottages of Boone with seven cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Sept. 15, and as of the last report five cases were active.

The App State COVID-19 dashboard reports 28 active COVID-19 cases among students and two among employees as of Sept. 20. For the week ending on Sept. 20, 2,710 COVID-19 tests were conducted with 49 — or 1.8 percent — coming back positive. Since Aug. 9, the university has conducted 8,439 on-campus COVID-19 tests with 427 — or 5.1 percent — coming back positive.

Vaccines

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports Watauga County has administered 31,062 first dose COVID-19 vaccines — up more than 200 from last week — as of Sept. 21. NCDHHS also reports 28,725 people have completed the vaccine series in Watauga County — up more than 200 from last week — as of Sept. 21.

As of Sept. 21, 55 percent of the population in Watauga County has been at least partially vaccinated and about 51 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to NCDHHS.

App State reports 57 percent students are vaccinated and 94 percent of employees are vaccinated as of Sept. 20.

State update

NCDHHS announced Sept. 20 the hiring of Victor Armstrong as the department’s first ever chief health equity officer. NCDHHS created the position as well as the Office of Health Equity to lead its focus to advance health equity and reduce disparities in opportunity and outcomes for historically marginalized populations.

“Today’s announcement marks another step forward in our commitment to embed equity into every aspect of our work and to promote an inclusive, equitable workplace that reflects the communities we serve, where everyone feels a sense of belonging, and our diverse backgrounds and experiences are valued and recognized as strengths,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “We are fortunate to bring on two leaders with tremendous talent, experience, and dedication to public service.”

As chief health equity officer, Armstrong will serve as a member of the department’s executive leadership team and will lead the department’s overarching strategy and operational goals to promote health equity, diversity and inclusion across all NCDHHS.

He will be responsible for developing, implementing, facilitating, and embedding health equity strategic initiatives into every aspect of DHHS’ programs, services, actions, outcomes and internal employee culture; as well as overseeing the Office of Health Equity, Office of Rural Health and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“I feel honored to be stepping into the Chief Health Equity Officer role, particularly when a focus on health equity is so badly needed, and I applaud Gov. Cooper and Secretary Cohen for taking the initiative to create such a position,” Armstrong said. “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. We only arrive at health equity through intentionality.”

Armstrong is a current member of the DHHS team, having joined the department in March 2020 as director of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services. He has over 30 years of experience in human services, primarily dedicated to building and strengthening community resources to serve historically marginalized individuals and communities. Armstrong is a nationally recognized speaker on issues regarding health equity and access to healthcare, particularly as it relates to individuals living with mental health challenges.

In addition to the Chief Health Equity Officer, DHHS also welcomes a new assistant secretary of equity and inclusion. Former State Sen. Angela Bryant will work hand in hand with Armstrong to develop, operationalize, and evaluate the Department’s healthy equity work. She also will lead the Department’s internal diversity and inclusion work overseeing the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as stakeholder engagement with community stakeholders.

“This is a very urgent time to focus our resources on maximizing health and wellness for all North Carolinians. I am pleased to be a part of this DHHS team, with Chief Armstrong, to work on the in-depth collaborations that will be needed to accomplish the serious and complex goals needed, both internally and externally, to advance health equity,“ said Sen.Bryant.

Sen. Bryant served in the NC General Assembly representing various configurations of Halifax, Vance, Warren, Franklin and parts of Wilson and Nash Counties from 2007 to 2018. In addition to serving as an elected official, she has dedicated her career to supporting a broad range of organizations in creating welcoming and successful environments for all cultural groups.

She co-founded Visions, Inc. — a non-profit educational organization that has provided diversity and inclusion services to over 100,000 individuals and 600 organizations, including health care organizations and staff – with the mission to empower the creation of environments where differences are recognized, understood and appreciated.

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