BOONE — Appalachian State recently added data to its COVID-19 dashboard reflecting testing numbers and the percentage of tests that are positive each week.
According to the dashboard, 4,531 tests had been conducted on campus as of Sept. 15. For the week ending Sept. 13, 1,613 tests were conducted, with 58, or 3.6 percent, positive test results.
While the university’s Student Health Service is testing 60 to 70 students per day, according to Appalachian State spokesperson, Megan Hayes, the majority of on-campus tests are being conducted by Mako Medical, which has contracted with the university to hold pop-up testing events for students, faculty and staff.
Additional pop-up testing events are planned at the Rivers Street Parking Deck on Sept. 19 and 26.
Watauga County’s total COVID-19 cases among residents grew by 133 cases from Sept. 8 to Sept. 15, according to AppHealthCare, the regional health department.
Of the 743 total cases among Watauga residents, AppHealthCare reported 104 active COVID-19 cases as of Sept. 15, with 178 additional people being monitored.
Appalachian State’s total case count increased by 73 during the same time period, from 304 cases on Sept. 8 to 377 cases on Sept. 15, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard. As of Sept. 15, there were 68 active cases.
In its weekly Situation Update on Sept. 11, AppHealthCare reported that the ongoing cluster at Glenbridge Health & Rehab, a nursing facility in Boone, had grown to 23 cases as of Sept. 9, with four staff members, and 19 residents affected, including four who have died. The deaths were the first reported COVID-19-related deaths in Watauga County.
An outbreak is defined as two or more lab-confirmed cases, while a cluster is defined as a minimum of five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases, the health department stated.
Melissa Bracey, spokesperson for AppHealthCare, previously noted that there is some overlap between the cases reported by the health department — which reports cases among county residents in Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties — and the numbers reported by Appalachian State — which reports confirmed cases among students, employees and subcontractors, regardless of where the cases are located.
“If there is a resident of our district counties and they are also an employee, student or subcontractor, they would be counted in both AppHealthCare and App State data dashboards,” Bracey said. “If a student lives on-campus or off-campus in Watauga County, they are counted in Watauga County’s numbers and also reported to App State. If there is a student who only attends online classes and is not currently residing in our district counties, they are not counted in AppHealthCare’s numbers but they would be counted in App State’s numbers because they are a student.”
Bracey also clarified the health department’s definition of “active” cases as “those individuals who are actively in their isolation period.”
“In general, a person is in isolation for 10 days as long as they meet the additional criteria including being fever free without fever-reducing medicine for 24 hours and report improvement in their symptoms.”
However, Bracey noted, dates vary from person to person depending on individual situations, and because of this, “the data on our dashboard will vary from day to day to reflect this. It is possible that some cases are added to the cumulative total but not reflected in the active count due to us receiving test results after an individual’s isolation period has already been completed.”
Neighboring Avery County continues to see a spike in cases due in large part to a cluster of cases at the prison, according to Toe River Health District.
Statewide, the total cases to date numbered 186,887 as of Sept. 15, with 3,111 COVID-19-related deaths to date, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. On Sept. 15, the number of people hospitalized with the virus was 916, according to NCDHHS.