The following COVID-19 information is compiled from local and state agencies from Feb. 9-16. This weekly update will present the latest COVID-19 information as of publication.

Cases:

Watauga County experienced an increase of 85 total COVID-19 cases since Feb. 9. The active case count has stayed steady during the course of the week with 111 active cases as of Feb. 16.

AppHealthCare reported two new deaths in the week of Feb. 9 to Feb. 16 bringing the total deaths in Watauga County due to COVID-19 to 31.

As of Feb. 16, AppHealthCare reports 132 people have been hospitalized in its three-county district that also includes Ashe and Alleghany counties. Hospitalizations did not increase from the previous week.

To date, AppHealthCare has reported 22 total clusters in the county.

AppHealthCare reported six active clusters on the Feb. 12 COVID-19 situation report:

  • Glenbridge Health and Rehabilitation with 10 total cases in eight staff members and two residents. One person has died. The last positive result was reported on Jan. 14, and as of the last report zero cases are active.
  • Foley Center with 53 total cases in 22 staff and 31 residents. The last positive result was on Jan. 22, and as of the last report zero cases are active.
  • Greenway Baptist Child Development Center with 19 total cases in nine children and 10 staff. The last positive result was on Jan. 23, and as of the last report zero cases are active.
  • Deerfield Ridge Assisted living with 25 total cases in eight staff and 17 residents. One person has died. The last positive result was on Feb. 3, and as of the last report one staff member and four residents are active.
  • Cottages of Boone with eight total cases. The last positive result came on Feb. 8, and as of the last report zero cases are active.
  • University highlands with five cumulative cases. The last positive result came on Feb. 3, and as of the last report five cases are active.

As of Feb. 16, Appalachian State University has had 242 students and 24 employees test positive for COVID-19 since Jan. 1, 2021. Forty-four students were active as of Feb. 16.

Across the state, 826,340 people have tested positive and 10,562 people have died due to COVID-19 as of Feb. 16. So far, 765,456 have recovered as of Feb. 15, according to the North Caroline Department of Health and Human Services.

Vaccines:

NCDHHS reports Watauga County has administered 6,573 first dose COVID-19 vaccines as of Feb. 16 — an increase of 1,000 vaccinations from the previous week. NCDHHS also reports 3,269 people have completed the vaccine series in Watauga County — an increase of 1,100 from the previous week.

On Feb. 15, AppHealthCare spokesperson Melissa Bracey said AppHealthCare was set to receive 200 first doses of the Moderna vaccine and 2,925 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The county health department will also receive 500 second dose vaccines.

“We are quickly planning mass vaccination events with our partners to be able to get them all administered this coming week,” Bracey said. “This is going to be a great opportunity for getting further through our list of people who are 65 and older and have been patiently waiting for their turn.”

As of Feb. 12, AppHealthCare reported 7,348 people are currently eligible to receive the vaccine based on its COVID-19 vaccine interest form — down about 1,100 from the previous week.

As of Feb. 16, roughly 67.8 percent of vaccines have gone to those 65 and older in Watauga County. By gender, 56.3 percent of vaccines have gone to females while 40.6 percent have gone to males. About 3 percent of the data is represented as missing or undisclosed related to gender.

By race, more than 94 percent of the vaccines have gone to white people while the rest have gone to what’s listed by NCDHHS as “other” or “suppressed.” Less than .14 percent of the data was represented in the dashboard as missing or undisclosed related to race.

State COVID-19 update:

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported the first identification of the COVID-19 variant B.1.351 in a North Carolina resident Feb. 11. The B.1.351 variant was first detected in South Africa in October and in the United States in January.

The B.1.351 variant is different from the variant from the United Kingdom — known as the B.1.1.7 variant — reported on Jan. 23.

The North Carolina B.1.351 variant case was identified in a sample from an adult in the central part of the state who had not recently traveled. To protect the privacy of the individual, NCDHHS said no further information would be released. The specimen was tested by LabCorp and selected for sequencing as part of a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

North Carolina is the fourth state to report an identified case of B.1.351. Seventeen cases of infection with the variant had been identified in residents of eight states including Virginia and South Carolina as of Feb. 14.

Viruses change all the time, and NCDHHS expects to see new COVID-19 variants in the state as the pandemic continues. Data suggests this variant may be more contagious than other variants but does not suggest that it causes more severe disease. Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against this and other new variants.

“While we anticipated the arrival of the B.1.351 variant in NC, it’s a reminder that the fight against COVID-19 is not over. The emergence of variants that are more infectious means it’s more important than ever to do what we know works to slow the spread — wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen.

NCDHHS has additional recommendations to improve mask wearing based on guidance from the CDC. To ensure masks are as protective as possible, NCDHHS recommends that people:

  • Make sure the mask fits snugly against the face and covers the nose and mouth. To help with a snug fit, community members can use a mask with a metal strip along the top of the mask.
  • Use two or more layers for the face covering. This can be achieved by wearing a cloth face covering with two or more layers or by wearing one disposable mask (sometimes referred to as a surgical mask or a medical procedure mask) underneath a cloth mask.
  • Do not wear two disposable masks.
  • Make sure it is easy to see and breathe.

Additional information on how to improve mask wearing can be found on the updated guidelines from the CDC at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/effective-masks.html?mc_cid=793fbdd68e&mc_eid=89a423aea7.

As of Feb. 16, North Carolina had administered more than 1.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. North Carolina’s goal is to vaccinate as many people as quickly and equitably as possible.

Vaccine supply is limited; therefore, all states must vaccinate people in groups. North Carolina is currently vaccinating all people in Groups 1 and 2, which include health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, and people 65 and older. Vaccine eligibility for people in Group 3 will begin Feb. 24 for teachers and child care workers and March 10 for additional front-line essential workers.

Group 4 will include adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness, and Group 5 will include everyone. Detailed information about each vaccine group is online at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov (English) or vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish).

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