By Tim Gardner
As of April 27, there have been no cases of Coronavirus in Avery County, 73 individuals have been tested for the potentially fatal disease with 71 confirmed negative and 2 pending results to be announced as soon as possible by Avery County Health Department and Toe River Health District officials.
And like elsewhere across America and around the world, there have been many closures in Avery County due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. said that Avery County Government would like to share that Avery County Emergency Management and the Health Department are working with local officials, Cannon Hospital, Avery County School System, 911 Communications, Emergency Management Services (EMS), Ambulance Services and fire and rescue to ensure and protect the health and well-being of Avery County citizens.
Of course, Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville and local Emergency Ambulance and Rescue Services as well as the Avery County Sheriff’s Department and police departments serving the county remain open 24 hours a day; seven days a week.
“Our County Commissioners, the County Manager’s Office and our government and emergency services in general will continue offering services to our citizens and businesses as well as our visitors, while protecting the welfare of local employees and volunteers during this pandemic,” Barrier, Jr. declared.
Avery Government officials began meetings in March about COVID-19 and continue to on an as-needed basis. Avery Emergency Management has been producing weekly updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays since March 17.
The Avery Commissioners meet Monday, May 4 and will consider then whether to end or extend any further changes to the current State of Emergency in-place orders and also whether to put implement new restrictions due to COVID-19, according to Barrier, Jr.
The Avery County Commissioners issued a State of Emergency for Avery County on March 20, which remains in effect. A State of Emergency Declaration opens up more opportunities to receive help from the State and Federal Government; should the need arise. At this time, there are no curfews or restrictions in place. The National Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends not to congregate in more than 10 people per group.
Barrier, Jr. also noted that Avery County Government Continues Suspension Of Short Term Rentals and 14 Day Self-Quarantine also remains in effect.
On April 23, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 135, extending North Carolina’s Stay at Home/Non-Essential Travel order through May 8th, 2020. Closure of dine-in service for restaurants and bars and closure of other close-contact businesses is also extended through May 8th.
“The health and safety of people in North Carolina must be our top priority,” Cooper said. “This plan provides a roadmap for us to begin easing restrictions in stages to push our economy forward.”
Last week, Governor Cooper laid out the path forward centered on three things: testing, tracing and trends. The Stay at Home and other orders are extended because North Carolina has not yet seen a downward trajectory of those metrics needed to begin gradually lifting restrictions, Governor Cooper added.
Avery County Sheriff’s Officers have already charged two Individuals for violating the Stay at Home/Non-Essential Travel Order.
All North Carolina Public Schools, including Avery County Schools are closed the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year, by order of Governor Cooper. That also means that all Avery High School and Middle School (Avery and Cranberry) athletic events are cancelled at this time due to the NCHSAA suspension of events.
As far as Avery County Government services, all have been impacted by COVID-19.
Avery County Courthouse services are now by appointment only and have been since March 25, 2020 at 12:00 noon.
All County Courthouse services will remain on normal operating hours. Staff will be available to respond to citizens’ request via telephone, email, or by appointment where applicable.
These services with their office phone numbers includes:
Clerk of Court (828) 737-6700
District Attorney (828) 733-6710
Inspections Department (828) 733-8204
Juvenile Services (828) 733-9524
Register of Deeds (828) 733-8260
Tax Office (828) 733-8214
The Avery County Department of Social Services (DSS) office is closed to the public, however, applications are available in the Main Hallway for programs. A Drop Box will be available to return applications/verifications to the agency.
Interviews for those desiring DSS help will be conducted by telephone.
Anyone may also apply online for Medicaid and Food & Nutrition benefits at https://epass.nc.gov/CitizenPortal/application.do
Avery DSS staff members may also be contacted by phone at: (828) 733-8230.
The Avery County Senior Center began offering Drive-Thru Meal Service at the Center on March 17; Clients can drive to the side door of the dining area and pick up a hot meal. Clients must be registered to receive meal, and are asked to call and RSVP (not required) to help with headcount. Home delivered meals will continue as scheduled. For more information, call (828) 733-8220.
Avery County Transportation will keep operation van ride services, pending decision by upper levels of management.
All Cooperative Extension Meetings have been canceled until further notice by order of the Avery County Management.
Attendants at the Solid Waste Collection Sites will not aid in the removal of household waste items from vehicles until further notice.
The Avery County Parks & Recreation Department’s Rock Gym is closed until further notice as is the Avery County Swimming Pool in Newland.
And all Avery County Government meetings declared non-essential by county officials are cancelled until further notice, including the Economic Development Committee, Transportation and Planning Board.
Due to a prohibition of large gatherings, the Williams YMCA of Avery County (located on the Cannon Memorial Hospital premises in Linville) will be closed until further notice. All YMCA programs have also been suspended.
Lees-McRae College and the Lees-McRae Summer Theatre are closed until July 1. Classes will still be held online. Classes will continue through remote instruction on Brightspace for the remainder of the academic year. The campus is closed to the public. College operations are continuing during regular business hours; however, facilities will remain locked.
LMC housing and dining facilities are also closed for the remainder of the semester. The LMC Community Membership program is suspended and all summer conferences and events prior to July 1 have been canceled. Before arriving on campus, all visitors (including vendors) must contact Campus Safety and Security by phoning (828) 898-8756.
Mayland Community College, which be closed for the remainder of Spring Semester, 2020, MCC classes will be taught online when possible. Classes which cannot be completed online due to lab components will be extended into the Summer Semester 2020. High School students enrolled in MCC courses will also be expected to keep up their course work.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), Grandfather Mountain is closed until further notice. The closure means the park will prohibit public access, including from the main entrance gate and hiking trails.
Grandfather Mountain officials also announced on April 25, that the 2020 edition of the annual Singing on the Mountain and the 65th annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games this year have both been canceled.
The Highland Games announcement was due May 2, but organizers moved forward with their decision after the Governor’s extension of the stay at home order made it impossible for organizers to be able to set up for the event. Organizers of the Singing on the Mountain posted the cancellation of the 96th annual event, set for June 28.
The Village of Sugar Mountain announced April 27 that it will allow for the expiration of the town’s restrictions on short-term rentals and quarantine of visitors staying overnight in the area. The original declaration set that expiration date as April 29. In a supplemental declaration issued April 27, the expiration date will now be May 8.
Also, on April 2, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order postponing court proceedings in the State until June 1, 2020, among seven emergency directives also including: authorizing court proceedings to be conducted by remote audio and video transmissions, allowing service of court documents by email, extending the deadline for payment of most fines and fees by 90 days, and more. Several other emergency steps and orders had previously been issued by Chief Justice Beasley.
Anyone with questions about Criminal and Civil Court Dockets in Avery County should the local Clerk’s office at 828-737-6700.