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COVID-19 Update: Positive Cases on the Rise Again in the High Country

By Nathan Ham

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 hasn’t shown up in the High Country yet, however positive cases for the virus have started climbing anyway. 

There are 68 active cases in Watauga County, 108 active cases in Ashe County and 77 active cases in Alleghany County. Nearly 400 people are currently in quarantine in the three-county district served by AppHealthCare. 

Deaths in the three-county area have now reached 115 with 65 of those in Ashe County, 43 in Watauga and seven in Alleghany. 

There were 49 new cases reported between December 5 and December 11, and 80% of those cases were from unvaccinated individuals, according to data provided by AppHealthCare. As of now, 59% of Watauga County’s population is partially or fully vaccinated. 

In a news release today from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), health experts are warning that the highly contagious COVID-19 variant, Omicron, is expected to cause the greatest surge in COVID-19 infections to date in the coming months. They are urging people to either get vaccinated or get their booster shots to prepare for what is expected to be another COVID-19 surge. 

“Please get vaccinated and boosted because that’s the best way to protect yourself, your friends and your family during the holidays,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “As the Omicron variant spreads through the United States, it is more clear than ever that these shots provide strong protection against serious illness and death if you get infected.”

Early evidence suggests that Omicron is two to three times as contagious the Delta variant, making it four to six times as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus, according to NCDHHS. 

“Early data show boosters offer substantial protection from severe illness from Omicron, showing that vaccines continue to be the best way to protect your health. Get your booster as soon as its time — especially if you are over 65 or have underlying medical conditions,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “This new variant is extremely contagious, and I am very worried about North Carolinians who have not been vaccinated yet. Don’t wait to vaccinate. It’s not too late to decide to get your shot.”