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COVID Cases, Deaths On The Rise Across North Carolina: Avery, Mitchell and Yancey Counties Have Had 830 Total Cases

By Tim Gardner

As of Wednesday, October 7, according to latest available data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the state has had 222,969 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The state has experienced a huge increase in hospitalizations during the last week. The NCDHHS reported on October 7 that 1,028 people were hospitalized, compared to 897 hospitalizations reported eight days earlier (September 29).

NCDHHS reports an additional 247 North Carolinians have died related to the virus over the past eight-day period, as the agency reports 3,693 overall deaths compared to 3,446 on September 29.

The Toe River Health District which encompasses Avery. Mitchell and Yancey counties, along with the NCHHHS reports that Avery County has had 435 cases, counting those at the Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institute (prison) as of October 7. Avery has had zero COVID-19 deaths.

Mitchell County has 171 cases and three deaths. Yancey County has had 224 cases, with zero COVID-19 deaths.

Avery County possesses the greatest number of cases per 10,000 people in the Toe River Health District section of the North Carolina High Country. According to NCDHHS data, Avery currently has 249 cases per 10,000 residents. In comparison, NCDHHS reports Mitchell County has 114 cases per 10,000 residents, while Yancey County has 125 cases per 10,000 residents.

COVID-19 is an international, national and North Carolina public health emergency.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease that was identified in late 2019 and was declared a pandemic on March 11. It is spread through the air by coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact (including touching and shaking hands) or through touching your nose, mouth or eyes before washing your hands. This is a new disease and medical experts are still learning about how it spreads and the severity of illness it causes.

Older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease and those with weakened immune systems seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness.

“Public health staff officials are working to complete COVID-19 investigations and they are contacting close contacts to contain the spread of disease. To protect individual privacy, no further information about the cases will be released,” a press release from the TRHD stated. “The Avery, Yancey and Mitchell County health departments will keep the public informed by announcing any additional cases that may arise through our local media partners. such as the High Country Press (hcpress.com).”

Starting September 25, 2020, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) began reporting on two new measures on the NC COVID-19 Dashboard: 1. Antigen-positive cases and deaths, and 2. Antigen tests completed. This change was made in accordance with recently updated case classification guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both molecular (PCR) and antigen tests are diagnostic. This means that they look to see if someone is currently infected with COVID-19. Each test looks for different things to determine if someone is infected. A molecular (PCR) test looks for the virus’s genetic material. An antigen test is a rapid test that looks for specific proteins on the surface of the virus.

Where the test is processed may also differ. Molecular (PCR) tests are processed in a laboratory and Antigen tests are often processed at the point of care, such as in a health care provider’s office.

A molecular (PCR) positive case of COVID-19 is a person who received a positive COVID-19 result from a molecular (PCR) test. An antigen positive case of COVID-19 is a person who received a positive COVID-19 result from an antigen test and does not have a positive result from a molecular (PCR) test.

Molecular (PCR) positive cases are classified as “confirmed” cases and antigen positive cases are classified as “probable” cases of COVID-19, in accordance with CDC case classification guidelines. Despite the names, regardless of the test used, a person who tests positive is considered to have COVID-19. The terms “confirmed” and “probable” are used nationally to standardize case classifications for public health surveillance but should not be used to interpret the utility or validity of any laboratory test type.

The North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health, reporting hospitals and commercial labs revealed 3,229,247 completed tests as of October 7, according to NCDHHS. The estimate of people presumed to have recovered from the virus as of October 5 as 192,644 statewide, with the estimate provided each Monday by NCDHHS. That includes 8,222 recoveries since September 28. NCDHHS estimates a median time to recovery of 14 days from the date of specimen collection for non-fatal COVID-19 cases who were not hospitalized, or if hospitalization status is unknown. The estimated median recovery time is 28 days from the date of specimen collection for hospitalized non-fatal COVID-19 cases.