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Toe River Health District Experiences More Than 3,330 Coronavirus Cases With 53 Deaths In 2020; Vaccine Now Available for HealthCare Workers

By Tim Gardner

As of New Year’s, Eve, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has recorded a total of 3,320 Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the Toe River, NC Health District counties of Avery, Mitchell and Yancey combined. Counts of those afflicted with the disease have been tabulated, updated and publicly released by the Department of Health and Human Services and locally by the Toe River Health District since early March 2020 when COVID-19 became a pandemic in the United States.

There currently are 408 people in the Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties isolating with COVID-19. The health departments of each county are closely monitoring these cases.

The latest updated yearly cases totals in Avery County includes:

Total positives                 1,218

Total new positives           152

Current active positives     95

Total recovered                 1,102

Total deaths                       21

Avery County includes the townships and communities of Newland, Banner Elk, Elk Park, Beech Mountain, Linville, Invershield, Pineola, Crossnore, Ingalls, Pyatte, Hughes, Minneapolis, Roaring Creek, Spear, Plumtree and Cranberry.


The new totals for Mitchell County for 2020 are:

Total positives                   987

Total new positives           200

Current active positives   123

Recovered this period       243

Total recovered                 843

Total deaths                       21

Mitchell County includes the townships and communities of Spruce Pine, Bakersville, Penland, Minpro, Estatoe, Ledger, Red Hill, Poplar, Pigeon Roost, Loafers Glory and Buladean.


The updated cases totals for 2020 in Yancey County includes:

Total positives                   1,115

Total new positives             174

Current active positives     190

Recovered this period         196

Total recovered                   914

Total deaths                         11

Townships and communities in Yancey County include: Burnsville, South Toe, Micaville, Newdale, Bald Creek, Cane River, Egypt, Ramseytown, Green Mountain and Pensacola.


According to State of North Carolina COVID-19 statistics, Avery and Mitchell counties are in the Red Alert for highest volumes on cases in the State of North Carolina per percentage of population. They have been in such an undesired position for the past several weeks. During one time span, Avery County had the state’s highest volume of COVID-19 cases per population percentage. Ironically, Avery was the last of North Carolina’s 100 counties to have a coronavirus cases, but its cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks.

For more details about those red alert numbers, log onto: https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/dashboard/COVID-19-County-Alert-System-Report.pdf

As with all COVID-19 cases in the Toe River Health District, its representatives and Avery, Mitchell and Yancey health department officials are working to complete investigations and are in the process of contacting close contacts to those diagnosed with COVID-19 to try to help contain the spread of disease, according to Diane Creek, Toe River Health District Director.


Doses of Moderna vaccines have begun to arrive in the Toe River Health District area, with the first going to healthcare workers, first responders and those designated by healthcare professionals as being in the greatest need of such. Planning is underway for distribution to the public as more doses arrive. More information on vaccine scheduling in the Toe River Health District counties will be available soon can be obtained by calling its local health departments:

Avery Co. Health Department (828)-733-6031

Mitchell Co. Health Department (828)-688-2371

Yancey Co. Health Department (828)-682-6118.

“Until the vaccine is widely available and case numbers are down significantly, reflecting high levels of immunity, mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand washing are still vitally important. It will be some time yet before the immunity levels are high enough to begin relaxing these measures,” said Creek.

Detailed information about the COVID-19 vaccines from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services follows:

Tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will help us get back in control of our lives and back to the people and places we love.

Scientists had a head start. The vaccines were built upon decades of work to develop vaccines for similar viruses.

Tested, safe and effective. More than 70,000 people volunteered in clinical trials for two vaccines (Pfizer and Modern) to see if they are safe and work to prevent COVID illness. Volunteers included Black/African American, Hispanic/LatinX, Asians and others. To date, the vaccines are 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 with no serious safety concerns noted in the clinical trials. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes sure the vaccines are safe and can prevent people from getting COVID-19. Like all drugs, vaccine safety continues to be monitored after they are in use.

You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. You may have temporary reactions like a sore arm, headache, or feeling tired and achy for a day or two after receiving the vaccine.

Take your shot at no cost. The COVID-19 vaccine will be available for free, whether or not you have insurance.

A tested, safe and effective vaccine will be available to all who want it, but supplies will be limited at first. To save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19, independent state and federal public health advisory committees recommend first protecting health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Keep practicing the 3 Ws —wear a mask, wait six feet apart, wash your hands—until everyone has a chance to get vaccinated.

Phase 1A: Health care workers fighting COVID-19 & Long-Term Care staff and residents.

Health care workers caring for and working directly with patients with COVID-19, including staff responsible for cleaning and maintenance in those areas

Health care workers administering vaccine

Long-term care staff and residents—people in skilled nursing facilities and in adult, family and group homes.

Phase 1b: Adults 75 years or older and frontline essential workers.

There is not enough vaccine for everyone in this phase to be vaccinated at the same time. Vaccinations will be available to groups in the following order.

Group 1: Anyone 75 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation

Group 2: Health care workers and frontline essential workers 50 years or older

The CDC defines frontline essential workers as first responders (e.g., firefighters and police officers), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.

Group 3: Health care workers and frontline essential workers of any age

Phase 2: Adults at high risk for exposure and at increased risk of severe illness.

Vaccinations will happen by group in the following order:

Group 1: Anyone 65-74 years old, regardless of health status or living situation

Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others, regardless of living situation

Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.

Group 4: Essential workers not yet vaccinated.

The CDC defines these as workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers.

Phase 3: Students

College and university students

K-12 students age 16 and over. Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them.

Phase 4: Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.

For even more information on the vaccine and the general order of distribution visit: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines