• Statement from the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce regarding the Town of Boone State of Emergency Declaration

    May 22, 2020 The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors strongly disagrees with the action taken by the Boone Town Council Thursday night in adopting their State of Emergency Declaration. The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce has advocated strongly from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, through the #KeepBooneHealthy initiative, for people to follow the health and safety guidelines promoted by the CDC and AppHealthCare, while also encouraging residents to make as many local purchase decisions as possible to support our struggling business community. / Read more…



  • Boone Town Council Approves Restrictions on Non-Residents Entering Public Establishments Without a 14-Day Quarantine

    May 22, 2020 The Boone Town Council has taken county and state reopening restrictions a few steps further. In a 3-1 vote on Thursday evening, the council approved new restrictions that ban visitors arriving in Boone from entering public establishments (other than medical facilities) unless they have quarantined in Boone for 14 consecutive days. Nancy LaPlaca voted against the restrictions and Loretta Clawson was unable to attend the meeting to vote due to an illness. This measure does not apply to non-residents that are commuting to work in Boone and to state and local government facilities. These new restrictions will remain in effect until at least June 16 and are aimed at visitors and tourists making day-trips to Boone as well as seasonable residents arriving at their mountain homes for the summer. Councilmember Sam Furgiuele has spearheaded the movement to add additional restrictions to Governor Roy Cooper’s phased reopening plans and the guidance approved by the Watauga County Commissioners. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Second Confirmed Case of COVID-19 In Avery County on Thursday: Two More in Mitchell County

    May 22, 2020 The Avery County Health Department, part of the Toe River Health District, was notified on Thursday, May 21 that an Avery County resident has tested positive for novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The individual is in isolation, according to the TRHD.  Also, on May 21 two Mitchell County residents have tested positive for novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). These two make a total of 8 positive cases in Mitchell County. The individuals have been and continue to be in isolation. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Watauga County Commissioners Approve Modified Plan to Lift Restrictions Today at 5:00

    May 22, 2020 On May 19th, Watauga County Commissioners approved modifications of their plan to lift the 14-day self-quarantine restriction for those arriving to the county for overnight stays and partially lift the short-term rental restriction in order to align with Governor Cooper’s phased plan for easing restrictions. Effective Friday at 5pm, the 14-day self-quarantine will end and short-term rentals may operate at 50 percent (50%) reduction in the listed maximum occupancy capacity as rated and published. Family members residing in the same residence are exempt from the fifty percent (50%) reduction in maximum capacity limit.  Short-term rentals can operate at 100 percent (100%) capacity once we enter Phase 3 of the Governor’s plan.  Campgrounds shall be subject to the same openings and restrictions as short-term rentals..  / Read more…



  • Let’s Have Fun Together! Sugar Mountain Resort’s Summer Season Begins Friday May 22


    May 22, 2020 The summer season may be unlike any other, but the spinning of chairlift bull wheels, the cascading wind wrapping around the speeding mountain biker, the calming view along the route aboard the Summit Express to Sugar’s peak and back, and the energy of Memorial Day and Independence Day have never been more welcome. On Friday, May 22, in accordance with Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 138, Sugar Mountain Resort’s Summit Express scenic chairlift rides and the bike park open for the summer. / Read more…



  • Watauga County and Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation Have Cancelled Their Summer Camps

    May 21, 2020 Following the recommendations of Watauga County Parks & Recreation, the Watauga County Commissioners voted to cancel all day camps for this summer, as well as youth baseball and youth softball leagues. We will also be cancelling spring soccer, tennis camp and spring adult softball. Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation will not be holding its summer camp – Camp Buckeye this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.  / Read more…



  • Tyson Foods Chicken-Processing Facilities in Wilkesboro Confirmed Wednesday that 570 Out of its 2,244 Full-Time Employees Tested Positive

    May 21, 2020 Wilkes Health is reporting the second COVID-19 associated death in Wilkes County. The individual died on May 20th from complications associated with the virus. The patient was in their late 80’s and did have underlying health conditions. Tyson Foods chicken-processing facilities in Wilkesboro confirmed Wednesday that 570 out of its 2,244 full-time and contract employees, or 25.4% of the workforce, has tested positive for the virus.  / Read more…



  • High Country Realtors Applaud Watauga Commissioners, NC Governor on Recent Decisions

    May 21, 2020 The High Country Association of REALTORS® endorsed Wednesday the recent unanimous decision by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners to align with N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed plan on easing COVID-19 restrictions and start allowing short-term rentals to begin operation once again. “We applauded the county commissioners for their continual efforts in always seeking to protect full-time residents of Watauga County and recognizing that economic health and vitality is an essential part of our residents’ lives as well as their physical well-being,” said Pam J. Vines, 2020 HCAR President, and Duncan Martin, HCAR Executive, in a joint statement. / Read more…



  • Rep. Ray Russell’s May 20th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

    May 21, 2020 The next several weeks will be critical. Do all you can to follow the guidance and encourage (nicely) others to do the same. In addition to the required items in Phase 2, the single most effective way to end this pandemic is to wear a cloth mask anytime you are indoors in public places. Please wear the mask! / Read more…



  • Sen. Jeff Jackson: Rules For Businesses Opening Up Under Phrase 2 and What’s Still Closed

    May 21, 2020 The Governor just announced that we will move into Phase Two this Friday at 5:00 p.m. His order concerns retail businesses, restaurants, bars, salons, child care centers, camps, pools, gyms, theaters, parks, beaches, and a lot more. Here is a link to his full order. It’s pretty long, so I summarized it (as much as possible…) for you below.  / Read more…



  • Gov. Cooper Announces That As Key Indicators Remain Stable, North Carolina Moves to Safer At Home Phase 2 This Friday at 5:00 pm


    May 20, 2020 Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen today announced that North Carolina will move into Safer At Home Phase 2 of lifting COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, May 22 at 5 pm. Read Executive Order No. 141. After two weeks in Phase 1, the state’s overall key indicators remain stable but the continued increases in daily case counts signal a need to take a more modest step forward in Phase 2 than originally envisioned. “North Carolina is using the data to guide our decisions about when to lift COVID-19 restrictions, and overall our key indicators remain stable,” said Governor Cooper. “Safer At Home Phase 2 is another careful step forward, and we have to continue taking this virus seriously to prevent a dangerous spike in infections.” / Read more…



  • High Mountain Expeditions Opening on Saturday for River Fun and Adventure With All the Necessary Safety Precautions for COVID-19


    May 20, 2020 High Mountain Expeditions is all set to open its 34th season this Saturday and will be taking all the necessary safety precautions during this time of public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have gone through our whole operation from start to finish and come up with what we feel are realistic guidelines,” says owner Bill Leonard. “Staff members will be wearing facemasks and gloves, we have hand sanitizer in every bus and facemasks will be provided at no cost to all customers.” In addition to those safety measures, Leonard said that the number of customers per boat has been reduced and family groups can have their own boats depending on how big the group is. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Blowing Rock Historical Society Artists in Residence Program Regretfully Canceled for 2020

    May 20, 2020 The Blowing Rock Historical Society has announced the cancellation of this year’s Artist in Residence at Edgewood Cottage program (AiR). The cancellation is the result of uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic and our concern for the health and safety of our artists, visitors, and volunteers. An outstanding group of 26 high-country artists had been selected to present their work in Edgewood Cottage. Selected artists include Randy Blake Clontz, David Collins, Earl Davis, Evenlight Eagles, Linda Elksnin, Tunde Afolayan Famous, Nathan Favors, Fredrick Craig Franz, Kelly Gross, Lee Harper, High Country Modern Quilt Guild, Mike Koenig, Amy Lowery, Cathy McCoy, Cindy McEnery, Pat Moritz, Scott Pearson, Lisa Pepper, Kathryn Regel, Susan Sharpe, Waitsel Smith, Ineke Thomas, Zan Thompson, Lauren Waterworth, David Westmeier, and Linda White. Each of these talented artists has been invited to participate in next year’s 2021 program. / Read more…



  • Flash Flood Watch Continues Across the High Country Through Thursday Morning; Numerous Roads with Low Water Bridges Closed

    May 20, 2020 The High Country has had a very wet week so far with rain moving in Monday night and not letting up so far through Wednesday afternoon. A slow-moving storm system moved across the southeast and has dropped between 2-4 inches of rain through most areas of the High Country already with another inch or two expected overnight Wednesday and Thursday. The National Weather Service has continued its Flood Watch through 8 a.m. Thursday morning for Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Watauga, and Wilkes counties. Total rainfall amounts of 3-7 inches are expected with locally higher amounts possible. On Wednesday morning, Ashe County Emergency Management listed 16 roads that are impassable due to flood bridges. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Memorial Day Kicks Off Outdoor Grilling Season


    May 20, 2020. Memorial Day signals the official start to outdoor dining — and that’s a good thing. While this year we might not be able to experience some of the traditional events and gatherings as we have in the past, it’s important that we try to keep things as “normal” as possible. We’ve already cranked up the grill a couple of times at our house, and we’re anticipating many meals over the open flame in coming months. It’s never too early for those of us who love the smell of the charcoal wafting through the air — and the incomparable taste of those juicy burgers, steaks and hotdogs cooked over the grill or on the grates of the fire pit. As I prepare this column on a rainy and cool late Spring morning, I’m glad to know that local supermarkets are this week advertising really good prices on watermelons, hot dogs and even ground beef. So, we’ve got that much in our favor! We might not be ushering in our summer like we traditionally do, with picnics and large gatherings, but the important thing is that we don’t forget what this weekend is all about. It’s the supreme sacrifice that thousands of American soldiers gave for our freedom. It is our duty — and privilege — to remember. By Sherrie Norris / Read more…



  • Watauga County Commissioners Approve Plan to Allow Hotels and Short-Term Rentals to Operate at 50 Percent Capacity

    May 20, 2020 After previous plans to continue the 14-day quarantine period for seasonal residents and hold off on removing short-term and hotel rental restrictions until June 5, the Watauga County Commissioners unanimously approved a plan to follow Governor Roy Cooper’s reopening guidelines for North Carolina, including Phase 2 which could begin as soon as Friday. The decision means that the 14-day quarantine period will not be continued and that hotels and other short-term rentals can begin operating at 50 percent of their maximum capacity as soon as Phase 2 begins at the state level. The county can revisit the plan should the governor change the statewide plan or if more COVID-19 cases begin showing up in the county. According to the new plan put forward and approved by the commissioners, hotels and short-term rentals will operate at 50 percent capacity until the beginning of Phase 3 when all rentals could return to 100 percent capacity. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Avery Post Newspaper Closes, Ending Nearly Half-Century Career of Local Icon Bertie Burleson


    May 20, 2020 After nineteen years of operation, the Avery Post newspaper in Newland has closed, effective immediately. The weekly publication’s last printed newspaper was May 13, 2020. And with the closing, the career of Bertie Burleson, thought to be the region’s longevity leader among regional newspaper Editors, has ended. Burleson released a statement about the Avery Post’s closing from herself and her daughter, Lydia Hoilman, who was the newspaper’s Associate Editor and Layout Artist. The statement was emailed to various patrons of the publication on May 18. It reads: “We are closing the Avery Post following months of businesses being closed due to COVID-19. Words cannot express what you, our advertisers, our ministers and community writers have meant to us You have forged bonds with us that will last, as long as we live; all of you have been a blessing, not only to our community, but to our subscribers in other states. We will always be grateful to you and cherish you as long as we live.” By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Banner Elk Chamber Announces Some Canceled Summer Concerts and Events Due to COVID-19

    May 20, 2020 The Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce has canceled the first three Thursday night concerts (event dates: June 25, July 2, and July 9) in our Concerts in the Park summer series. We hope that the remainder of the concert season will go on as scheduled. However, the decision to proceed with the remaining concerts has not yet been made. A decision regarding the Family Fun Fourth of July parade has not yet been made. All other Chamber-sponsored Independence Day festivities have been canceled / Read more…



  • Town of Beech Mountain Launches “Let It Flow” Watauga River Intake Website

    May 20, 2020 The Town of Beech Mountain has launched a website to keep the community informed of plans for a new water intake system. The site was designed to provide information about the project and offers the public an opportunity to submit questions or comments by contacting the town directly. The intake system would bring water to the town from the Watauga River.  The draw from Watauga River would be very low volume and only used approximately 60 days a year during drought conditions or as a backup in case of catastrophic failure of the Town’s current water system.. / Read more…



  • How It Happened; Planning a Virtual Commencement – ‘The Appalachian Way’


    May 20, 2020 Whether physically distancing at 6 feet or miles apart, thousands tuned in for Appalachian’s Spring 2020 Commencement, a historic first for the university that was organized in response to concerns surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic. What does it take to transition a traditional commencement for thousands of graduates to an online event? / Read more…



  • A Commencement in the Cloud — App State Virtually Celebrates 3,600-Plus Graduates


    May 19, 2020 The black and gold pride — the hugs, tears and cheers — typically reserved for Appalachian State University’s Holmes Convocation Center took to a new venue this year — the living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and porches of Mountaineers near and far who gathered, virtually, to celebrate Appalachian’s Class of 2020 during the university’s Spring 2020 Commencement. During the ceremony, which can be viewed by visiting Appalachian’s commencement website, Appalachian Chancellor Sheri Everts conferred degrees to 3,651 May and August graduates, including 3,134 undergraduate and 517 graduate students, who registered to be recognized in the spring ceremony. / Read more…



  • Annual Memorial Day Celebration at Boone Mall Has Been Canceled


    May 19, 2020 For the last 13 years, the High Country community has honored our fallen heroes on Memorial Day at an event co-sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the Watauga Community Band and the Boone Mall. While we must cancel our ceremony for this year out of respect for the health and safety of our community, we hope that on this Memorial Day, everyone will engage in a private moment of silence and prayer to commemorate our fallen heroes and their families. / Read more…



  • App State’s Press Release Concerning Latest 2 Confirmed Cases Associated With the University

    May 19, 2020 Appalachian District Health Department (AppHealthCare) has informed Appalachian State University it has confirmed two additional Watauga County residents with university connections have tested positive for COVID-19. One individual is an employee of Appalachian State University whose last day on campus was March 20. The other is a subcontracted worker who last worked on campus on May 13. These individuals have fully cooperated with isolation instructions and are recovering at home. / Read more…



  • 2 More Confirmed COVID-19 Cases for Watauga County, Total Identified Cases Now 11

    May 19, 2020 Additional Watauga County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total of identified cases among Watauga County residents to 11. One individual is an employee of Appalachian State University whose last day on campus was March 20th and the other is a subcontracted worker who last worked on campus May 13th. These individuals have fully cooperated with isolation instructions and are recovering at home. Public health staff have identified close contacts, and they are in quarantine and are being provided access to testing during their quarantine period. / Read more…



  • Watauga County Public Library Announces that Curbside Pickup of Materials and Printed Items Are Now Being Offered Once Again

    May 19, 2020 Watauga County Public Library is happy to announce that curbside pickup of materials and printed items will be offered once again beginning Tuesday May 19 for the Watauga County Public Library and Monday, May 18 for the Western Watauga Branch. Library material may be returned at our book drops once again. No fines are being charged at this time. / Read more…



  • Rep. Ray Russell’s May 18th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

    May 19, 2020 While there was no major announcement in Governor Cooper’s Press Conference this afternoon, he said, “We are hoping that we can move into Phase Two. We still need to look at a couple of more days of the data. We should be able to announce something this week by mid-week regarding what’s going to happen on Friday.” When Governor Cooper announced the plan for relaxing social distancing on April 23, the outline for what Phase 2 would be was to: / Read more…



  • First COVID-19 Case Confirmed in Avery County; Close Contacts of Individual Have Been Identified

    May 18, 2020 It was likely to happen at some time during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and it did Monday afternoon, May 18th. Avery County, which had been the only county among North Carolina’s 100 without a COVID case, finally has its first confirmed case of the potentially deadly virus. The Avery County Health Department recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Avery County as of 3:00 p.m. Monday. The department said in a release that the individual afflicted with the virus is currently in isolation, and that public health staff have already initiated an investigation. Close contacts of the individual have been identified, and officials are working to contain the spread of the virus.By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • COVID-19 Testing Update: Over 600 Test Kits Now Available in Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany Counties

    May 18, 2020 The number of available test kits jumped from 374 last Monday to 617 available as of today, May 18, in Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties, according to data provided by AppHealthCare. Ashe County has the most test kits available with 233 followed by Alleghany with 222 and Watauga with 162. Today there was one test collected in Watauga County with zero new tests in Ashe County and Alleghany County. / Read more…



  • Restrictions on Indoor Religious Services in North Carolina Temporarily Blocked by Federal Court

    May 18, 2020 North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s order limiting indoor church and religious gatherings has been temporarily blocked by Judge James C. Dever III until a hearing on May 29. As part of the Phase 1 reopening of North Carolina, Gov. Cooper’s executive order restricted all indoor religious gatherings to no more than 10 people. Outdoor church services are permitted as long as proper social distancing measures are in place. The lawsuit, filed by Berean Baptist Church, Return America, Inc., Dr. Ronnie Baity, and People’s Baptist Church, Inc., claims that Gov. Cooper’s restrictions on indoor church services violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Ford Porter, the spokesperson for Gov. Cooper, issued the following statement following the court ruling: “We don’t want indoor meetings to become hotspots for the virus and our health experts continue to warn that large groups sitting together inside for long periods of time are much more likely to cause the spread of COVID-19. While our office disagrees with the decision, we will not appeal, but instead, urge houses of worship and their leaders to voluntarily follow public health guidance to keep their members safe.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga County Commissioners and Boone Town Council Preparing for Phase 2 of Reopening NC with a Busy Week of Meetings

    May 18, 2020 The Watauga County Commissioners, and Boone Town Council are meeting this week with Phase 2 of Governor Roy Cooper’s reopening plan expected to take place in the next few days. While there is no guarantee that North Carolina will enter Phase 2, the initial timeline for taking the next step to reopening could happen as early as May 22. Gov. Cooper will have a media update at some point this week to discuss when the state will enter Phase 2. The changes that Phase 2 will allow are much more significant than the previous phase. Restaurants and bars can reopen for limited indoor seating. Fitness centers, salons, and other personal care services can reopen as well. Public playgrounds will be opened up and entertainment venues can open at a reduced capacity. Locally, county commissioners had hoped to put forward a centralized and consistent set of protocols and restrictions going forward. However, Boone Town Council is considering their own sets of reopening regulations. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • AppHealthCare Reporting 46 Total COVID-19 Cases in Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga; Recent Increase in Ashe County Linked to Farm Workers

    May 18, 2020 AppHealth Care’s most recent COVID-19 infection update shows that Ashe County now has 27 positive cases with 22 of those being active. Alleghany County has 11 positive tests with five being active and Watauga County has had nine positive tests with only one current case. Data from AppHealthCare also shows that 31 people in Ashe County are being “actively monitored” in quarantine for COVID-19 symptoms. Alleghany and Watauga both have six people being actively monitored and nine people that reside outside the three counties are being monitored. Wilkes County is home to one of the worst hot spots in the state for the coronavirus with a recent outbreak at the Tyson Foods Inc. facilities in North Wilkesboro. As of 6:30 a.m. Monday morning, Wilkes County has 423 confirmed cases with nine of those currently hospitalized. 59 percent of these positive tests are men and 47 percent of these positive tests are between the ages of 26 and 50 while 37 percent are age 51 and over. Farmworker outbreaks are also growing across the state. According to N.C. Representative Ray Russell, who represents Ashe and Watauga counties, the most recent cases in Ashe County are all among farmworkers.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Sen. Jeff Jackson: COVID Hospitalizations; New Rules for Testing; DES Update; Vote-by-Mail

    May 18, 2020 There were two significant developments with testing this week: 1) DHHS relaxed the eligibility criteria for who can get tested. Previously, you had to be heavily symptomatic and have a negative flu test. Now, it’s “anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19” or “regardless of symptoms, anyone at a higher risk of exposure or higher risk of severe infection.” This is good news. It shows real confidence in our ability to scale up testing in a way that will allow us to – hopefully – rapidly identify and contain future outbreaks. This was only possible because a lot of different pieces came together – and because we bought ourselves enough time to get there. 2) DHHS published a list of roughly 200 sites across the state that offer testing. Some of these are hospitals, others are clinics or pop-up sites. Many of these locations are new, which shows not only increased testing capacity but more distributed testing capacity, which is key.  / Read more…



  • Sen. Richard Burr Steps Down as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee as FBI Investigation of Stock Trades Continues

    May 15, 2020 North Carolina Senator Richard Burr has decided to “step aside” from his role as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The decision was announced on Thursday by Sen. Mitch McConnell. The FBI also seized a cell phone that is believed to have been Sen. Burr’s as the investigation continues as to whether he used information gathered in private briefings to dump between $628,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 separate transactions in late January and early February. Burr has denied any wrongdoing. “I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13. Specifically, I closely followed CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time. Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight, however, I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency,” Sen. Burr said in a statement.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Blue Ridge Parkway Reopens in Areas Throughout the High Country


    May 15, 2020 As of today, the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs through portions of Ashe, Alleghany, Watauga and Avery counties is once again open to the public. Restrooms, visitor centers, campgrounds, and picnic areas are still closed at this time. Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Blue Ridge Parkway officials are increasing recreational access to sections of the motor road previously closed to motor vehicle traffic in North Carolina. The National Park Service is working with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access to the Parkway and park sites across the country. / Read more…



  • The Art Cellar Gallery in Banner Elk Is Happy to be Open Again for Art Lovers


    May 15, 2020 Art galleries are one of many non-essential businesses that were able to reopen last weekend during Phase 1 of Governor Roy Cooper’s plan to get the North Carolina economy back and running slowly but surely. The Art Cellar Gallery in Banner Elk, owned by Mike and Pam McKay, is ready for art lovers to come walking through the door. “We’re seeing some traffic. Last year was great and this year started out great,” said Mike. “We’re open normal hours and by appointment to meet everyone’s needs.” Mike quickly pointed out that being at an art gallery is almost like having built-in social distancing where people are spread out taking in each wonderful piece of art. Sarah Myers is the Art Cellar Gallery Director and she too is ready to see some friendly faces make their way back to Banner Elk. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



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