• Food Pantries and Organizations Pulling Together to Offer Meals and Food Boxes to Those in Need

    March 27, 2020 Volunteers from churches and organizations across Watauga County have come together in some very uncertain times to help provide food resources to children and families that need it the most. With many people losing their jobs or having their hours cut back, being able to provide food for their households is a concern among many in the High Country. There are a number of groups willing to lend a helping hand. Anyone who wishes to help with food, financial donations, or volunteering can contact Health and Hunger Coalition, Hospitality House, Greenway Baptist Church Food Pantry, or Casting Bread Food Pantry through Faithbridge United Methodist Church among others. Here is a list of locations and the food services they are providing. / Read more…



  • March 26 Update From NC Senator Jeff Jackson from District 37 – Mecklenburg; About Testing, Stay at Home Orders and Unemployment

    March 26, 2020 There has been a major change in who qualifies to get a coronavirus test in North Carolina and it means a broad strategic shift in how we’re waging this public health battle. The good news is we’ve made real strides in the last ten days with private labs coming online. 90% of the testing in our state is now being done by private labs and we’re doing more testing per capita than most states. Here’s the bad news. Even with this added capacity, the CDC anticipates that the demand for testing will continue to outpace supply. So the CDC has put out new guidance on criteria for testing, and NC has adopted that new criteria. And the short version is this, direct from DHHS: “In general, patients with mild illness (defined as fever and cough without shortness of breath or difficulty breathing) do not need testing.” / Read more…



  • Toe River Health District Confirms First Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in Mitchell County

    March 26, 2020 The Toe River Health District, which encompasses Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties, has released information that at 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 25, a Mitchell County resident tested positive for novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The individual is currently in isolation, according to the TRHD. Mitchell County public health officials have already initiated an investigation and will be identifying close contacts to contain the spread of dangerous disease. To protect individual privacy and legal reasons, no further information about the case will be released, according to the TRHD. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Fourth Watauga County Resident Tests Positive for COVID-19; Also Had Travel History

    March 26, 2020 A fourth Watauga County resident has tested positive for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). This case had travel history and has been in isolation since being tested. The local public health staff have identified the close contacts, who have been in quarantine. “We recognize that another case may cause increasing concern in the community. Remember, you can help us slow the spread of this virus. Stay home to the greatest extent that you are able, especially if you are a person who is at a higher risk for severe illness. If you do become ill, call your healthcare provider or call AppHealthCare to speak with a public health staff member before going to your provider or the emergency room,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare. / Read more…



  • Watauga County Takes Additional Steps to Protect the Public with Limitations to Short-Term Rentals

    March 26, 2020 Watauga County in conjunction with the Towns of Beech Mountain, Blowing Rock, Boone and Seven Devils, will be ending short-term rentals, effective Thursday, March 26th at 12:00pm. This is a preventive measure to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and lessen its impact on our community. The County is taking precautions to ensure the health and safety of its residents during this rapidly changing situation. Effective Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 12:00 PM, all short-term rentals for property within Watauga County shall be prohibited for the duration of the County’s State of Emergency unless otherwise deemed allowable, at which time an amendment will be issued.  Short-term rentals shall include, but not be limited to: air bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, timeshare units, condos, motels, resorts, inns, guest houses, RV Parks, vacation cabins, home rentals, VRBO, hotels, or other rental programs or places where leases for less than thirty (30) days in duration. / Read more…



  • Small Businesses in Boone Face Uncertainty as Many Have Been Forced to Close


    March 25, 2020 The doors at Boone Mall are locked and around 10 businesses remained open on King Street in Downtown Boone on Wednesday as many small business owners have closed their doors during this COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. John Mena, the owner of Haircut 101, was one of those businesses that have been forced to close on an executive order from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. All salons, barbershops, massage therapists and sweepstakes parlors have to be closed by 5 p.m. this afternoon. This is in addition to previous orders that forced all restaurants and bars to close their indoor dining and drinking spaces. “It was a given, it was going to happen. Is it prudent at this time? Yes, I believe it is prudent at this time,” Mena says. “Hopefully it will enable us to get ahold on this.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Community Help Available for Providing Food to High Country Families in Need; High Country Food Hub Orders Skyrocket


    March 25, 2020 In these uncertain times, families are looking for the best ways to feed everyone in their household. For some, that may mean trips to area food banks and community support organizations. For others, it may be using the High Country Food Hub at the Agriculture Conference Center in downtown Boone to get some fresh farm-to-table food. For families in need, Boone United Methodist Church is offering hot meals and food boxes from 5-6:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Mount Vernon Baptist Church is offering food boxes from 4-5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. FaithBridge United Methodist is providing hot meals to go from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Food boxes are available for pickup on Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursdays. Families can pick up food boxes twice a month at FaithBridge. High Country United Church of Christ is offering food boxes from 10:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Mondays and from 5:15-7 p.m. on Saturdays. TheHeart Church is putting together food boxes on Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m. and The Rock Church is providing food boxes from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sundays. The Watauga County School system has put together its own food program for K-12 students in need. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Avery County Press Release and Declaration That Lodging Facilities Be Suspended Until April 18

    March 25, 2020 Effective March 25 at 5:00 pm the Avery County government, the Health Department, Emergency Management and the Sherriff’s office are requiring lodging facilities where leases or rentals are for less than one month in duration be suspended in Avery County until April 18, 2020. See press release here: / Read more…



  • Watauga Medical Center Continuing Preparations for Dealing with Potential COVID-19 Patients

    March 25, 2020 Appalachian Regional Healthcare Systems has been planning ahead for events that nobody wants to see in the High Country. Watauga Medical Center has now opened a new isolation unit to deal with any positive COVID-19 patients that may need hospital care. “We have 20 additional beds to deal with isolating COVID-19 patients. We were able to do that within just a few days. The work that went around putting that together was nothing short of miraculous,” said Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President for System Advancement at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. The new unit is in what used to be used as the Sleep Lab and is now known as the Short Stay Unit and has been established to provide ICU-level care. Some of the things that went into making this happen included creating negative pressure rooms and rechanneling HVAC pipes as necessary. All of that was completed in just a few days according to ARHS. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Social Distancing and Isolation Becoming More Important Than Ever in Watauga County

    March 25, 2020 Watauga County now has three citizens with a positive COVID-19 test and North Carolina has experienced its first death from the virus that continues to spread rapidly across the country. Since the general public is unaware of where these three patients with positive tests might have been in Boone or anywhere else, it is important to realize that being at home and following proper social distancing practices is very important to prevent the community spread of this virus. At the local level, clergy members and faith leaders in the High Country are being encouraged to communicate to community leaders and others not to gather in groups and to remind those that may be coming up from Florida and other locations to their mountain homes to stay sheltered and prevent bringing the virus to communities from outside areas. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga County Clerk of Court Office is on Duty and Will Take Appointments for Filings

    March 25, 2020 At this time all Watauga County buildings including the Courthouse are closed to the public. As required by our laws the Clerk’s office must be available for filings and other essential functions of the Courts such as emergency custody issues and domestic violence maters. Therefore, please note that the Clerk’s office is on duty and will take appointments for filings, for allowing attorneys and paralegals to check public records, and for emergency matters. Call the office at 828-268-6600 to schedule an appointment.. / Read more…



  • Keeping a Routine: Watauga County Students Learning From Home Until at Least May 15


    March 25, 2020 Students, parents, and educators across the state have had to figure out the best ways possible to keep children engaged in education as the COVID-19 coronavirus has put a stop to all in-person K-12 classes. Watauga County Schools rolled out its Remote Learning Program and has tried to bring some normalcy to the lives of students across the county. “Given the circumstances that they were dealing with, I could not be more impressed with the way that the information was organized to get to parents. Between the online resources and the notes that teachers put in bags and the bits of encouragement and outreach that they have had, it has been very impressive to see how they are trying to keep normalcy for kids that are craving normalcy,” said Boone Chamber of Commerce President David Jackson, who has two children enrolled in the county school system. Jackson’s second-grade daughter gets excited each morning for the daily classroom Zoom meeting where she gets to interact with classmates. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • North Carolina Reports First COVID-19 Associated Deaths in Cabarrus County

    March 25, 2020 The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the first COVID-19 associated deaths. A person from Cabarrus County died on March 24 from complications associated with the virus. The patient was in their late seventies and had several underlying medical conditions. A second person in their sixties, from Virginia who was traveling through North Carolina also died from COVID-19 complications. To protect the families’ privacy, no further information about these patients will be released. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones. This is a stark warning that for some people COVID-19 is a serious illness. All of us must do our part to stop the spread by staying at home as much as possible and practicing social distancing,” said Governor Roy Cooper. / Read more…



  • March 24 COVID-19 Update: AppHealthCare has Collected 62 Total Tests in Watauga County

    March 25, 2020 Each day, AppHealthCare keeps the public informed with the number of COVID-19 coronavirus tests that they have conducted and also the number of tests from outside agencies that have been reported to AppHealthCare. On Tuesday, AppHealthCare collected just one local test from Alleghany County and no new tests from Ashe or Watauga counties. So far there have been three positive COVID-19 tests in Watauga County with zero in Ashe or Alleghany. Overall, AppHealthCare has conducted 62 tests in Watauga County, five tests in Alleghany County and two tests in Ashe County.  / Read more…



  • Where North Carolina Stands in the U.S. with Number of Cases of Coronavirus

    March 25, 2020 Where North Carolina stands in the U.S. with number of cases of coronaviruses – North Carolina is number 18 with 398 cases. / Read more…



  • Visitors No Longer Allowed at Local Hospitals to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

    March 25, 2020 In order to help protect our patients, family members and health care workers from the spread of COVID-19, effective Tuesday March 24, 2020 at 7:00pm, visitors will not be allowed at Watauga Medical Center or Cannon Memorial Hospital. Exceptions will be made on a case by case basis in the following situations: / Read more…



  • Updated Recommendations Around Testing and Mitigation to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in the Community

    March 25, 2020 As this situation continues to evolve, new recommendations have been issued by Governor Cooper and the NC Department of Health & Human Services. On March 23, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 120 which closes K-12 public schools through May 15, bans mass gatherings over 50 people and closes gyms, movie theaters, sweepstakes parlors, health clubs and other similar facilities (more information here). During this challenging time of responding to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) public health crisis, following the guidance to stay home as much as possible is the most important mitigation measure the community can take. This situation is affecting each person in our community in different ways, and we are all experiencing disruptions to our normal schedule. We want to thank you for doing your part to prevent the spread of this virus. It’s going to take all of us  / Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Today’s Challenge: Making Every Morsel Count


    March 25, 2020. I remember when times were hard during my childhood and youth, even into my early years of marriage. I recall hearing my dear mother say something about “Robbing Peter to pay Paul.” I remember seeing her sit at the kitchen table with checkbook in hand at the end of every month with a worried look upon her sweet face. I didn’t have a clue. I also remember, shamefully now, hiding papers from school at the start of a new academic year that talked about free lunches. I didn’t want a free lunch. I knew the so unfair stereotype that went along with that privilege. No sir, not this girl. I made sure I took my lunch money to school every day so I could stand proudly in that cafeteria line — even if it meant that might have been with Mama’s last dollar in my pocket. (Best cafeteria memory, by the way: I especially loved Fridays when my friend, Kathy Bee, gave me her Sloppy Joe. She didn’t like those things and I loved them. Still do, and have just discovered that my good friend, Marie, makes the best ever!) And, I loved the grilled cheese and tomato soup days. Still do, to that as well — and had the best of that recently, too, for my very special birthday that now permits me early shopping hours at the grocery store. The irony of it all. But, I don’t need to get off the subject of how pride and humility need to be put in their places, at least for now. By Sherrie Norris / Read more…



  • Avery Elections Board Rules Greene’s School Board Win Stands; Ruling Could Be Appealed

    March 25, 2020 A petition to make John Greene’s candidacy and ultimate win in the 2020 Avery Board of Education race invalid has been dismissed by the county’s Board of Elections. Derrick Calloway, also a candidate for the Board of Education who lost in his bid for one of three available seats, filed a notarized complaint with the North Carolina State and the Avery County Board of Elections contending that Greene was not an Avery County resident for at least 30 days before the election, therefore making his candidacy and win invalid. Avery Board of Election members met Monday, March 16th and reconvened Tuesday, March 17th to determine if grounds existed for a public hearing concerning Calloway’s complaint. But the Elections Board members ruled that Calloway’s contestion was not persuasive that Greene’s candidacy was invalid and as a result that his win should be tossed.  By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • No Positive Coronavirus Cases in Avery, Mitchell or Yancey Counties; 88 Individuals Tested

    March 24, 2020 As of last night, March 24th, 88 individuals have been tested for Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties, according to a Facebook posting by Toe River Health District Director Diane Creek. The Toe River Health District encompasses Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties.  By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Third Watauga County Resident Tests Positive for COVID-19; This Case had Travel History and Has Been in Isolation Since Being Tested

    March 24, 2020 A third Watauga County resident has tested positive for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). This case had travel history, has been in isolation since being tested, and is improving. The local public health staff have identified the close contacts, who have been in quarantine for several days. “During this time, we want to encourage the public to continue practicing social distancing, staying home to the greatest extent possible, frequent handwashing, covering your cough or sneeze and following the recommendations issued by NC Department of Health & Human Services and the CDC. We realize this is a challenging time for all of us and it will be important for us to all do our part to slow the spread of this virus. We are rapidly adapting to the newest NC DHHS and CDC guidance,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.  / Read more…



  • Blue Ridge Energy is Offering Help with Your Bill; Offices Closed to the Public

    March 24, 2020 We know some members and customers have been impacted financially by work closings and other COVID-19 issues. We care about those we serve and want to help. Here are steps we’re taking to help during this crisis: Electric: we’ve suspended disconnections for late or non-payments. This includes members using our FlexPay (pay as you use) plan.  / Read more…



  • Governor Cooper Extends School Closure Date To May; Orders Group Limit To 50 People

    March 24, 2020 On Monday, Governor Roy Cooper ordered tighter limits on gatherings and extended school closures statewide to May 15, 2020. The order also closed some businesses that require close social interaction and limited visitors to long-term care centers. The Executive Order’s effective date will be Wednesday, March 25. “Each and every choice we are making is intended to flatten the curve and provide our health care system the ability to treat the sickest patients in the coming months. This is what we need to do to slow the spread of this illness and protect the health and safety of North Carolinians,” Governor Cooper said.  / Read more…



  • Golden LEAF Deploys $15 Million in Funding to Launch NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program

    March 24, 2020 The Golden LEAF Foundation announces $15 million in funding to launch a rapid recovery loan program in response to economic losses related to Coronavirus (COVID-19). Golden LEAF funding will support the NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program by enabling loans to be made to eligible businesses for up to $50,000 with zero interest and no payments for six months. If not repaid in six months, the loan will automatically convert to a term loan..  / Read more…



  • COVID-19 Testing Update: AppHealthCare has Collected 62 Total Tests in Watauga County, Four New Tests on Monday

    March 23, 2020 AppHealthCare released Monday’s updated COVID-19 testing totals for the counties that they serve. Watauga County had four COVID-19 tests collected today to bring the total to 62. In addition to those tests, AppHealthCare reported 91 tests collected from outside agencies for people in Watauga County. In Ashe County, AppHealthCare has collected two tests and received 21 tests from outside agencies. In Alleghany County, they have collected four tests and received eight tests from outside agencies. According to AppHealthCare, nearly all of the tests conducted have included preliminary negative flu tests. Melissa Bracey, the Director of Communications and Compliance for AppHealthCare, said that they are “looking ahead” about how they utilize “public health surveillance tools into this next phase of managing this outbreak.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Many High Country Churches Canceling Services; Some Churches Leaving Doors Open Encouraging Prayer During Tough Times


    March 23, 2020 Churches are feeling the brunt of the social distancing guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention have been preaching about for the last three weeks. Most churches across the High Country have canceled their services or have started showing their services through live video platforms. A spokesperson from Three Forks Baptist Association said “at this time we are mostly taking direction from the state convention which is sending out a lot of emails to churches about different aspects of (the coronavirus) including being open and how to serve congregations during the closures. Most of our churches are closed at this time.” Several churches including Mount Vernon Baptist Church and Laurel Springs Baptist Church have been offering live services on Facebook and messages from their pastors for their church members and the general public. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Area Grocery Stores Allowing Seniors to Shop Early in the Morning and Encourages Ordering Groceries Online

    March 23, 2020 As residents continue to brace for any potential impact from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, several High Country grocery stores are offering early-morning shopping hours for senior citizens to get their shopping done and return home as soon as possible. Seniors are the most vulnerable age group when it comes to the COVID-19 virus. At Publix, seniors can shop from 7-8 a.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ingles and Lowes Foods are using the same hours and the same two days of the week. Harris Teeter is offering senior shopping hours from 6-7 a.m. on Monday and Thursday and Walmart is offering a senior shopping hour from 6-7 a.m. on Tuesday. Grocery Stores are also using these uncertain times to promote their online shopping options to limit social distance and limit a shopper’s time in public.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • All K-12 Schools in North Carolina Will Remain Closed Through May 15, Salons and Gyms Must Close by 5 P.M. Wednesday


    March 23, 2020 Governor Roy Cooper held a briefing today at 1:00 pm to update citizens on the latest count of COVID-19 coronavirus cases and issued an executive order that will close gyms, salons, barbershops, massage therapists, sweepstakes parlors and movie theaters by 5 p.m. Wednesday. Gov. Cooper said that 8,438 people in the state have been tested with 297 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 45 counties across the state. Testing will continue at earnest with approximately 10,000 additional tests waiting to be run. This latest executive order also pushed the date further out for the earliest date for children to return to schools. All K-12 schools will be closed for in-person instruction until May 15 at the earliest. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Mast Store to Temporarily Close Doors to Public Access But Still Providing Curbside PickUp Orders

    March 23, 2020 General stores have always been there for their communities, and we are trying very hard to uphold those traditions. For the safety of our employees and communities, Mast Store has decided to temporarily close our doors to public access, but we are maintaining a small staff to answer phones and fulfill CURBSIDE PICKUP orders. The following information includes modifications in our operating schedules, services, etc.  / Read more…



  • Unemployment Claims Rising Across the State; Local Career Center Can Help Answer Any Questions You May Have

    March 23, 2020 Many people are scrambling to file unemployment claims after numerous businesses across the state have been forced to close down and lay people off over the last week. People were visiting the unemployment claims website at such a high rate that the website continues to crash. “The last number we had was 22,000 claims filed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday last week across North Carolina. January is normally their busiest month and they processed 17,000 the whole month,” said Anita Lowe, the career center manager in Boone. There are two ways to apply for unemployment benefits. You can apply by phone at 888-737-0259 or apply online at des.nc.gov. “The website has been extremely busy and overrun, but they have worked on that and it seems to be working better this morning,” Lowe said.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga County Buildings Now Closed to the Public; Contact Information for County Offices Included Here

    March 23, 2020 Watauga County has elected to close all of its county buildings to the public effective today with the hope of limiting any potential spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. According to a memo sent out by Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque, all county departments and operations will continue to work normal hours and there will be staff members to speak to by email, telephone or by appointment if necessary. All essential services will continue to operate such as the sheriff’s office, 911 call center, EMS, and sanitation. This action has been taken to protect the health and welfare of our employees and residents of Watauga County and to encourage social distancing. Contact information for county and state agencies are included below.  / Read more…



  • Chetola Announces Temporary Closure on Sunday Due to COVID-19

    March 23, 2020 Due to the rapidly evolving circumstances with the spread of COVID-19, and in accordance with all federal and state guidance, Chetola Resort is temporarily closed as of 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 22. “The wellness, safety and health of our guests, staff, and local community have always been our top priority, and we believe this decision is in the best interest of all parties involved,” said owner Kent Tarbutton. “This was an extremely difficult decision; however, we must do our part to control the spread of COVID-19, and to protect our entire Chetola family.” The management team will continue monitoring the current situation and issue updates on the resort’s website, www.Chetola.com, as regularly as possible.  / Read more…



  • Weekend Update From NC Senator Jeff Jackson from District 37 – Mecklenburg, About Testing

    March 22, 2020 As of 3/21 at 4:00 p.m., we now have 246 positive cases in NC. That’s an increase of 109 cases from yesterday – a nearly 80% increase in one day. BUT we also had a 60% increase in testing yesterday, from 3242 to 5,276 tests conducted (that includes our state lab and non-state sources like hospitals and commercial labs). That tells us three things:. / Read more…



  • People Still Enjoying the Outdoors in Blowing Rock; Streets Mostly Empty of Parked Cars and Traffic


    March 20, 2020 It was a strange sight with only a handful of cars here and there parked along Main Street in Blowing Rock. Several stores remained open this week, though unsure of what the future will hold, especially after local restaurants and bars had to close their seating areas. “I think this week has been a transitional sort of week. I hear more people will be closed next week than this week,” said Charles Hardin, President/CEO of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. “Decisions being made in other places are really affecting what we can do.” One thing that Blowing Rock has always been famous for is its numerous outdoor activities. Memorial Park is still open, the Blue Ridge Parkway is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Main Street and people are taking advantage of warmer temperatures by just getting out and walking. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • AppHealthCare Releases Information That There Have Been 5 COVID-19 Tests Administered Today for Watauga; 60 To Date from Outside Agencies

    March 20, 2020 The number of COVID-19 tests administered by AppHealthCare for today, March 20th, is 5 for Watauga. The number collected to date by AppHealthCare is 58 in Watauga County. The number reported to AppHealthCare from outside agencies to date is 60 for Watauga. This information will be shared daily, Monday through Friday, by 5pm each day. As a reminder, a positive case count will be updated on our website (www.AppHealthCare.com) and the public will be notified. This information comes from Melissa Bracey, Director of Communications & Compliance, AppHealthCare, Appalachian District Health Department. / Read more…



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