• 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…



  • Horton Hotel Staying in Touch with Fans and Followers Through Social Media #MayWeBeWell Campaign


    May 15, 2020 Local businesses have had to face some unprecedented times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsure of what the future holds, the Horton Hotel in downtown Boone made the most of some of their downtime by staying connected with their fans on Facebook and Instagram through their #MayWeBeWell project. A calendar on the Horton Hotel’s social media pages lists an activity for people to do each day during the month of May to promote health and wellness. “I felt like it was an appropriate time to highlight all the different areas of wellness. There are so many different areas of your life where wellness can be nurtured and focused in on. I thought why not spend a month focusing on it and giving people little, easy things to do from home if they want,” said Horton Hotel co-owner Denise Lovin. “During the entire pandemic, the Horton has tried to be a light of positivity, a space in the social media world where people can get a little distraction from what’s going on and focus on the silver linings and the happy things.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Aho Road Bridge Project Begins with Completion Date Extending into the Winter Months


    May 15, 2020 One of the most recent NCDOT road projects underway in Watauga County is the bridge replacement on Aho Road between Boone and Blowing Rock. Contractors began work on April 21 and the bridge is part of a five-bridge construction project by Summers Taylor Inc. of Elizabethton, Tennessee. Summer Taylor Inc. was awarded the contract with a bid of $4,461,850 to replace five bridges in Watauga and Avery County. The Aho Road Bridge is the final bridge in the project. According to Ivan Dishman, the NCDOT District Engineer in Boone, the Aho Road Bridge planned to be built in two phases that would keep a single lane of traffic open while the project was ongoing. The initial completion date was expected to be 270 days. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Avery Among NC Counties with School Buses Serving as Wi-Fi Hot Spots for Remote Learning

    May 15, 2020 According to Dennis Brown, Director of Human Resources for Avery County Schools, the county did not get any additional buses installed with the Wi-Fi devices. Instead, Avery received four Internet connection devices to be installed on as many buses. Brown said the devices have yet to be installed and it will have to be determined what locations in the county the Internet apparatuses can connect with service as mountain areas such as are in Avery County deflects some Internet services. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Best Western Hotel in Banner Elk Opens Back Up Under New Guideline Restrictions with Safety and Cleaning at the Forefront


    May 15, 2020 Things will probably look a little different if you are planning on traveling and checking into a hotel in the near future. At the Best Western Hotel in Banner Elk, workers are doing everything they can to protect themselves and overnight guests and have been doing so since so many things changed two months ago due to COVID-19. “In late March, we had to close to non-essential guests. They had to provide a letter from their employer that they were doing essential work in the county. It reduced our occupancy dramatically,” said hotel manager Shannon Maness. Some nights as few as three rooms were booked for essential workers. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Daniel Boone Native Gardens to Cancel Annual Native Plant Sale But Will Have Saturday Sales By Individual Vendors Starting This Weekend


    May 15, 2020 The Daniel Boone Native Gardens had to cancel its annual native plant sale due to the pandemic, but we are attempting to provide native plant buying opportunities by inviting our vendors to set up individually on specific Saturdays at the DBNG parking area. The Annual Plant Sale has been “revised” due to Covid. Instead of all the vendors coming on one Saturday, we will have one plant vendor in our parking places outside the Gardens on several Saturdays. / Read more…



  • The Boone Town Council Will Schedule Their Review of Local COVID-19 Restrictions for the May 21st Meeting Instead of May 19th Meeting

    May 15, 2020 The Boone Town Council is scheduled to meet at 6 PM on May 19, 2020 and May 21, 2020 for the Council’s regularly scheduled Town Council meetings. On May 19, 2020 the Watauga County Commission is also scheduled to meet at 5:30 PM. Due to both elected bodies having agenda items to discuss COVID-19, the Boone Town Council will schedule their review of local COVID-19 restrictions for the May 21, 2020 meeting. This agenda adjustment will give the opportunity for all interested parties to address both the Watauga County Commission and the Boone Town Council, it will allow Health Department officials to attend both meetings, and it will allow the Boone Town Council to consider any actions taken by the Watauga County Commission into consideration during town deliberations. / Read more…



  • AppHealthCare Has Informed App State that 16 Subcontracted Workers Have Tested Positive

    May 14, 2020 Appalachian District Health Department (AppHealthCare) has informed Appalachian State University leadership that it has confirmed 16 subcontracted workers who are non-Watauga County residents have tested positive for COVID-19. AppHealthCare identified a small number of university employees with potential exposure. One tested positive – this case was reported by the university and AppHealthCare on May 7. The others have tested negative. There is no direct risk to the university community related to these cases. The contractor has engaged in a thorough cleaning at the job site and workers will remain off campus until cleared by public health to return. / Read more…



  • WHS to Hold “Drive-Through” Graduation Ceremony, Students to Receive Diploma on Outdoor Stage on School Campus on May 30th


    May 14, 2020 In accordance with state-mandated restrictions on large gatherings, Watauga High School plans to hold an outdoors “drive-through” graduation ceremony on Saturday, May, 30 at the school. The ceremony will include many of the aspects of a traditional ceremony while taking precautions to protect the health and safety of the students. Weather permitting, the ceremony will be held outdoors on the WHS campus on an elevated stage. Graduates and their families will drive onto campus and be routed around the building to the outdoors stage. Seniors will exit their vehicles and walk across the stage in their caps and gowns to receive their diploma. When the senior is on stage, families will have an opportunity to take photos and celebrate their student’s achievement. / Read more…



  • Erin Ellington Named WCS Teacher of the Year With a Surprise Visit at Her Home


    May 14, 2020 Mabel and Parkway School Music teacher Erin Ellington was named Watauga County Schools district-wide Teacher of the Year on May 14 in a surprise — and appropriately socially distanced — visit to her home. Ellington was presented the award on her front porch by Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott, and was joined by her family, neighbors, WCS Central Services staff and outgoing Teacher of the Year Mitchell Wright who cheered Ellington on from her front yard. / Read more…



  • WCS Names Benjamin Brown, Agriculture Teacher at Mabel and Cove Creek Schools Rookie Teacher of the Year


    May 14, 2020 Benjamin Brown, agriculture teacher at Mabel and Cove Creek Schools, has been named Watauga County Schools Rookie Teacher of the Year. The newest addition to WCS’ yearly teacher recognitions, Rookie Teacher of the Year is awarded to a teacher in his or her first year teaching full time. Candidates are nominated  by Principals, Assistant Principals, Central Office Directors and first year teacher mentors for their outstanding work ethic, dedication and skill. / Read more…



  • Avery County High School to Hold Special Graduation Ceremonies at Grandfather Mountain’s McRae Meadows on Friday, May 29th

    May 14, 2020 Avery High’s graduation process this year will be to hold drive-thru graduation ceremonies. They will be held on the morning of Friday, May 29th with a rain date for Saturday morning, May 30th at picturesque MacRae Meadows near Grandfather Mountain. The exact starting time of graduation ceremonies will soon be announced. “We will have a most creative way in holding ceremonies to honor the hard work and the transition of our Avery High graduating seniors to the next stage of their lives with the drive-thru,” said Dr. Dan Brigman, superintendent of Avery County Schools. The families of the 112 graduating seniors will have the opportunity to view the ceremonies from their vehicles By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Beech Mountain Resort Set to Open for Summer Season on Friday, June 5


    May 14, 2020 Beech Mountain Resort opens for the summer season on Friday, June 5, offering scenic lift rides, mountain biking, hiking and disc golf. The resort will also have take-out food and beverage service that can be enjoyed at several outdoor locations on property. The resort will operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Enhanced sanitation practices, social distancing policies and other safety measures will be implemented to follow state and local health guidelines. / Read more…



  • Rock United Relief Fund Tops $100,000 in Donations for Blowing Rock Businesses


    May 14, 2020 The Village Foundation of Blowing Rock recently announced that the Rock United Relief Fund has exceeded $107,094 in donations and that it has received and reviewed 44 grant requests from small businesses in Blowing Rock.  The specially formed Grants Review Committee (Tim Hilton, chair, Charlie Sellers, J B Lawrence, Carol Dabbs and Tim Gupton) has approved, to date, grant requests totaling $97,250.   Tim Hilton, speaking for the Grants Review Committee, stated that “this process has been both a humbling experience and a true joy to be able to help so many local businesses”. / Read more…



  • Avery Moves Virtual Walk/Run/Bike/MOVE! – Fundraising Event for this Saturday


    May 14, 2020 Avery Moves! is a Virtual Race (Walk, Run, Bike, Move) from your home or outdoors! Proceeds will be split evenly to benefit these five organizations that are meeting critical needs in Avery County in response to CoVID19, We bet one of them has made an impact on you personally! Avery County Schools, Feeding Avery Families, Cannon Memorial Hospital, Avery County Senior Center, Williams YMCA of Avery County. / Read more…



  • For the Summer, Hunger and Health Coalition Announces “Plant a Row For the Hungry”

    May 14, 2020 Are you looking for a fun and easy way to give back to your community? With Spring finally here, the Hunger and Health Coalition of Boone has announced an exciting new program that allows local farmers, experienced gardeners, and first-time planters the opportunity to give back to our community through a simple act: Planting A Row for the Hungry. / Read more…



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