High Country Press

Published Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm
  • 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…



  • LETTERS / Compassion is the Key

    March 23, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY DAVID JACKSON / Dear Readers, I’m not sure if there are enough words in our language to accurately describe what we have experienced as a community over these past days. A month ago, we were locked into a familiar pattern that saw Thursday’s snow lead to Saturday’s skiers. Our hotels and restaurants were filled with visitors and we were optimistic that a strong fall and winter was going to keep early 2020 moving in a positive economic direction. Fast forward to today and the surroundings and circumstances we knew as the bedrocks of our community became covered in uncertainty. Every day has birthed a new challenge to overcome. As the days pass, these challenges manifest into conversations we never thought we’d have with our families, friends, and co-workers. While some communities have the economic diversity to absorb a major blow to certain sectors, our area depends on so many of the things that have been ripped from us under these circumstances. The displacement of our students, visitors, and unfortunately, too many faces of a workforce that serve as they backbone to our unique, thriving businesses, has left a void.  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…



  • Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s COVID-19 Screening Working Well So Far

    March 20, 2020. The initial program by Appalachian Regional Healthcare System to begin screening for the COVID-19 coronavirus has been functioning as well as could be hoped at this point. “The testing facilities are in place and they have been successful and have been achieving what we set out for them to do,” said Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President for System Advancement at ARHS. Patients who are sick and believe they might have COVID-19 symptoms can begin the process for getting tested by an initial online screening provided by RelyMD. RelyMD features board-certified physician visits through your computer, laptop or cell phone. ARHS employees have been using RelyMD for telehealth services for the last two years and have found it to be a unique alternative for people that cannot visit a doctor’s office. “RelyMD was a great idea and it’s working. We don’t have a line of people yet which I think is a blessing because we’ve needed a few days to make sure we were operationalizing in a way that is convenient and safe and so far so good,” said Hudspeth.By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Appalachian State University’s Chancellor Sheri Everts’ Message on What Monday Will Look Like

    March 20, 2020 First, my sincere thanks to each of you who has stepped up these past few weeks as we adjust to rapidly developing, unprecedented challenges. Faculty and staff are working long hours to transition to alternative course delivery for our students. We are keenly focused always on the health and safety of our campus community and the fulfillment of our academic mission. For many of us, the “Appalachian Experience” is firmly grounded in a sense of place. We are all saddened by our empty classrooms and sunny days with no hammocks and slacklines, and while we are fortunate to have technology to keep us connected, Zoom meetings and Panopto just aren’t the same.  / Read more…



  • App State Announces Spring 2020 Commencement Will Be Virtual; Details to Come

    March 20, 2020 Appalachian State University’s Chancellor Sheri Everts announced today the university’s Spring 2020 Commencement will be held virtually. May graduates will have the option to participate in December 2020 Commencement. In an announcement to campus, Everts said “There are many details to work out, but please know my leadership team and I are committed to preserving, to the greatest extent possible, the essence of the celebrations and milestones of the final weeks of the Spring semester, including Commencement.” In her announcement Everts also stated, “On Monday, Appalachian will begin a new normal,” and provided updates pertaining to the university’s adjustments in light of the Coronavirus and its disease COVID-19. Students will begin studies online and through alternative course delivery methods on Monday, March 23  / Read more…



  • Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order Allows for Additional Unemployment Benefits During Coronavirus Pandemic Explained Here

    March 20, 2020 With the uncertainty that continues to surround businesses during this coronavirus pandemic, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order that will hopefully make it easier for many affected employees to receive unemployment benefits. The executive order suspended the one-week waiting period for benefits and will not require people to look for another job to obtain benefits. Two of the most significant changes are that workers who may not be unemployed but did have some of their hours cut back can receive benefits and employers will not be held responsible for unemployment payments due to the virus outbreak throughout North Carolina. “We know this will be a hardship on owners, on customers, and on workers involved. We know this will cost people jobs, but we are doing all we can to alleviate problems however we can. We will work tirelessly and make the very best decisions we can,” said Governor Cooper in a statement announcing the changes to unemployment benefits. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Copy of Avery County’s State of Emergency Declaration Released Friday Afternoon

    March 20, 2020 Please find attached the SOE for Avery county. Thank you all for your support through this trying time. Remember Together We Are Avery County. Phillip Barrier Avery County Manager  / Read more…



  • Income Tax Filing Deadline Extended from April 15 to July 15

    March 20, 2020 For many people trying to figure out how to make time to file their income taxes while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, at least one burden was lifted off their shoulders today. In an announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday morning, the federal income tax filing deadline has been extended our three months with no penalty or accrued interest during that time. According to data provided by the Internal Revenue Service, a total of 59.2 million refunds had already been issued this tax season and 76.2 million individual tax returns had been received. Tax refund checks have averaged $2,973. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • LETTERS / Ensemble Stage Looks to Their 2020 Season With a Message of Hope

    March 20, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY GARY SMITH / Dear Editor, First let’s talk about that great big elephant in the room. Actually, I’ll start by not referring to it as an elephant. Elephants are awesome and one of the world’s most intelligent and majestic creatures. Therefore, I won’t disparage them by creating any association between them and what we all are now facing. However, something I want everyone to keep in mind, there is nothing stronger than the human spirit, there is nothing stronger than our will to persevere, and there is nothing stronger than the insanely creative power of our imagination. Even Einstein realized that when he said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”. Read more…



  • Senator Richard Burr Sells Off $1.7 Million in Stocks After Being Briefed on Potential Impact of COVID-19 Coronavirus


    March 20, 2020 United States Senator and former U.S. House District 5 Representative Richard Burr is on the hot seat after news broke that he sold off $1.7 million in stocks after receiving briefings about the potential impact that the coronavirus was going to have on the United States economy. The story was first reported by NPR and included audio recordings of Sen. Burr speaking at a luncheon at the Capitol Hill Club. He cautioned people at the luncheon about the dire circumstances of the spread of the virus and how bad things could get. However, he made no such mention of any of these warnings in an op-ed featured on FOX News. Sen. Burr is the chairman of the Senate Intelligent Committee and was instrumental in the writing of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which details how the federal government would respond to such pandemics. Sen. Burr released a statement on Twitter Friday morning in response to the recent financial disclosure of his stock selloff. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • High Country Real Estate Sales Up 20 Percent Through First Two Months of 2020


    March 20, 2020 Realtor home sales were up 20 percent through the first two months of 2020, according to the latest real estate report from the High Country Association of Realtors. Sales remain strong midway through March, with about 100 listings already sold in the region. This as the nation reacts to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. February historically has been one of the quieter months of the year. Yet Realtors still managed to sell more homes then than in any February since 2006. That’s according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which records sales activity by Realtors active in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties dating back to 2006. Realtors sold 170 multi- and single-family homes worth $50.45 million in February. That represented a 12 percent increase from February 2019, when 149 homes worth $52.32 million were sold. The median sold price – the price at which half of all listings sold either above or below – last month was $244,500. The average sold price – all sales divided by properties sold – was $296,787. / Read more…



  • Hospitality House Has Dedicated Webpage for Official Statements; And Ways Public Can Help

    March 20, 2020 Due to the swift, unprecedented changes happening daily – and sometimes multiple times a day – Hospitality House has set up a dedicated webpage to provide all official statements, operational updates; as well as ways the public can help during the novel coronavirus (COVID – 19) pandemic. Please click Read More for website link. / Read more…



  • Spring Arrives and Brings Warm Weather and Some Sunshine to the High Country

    March 20, 2020 Thursday marked the first day of spring and with it some much-needed sunshine and some nice, warm spring temperatures across the area. Temperatures jumped into the upper 60s in most parts of the High Country on Thursday and is heading in the same direction for Friday with a generous amount of sunshine Friday morning and early Friday afternoon before rain showers return to the forecast Friday evening and the remainder of the weekend. Temperatures will also drop back into the 50s and even upper 40s. This year, the first day of spring is much earlier than normal. In fact, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, March 19 is the earliest arrival of the spring equinox in 124 years. The last time the first day of spring was not on March 20 or March 21 was in 1896. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Boone Chamber Shares Information on SBA Disaster Loans for NC Small Businesses

    March 20, 2020 On March 13th, Governor Cooper requested that the Small Business Administration issue a disaster declaration in all counties in North Carolina to make SBA disaster assistance loans available to North Carolina’s small business owners dealing with the economic difficulties created by COVID-19. SBA approved the Governor’s request late Wednesday afternoon, issuing a disaster declaration for all 100 North Carolina counties. Below are details regarding the process that small businesses will follow to apply for a disaster loan through SBA, as well as answers to frequently asked questions about the loans. / Read more…



  • LifeStore Bank and Insurance Announce Closures of Bank Lobbies; New Alternate Plans in Place

    March 20, 2020 LifeStore Bank and Insurance takes the safety of our employees, customers and the communities we serve very seriously and have made the decision to temporarily limit lobby access for all LifeStore Bank and Insurance locations to appointment only beginning Friday, March 20, 2020. The drive thru is open at the following locations: 1441 Mt. Jefferson Road, West Jefferson; 840 East Main Street, Jefferson and 1675 Blowing Rock Road in Boone. / Read more…



  • Tweetsie Railroad Is Postponing Park Opening

    March 20, 2020 Tweetsie Railroad is postponing its park opening date to adhere to the current recommendations from the CDC and the State of North Carolina. We will continue to monitor the situation and guidance from public health professionals to determine when the park will open. Visit www.tweetsie.com for the most current information. / Read more…



  • Rep. Ray Russell’s March 19th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

    March 20, 2020 Thursday, the first instance of “community spread” of coronavirus within North Carolina was reported. A person in Wilson County tested positive who had no known contact with any person with the virus. All previous cases could be traced to a known contact with someone with the virus or from travel outside the country. We knew this would happen eventually, but this event signals a new milestone in the spread of the disease and in how public health professionals will combat it. Across the United States, as of Thursday afternoon, March 19, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is 13,060. Of those, 165 people have died. The rate of growth in confirmed cases and death is increasing. As of Thursday afternoon, March 19, North Carolina has 126 cases of coronavirus. The increase on Thursday is an alarming 72%. Thankfully, no one in North Carolina has died from coronavirus. / Read more…



  • U.S. Residents Express High Anxiety About Coronavirus, Split on National Response in Survey

    March 19, 2020 A new national survey by the Elon University Poll has found high levels of anxiety about the personal and financial impact from the novel coronavirus 2019, known at COVID-19, with uncertainty about the possible toll of the virus upon the U.S. population. The population is divided over whether leaders are exaggerating or downplaying the threat from COVID-19 and whether health officials have an accurate idea of the scale of the outbreak nationally. / Read more…



  • Watauga Library Closed to Public; Curbside and Online Services Will Be Available

    March 19, 2020 Appalachian Regional Library, with public libraries in Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes Counties, is closed to the public due to the COVID 19 situation, beginning Wednesday, March 18, through at least Monday, March 30. We are acting out of an abundance of caution both for our staff and for the library users who come into our buildings. We are constantly assessing the ongoing situation with the hope of opening to the public again as soon as safely possible. Below is a list of services currently offered at some of our libraries. / Read more…



  • Justice Department Issues Warnings for Covid-19 Scams, Urging the Public to Remain Vigilant

    March 19, 2020 Today, U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray and the FBI issued a warning, urging the public to remain vigilant against COVID-19 scams. “I encourage everyone to be on heightened alert about potential scams related to COVID- 19,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “At the request of the United States Attorney General, I have directed federal prosecutors in my office to prioritize the detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct related to COVID-19. We will not allow scammers to profit from this outbreak.” Possible types of COVID-19 scams are: / Read more…



  • Avery Sheriff’s Department to Assist with Delivery of Essential Items for Elderly or Sick

    March 19, 2020 Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye announced on Wednesday, March 18th, that the Sheriff’s Department will assist with delivering groceries, prescriptions and other items in the county during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Sheriff released the following statements about the initiative on social media: “While many public agencies are lessening services, the Avery County Sheriff’s Office is going to try to increase our service to our county. Starting tomorrow (Thursday, March 19) from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, if you are elderly or have an immunity issue, if you call a local grocery store, local pharmacy or local restaurant and pay your bill over the phone, we (sheriff’s department personnel) will pick up your groceries, medication or meals and deliver them to your front door. This will take coordination, so please call the store, pharmacy or restaurant first, then call us knowing that we will try to respond within an hour of notificationBy Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • High Country United Way to Provide Information Services & Relief Fund

    March 19, 2020 Governor Roy Cooper has announced that 2-1-1 is the number to call for assistance and resources related to the COVID-19 coronavirus.   NC 2-1-1 is an information and referral service, operated by United Way of North Carolina, where individuals can obtain free and confidential information on health and human service resources within the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Resources are available in most languages. Locally, High Country United Way is proud to provide funding and support to bring 2-1-1 to Avery, Watauga, Mitchell, and Ashe Counties. “NC 2-1-1 is an important resource for families in our community who may experience a crisis.  We anticipate increased needs across the community, and support for 2-1-1 is just one of the ways we are working to assist our community” said Marti Phillips, High Country United Way Executive Director. / Read more…



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