ASHE COUNTY — According to AppHealthCare, there are nine active cases of COVID-19 in Ashe County as of noon, Sept. 15, with a further 43 individuals being monitored.

A second death linked to COVID-19 was confirmed in Ashe Aug. 30, the first since May 26, according to AppHealthCare. In Watauga County, four deaths have been linked to COVID-19.

Toe River Health District announced Thursday, Sept. 3 the first death linked to COVID-19 in Avery County. Across the state, there have been 3,111 deaths, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

North Carolina has 186,887 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) as of noon on Tuesday, Sept. 15, according to the NCDHHS. This is more than 8,000 more cases than the same time a week earlier.

According to the NCDHHS weekly update of outbreaks in congregeate living settings, two residents of Margate Health and Rehab have active cases, two staff members and two residents have tested positive at the RHA Group Home and nine staff members have tested positive at a location on East Healing Springs Road in Crumpler as of Sept. 11.

The same day, NCDHHS reported an ongoing cluster at Mt. Jefferson Child Development Center, with the update listing two staff members and eight children.

As of Sept. 15 at noon, there were 230 total confirmed cases for Ashe, an additional 21 cases in one week. There have been 610 confirmed cases in Watauga County, with 78 active, and 210 confirmed cases in Alleghany County, with five active, according to AppHealthCare.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Sept. 1 announced that North Carolina would move into “Safer at Home Phase 2.5,” easing COVID-19 restrictions on more types of businesses and increasing the limits for gatherings.

The new phase began at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, and expires at 5 p.m. on Oct. 2 unless extended or modified. Limits on mass gatherings will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, Cooper said. Gyms and other indoor exercise facilities — such as yoga studios, martial arts and rock climbing, as well as skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor basketball and volleyball — can open at 30 percent capacity.

Playgrounds will be allowed to open, and museums and aquariums can open at 50 percent capacity. The age requirement for mask wearing will include children down to age 5.

Facial coverings are required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing and agriculture settings.

Exceptions are made for people with medical conditions and children younger than 11, those at home and people walking or otherwise exercising outside when not within six feet of others.’

Government

Ashe County declared a state of emergency March 22, which was followed by the towns of West Jefferson, Jefferson and Lansing.

An amendment banning short-term rentals in the county expired May 8, and was not extended.

The Ashe County Courthouse is observing normal business hours, but residents are encouraged to take advantage of online resources or to call the needed office. Upon entry to the courthouse, each visitor is required to wear a mask and have their temperature checked.

West Jefferson Town Hall reopened Tuesday, June 2, following approval from the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen the night before.

At the Jefferson Board of Aldermen meeting March 16, the board voted unanimously to close Jefferson Town Hall to the public. Jefferson Town Hall has since reopened.

According to then-Lansing Town Clerk Marcy Little, Lansing Town Hall reopened July 26. There is a limit of two people at a given time in the building.

Healthcare

On March 12, Ashe Memorial Hospital’s expanded visitor restrictions went into effect. The hospital asks that those who are not members of a patient’s immediate family refrain from visiting unless absolutely necessary, regardless of the visitor’s age or health status.

Local assisted living centers Margate Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ashe Assisted Living and Forest Ridge Assisted Living have enforced visitation restrictions to protect residents from possible exposure to COVID-19.

Recreation and Entertainment

The N.C. State Parks announced Elk Knob State Park, Grandfather Mountain State Park, New River State Park and Mount Jefferson State Natural Area are closed as of March 27. Grandfather Mountain announced it would reopen in a limited capacity May 15, with all ticket sales moving online.

Also closing are recreation facilities at recreation sites in the National Forests in N.C. were temporarily shut down. The closures include picnic pavilions, shooting ranges and all restrooms.

These shutdowns are in addition to previous announcements about developed campgrounds, several large developed day use areas, visitor centers and Off-Highway Vehicle trail systems, which remain temporarily shut down.

The Ashe County Public Library re-opened Monday, June 15, with limited hours, services and building capacity. The Ashe County Public Library’s hours of operation will be Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The first hour of service each day is currently being reserved for people most at risk of dying from COVID-19.

The library will still be offering curbside pickup options and there will be no in-person programs or meetings. For more information about Ashe County Public Library, visit the website at www.arlibrary.org/ashe or call (336) 846-2041.

The Ashe County Arts Council re-opened the Arts Center Thursday, June 25. The Arts Council announced June 16 that the Ashe County Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention and the 2020 Ashe County Studio Tour were canceled. The Ashe County Little Theatre’s 2020 season has also been cancelled.

The Florence Thomas Art School reopened on June 2. The art school has announced plans for events, classes and workshops.

Ashe County Park reopened May 11, and all facilities including bathrooms, playgrounds, courts, skate park and shelters will remain closed.

The NCHSAA announced it would allow the start of summer activities on June 11. Ashe County High School began off-season sessions July 6.

Family Central’s park office is closed but staff can be contacted at (336) 982-6185 or by email at kevinanderson@ashecountygov.com. The gym and workout room at Family Central will be closed until further notice.

Emergency Services

At the Ashe County Detention Center, new inmates are being quarantined for anywhere from 15 to 30 days upon arrival. Air filters have been added in between the Detention Center’s four pods, hopefully keeping any disease contained should it arrive.

Ashe County Sheriff’s Office deputies are now doing as much as they can remotely, and have also been instructed to avoid entering confined spaces, instead opting to conduct business outside. Sheriff Phil Howell said the ACSO still wants people to know they are in the community.

According to Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill, citizens can call (866) 462-3821 for more information.

Education

It was announced July 14 that the state would have a school year following Plan B, with Ashe County Schools stating they planned to alternate students’ days in the classroom when the year begins, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

Students went back to school for the first time since March on Aug. 17.

For continued updates and more information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.ashepostandtimes.com.

Bailey Little contributed reporting to this story.

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