ASHE COUNTY — According to AppHealthCare, there are 49 active cases of COVID-19 in Ashe County as of noon, Oct. 13, with a further 103 individuals being monitored.

Ashe has seen six deaths linked to COVID-19. In Watauga County, 15 deaths have been linked to COVID-19. Across the state, there have been 3,816 deaths, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

North Carolina has 234,481 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) as of noon on Tuesday, Oct. 13, according to the NCDHHS. This is more than 13,000 more cases than the same time a week earlier.

According to data presented at the Ashe County Board of Education meeting Sept. 24, 12 students in the Ashe County School District had tested positive by that point, with eight being at Westwood Elementary.

According to the NCDHHS weekly update of outbreaks in congregate living settings, nine staff members and 15 residents have tested positive at Forest Ridge Assisted Living as of Oct. 9.

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 Oct. 13 at noon, there were 389 total confirmed cases for Ashe, an additional 52 cases in one week. There have been 1,591 confirmed cases in Watauga County, with 218 active, and 252 confirmed cases in Alleghany County, with 7 active, according to AppHealthCare.

North Carolina moved into Phase 3 of the statewide reopening plan beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2.

Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7 percent occupancy for spectators with other safety protocols, Gov. Roy Cooper said during a press briefing in Raleigh. Smaller outdoor entertainment venues may operate outdoors at 30 percent of outdoor capacity or 100 guests, whichever is less, he said.

Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30 percent of capacity, or 100 seated guests, whichever is less. Bars may operate outdoors only at 30 percent of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less. Outdoor amusement parks may open at 30 percent occupancy.

The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, Cooper noted. The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will also be extended.

The statewide mask mandate for everyone over the age of 5 remains in effect, and adults over 65 and those with health risks are still advised to stay home as much as possible, the governor said.

Phase 3 will be effective through Friday, Oct. 23. Cooper said the phase is currently limited to three weeks due to concerns about the potential for increased viral spread as the state experiences cooler fall weather.

Government

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

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.

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. All parks have since reopened with various rules and regulations reflecting the state’s status.

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, however closed again Friday, Oct. 9 after the staff was exposed to a COVID-19 case. According to Arts Council Executive Director Jeff Fissel, the Arts Council will be closed until further notice, once every staff member has gone through w=quarantine and the building has been given a deep cleaning.

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. The NCHSAA has since released a revised sports calendar for the 2020-21 school year, with no sports starting until November.

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.

On Sept. 17, Cooper announced school districts will be allowed to operate under Plan A for K-5 students, allowing schools to reopen without capacity limits effective Oct. 5, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

At the Ashe County Board of Education meeting Sept. 24, the board voted 5-0 for K-5 Ashe County Schools to operate under Plan A beginning Monday, Oct. 19.

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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