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North Carolina lowers indoor gathering limit to 10 to slow spread of COVID-19

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced Nov. 10 that North Carolina’s indoor mass gathering limit will be lowered to 10 people in an effort to drive down North Carolina’s key COVID-19 metrics. Executive Order 176 went into effect on Friday, Nov. 13, and will be in place through Friday, Dec. 4.

“This reduction in our indoor gathering limit aims to slow the spread and bring down our numbers,” Cooper said. “It also sends a serious signal to families, friends and neighbors across our state. Success in slowing the spread will help our businesses.”

As the weather gets colder, more people will be gathering indoors. Science has shown that indoor gatherings increase risk of transmission of COVID-19, and this Executive Order seeks to limit indoor gatherings that could rapidly and dangerously spread the virus, the governor’s office said in a press release. The order does not change the reduced capacity limits for certain businesses that have already been laid out.

Cooper and NC DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen also underscored the need for people to wear a mask anytime they gather with people outside of their immediate household. As the holiday season approaches, NCDHHS released health guidance to help people celebrate as safely as possible without spreading the virus.

“Let’s keep our friends, family, and loved ones safe this holiday season. If you are going to travel or get together, plan ahead to reduce the risk to your family and friends,” Cohen said. “Remember, it’s not how well you know someone when it comes to wearing a mask. If they don’t live with you, get behind the mask.“

Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends:

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness Surveillance Over 14 days

North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is decreasing but still elevated.

Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days

·North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is increasing.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days

North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is level but above 5 percent.

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days

North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is level but high.

In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.


Testing capacity is high.

Tracing Capability

The state is continuing to hire contact tracers to bolster the efforts of local health departments. There have been almost 350,000 downloads of the exposure notification app, SlowCOVIDNC.

Personal Protective Equipment

North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.

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Ashe County celebrates Veteran's Day

JEFFERSON — Despite the rain on the morning of Nov. 11, veterans and their families, as well as community members, attended the county’s Veteran Day Ceremony at the entrance of Ashe County Courthouse.

U.S. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx was present and expressed her gratitude for veterans as well as those currently enlisted.

“I thank you for being willing to serve and I ask you to pray hard for our country right now, we’re in a tough time,” Foxx said. “And I believe our freedoms are being threatened, tremendously, right now. So we have to work very hard at the local, state and national level to do everything we can to preserve those freedoms and everybody can do something.”

Ashe County Public Library librarian Suzanne Moore addressed the crowd to share information about the library’s Veteran History Project.

Since 2018, the library’s Veterans History Project has been preserving the stories of their community’s service members. The project has led to the publication of two volumes of work, with a third volume recently released.

It has been a community effort composed of help from local veterans organizations, community members and the local high school JROTC has seen an overwhelming amount of success with no shortage of stories. ACPL staff has also contributed great effort into the project and the now available digital archive.

Further information about the project as well as a digital archive of the stories that have been collected is available at www.arlibrary.libguides.com/ashecountyvhp. The two previous volumes can also be accessed and all veteran profiles are available and are sorted by branches and campaigns.

This year’s project was partially funded through a mini-grant from the State Library of North Carolina with the purpose of making community connections highlighting the initiative of “She Changed the World.”

The new edition features Rosie the Riveter on the cover as a nod to civilian women’s efforts during World War II. This is in observance of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment.

The magazine includes feature stories about female veterans and perspectives from wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters and nieces in support of servicemen.

“As long as Americans have been at war, women have been a part of efforts to protect our country,” Moore said. “In earlier times, their primary roles were nursing, cooking and sewing, but as our country expanded so have the roles of women in the military.”

Those interested in being part of the project are invited to contact the library by phone at (336) 846-2041 or email Moore at smoore@arlibrary.org.

Copies of the Veterans History Project can be purchased for $20 at the Ashe County Public Library, Ashe County Veterans Service Office and the Museum of Ashe County History, with all proceeds going toward the publication of next year’s collection of stories.

All veterans who participate in the project and their family receive a complimentary copy of the magazine.

County Commissioner Paula Perry also shared a few words at the ceremony.

“I would just like to thank everybody for coming out on this day and again, thank you for all of the veterans,” Perry said.

As the wife of a veteran and the mother of a son in the service, the day holds a special place in her heart.

She encouraged everybody to always thank veterans and those currently enlisted for all that they do to serve the country.

At the end of the ceremony, Veterans Service Officer Darryl Vaughn addressed the crowd. Vaughn himself served 26 years in the United States National Guard and completed two tours overseas.

“Even though it is a little overcast, it is a wonderful day because it is Veteran’s Day,” Vaughn said. “We salute the ones who have served.”

He also reminded everybody that although somebody may not be wearing a hat or a shirt that recognizes a certain unit or branch, that does not mean they did not serve in the military.

“Be proud of what you’ve done, stand tall,” Vaughn said.

The event ended with a prayer and guests were then invited to help themselves to a piece of cake while a video saluting the veterans from Ashe County Schools was presented.

“Although the veterans could not go to the schools, the schools came to us,” Vaughn said.

The video can be accessed by visiting the ACS Facebook page @Ashe County Public Schools.

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AppHealthCare: Ashe trending in wrong direction

ASHE COUNTY — In its weekly COVID-19 situation update on Friday, Nov. 13, AppHealthCare reported an increase in active cases and quarantines from Nov. 1-7 in Ashe County.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 17, there are 77 active cases in Ashe according to AppHealthCare, with a further 184 individuals being monitored and a cumulative case count of 747. There has been 15 deaths linked to COVID-19 in Ashe County according to AppHealthCare.

“These data points are beginning to trend in the wrong direction and we are continuing to see an increase in cases for Ashe County. The largest percentage of cases are occurring in the 25-49 year old age group,” AppHealthCare’s situation update read.

“Unfortunately, this week there have been four deaths associated with COVID-19 for Ashe County. This tragic news is a reminder that this virus can have serious consequences and it remains critical for everyone to diligently practice prevention measures like the 3Ws. Each life in our community is important and valued and the actions we all take will help protect each of us.”

Outside of Ashe, AppHealthCare has reported 134 active cases and 16 deaths in Watauga County and 18 active cases and two deaths in Alleghany County. Across the state, there have been 4,852 deaths, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

North Carolina had 317,495 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of noon on Tuesday, Nov. 17, according to the NCDHHS. This is more than 20,000 more cases than the same time a week earlier.

According to AppHealthCare’s situation update, 21 staff members and 41 residents have tested positive at Forest Ridge Assisted Living as of Nov. 13. The outbreak at Forest Ridge has seen eight deaths.

AppHealthCare is continuing case investigation and contact tracing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you receive a call from a member of the case investigation or contact tracing team, AppHealthCare urges you to cooperate and provide information that will help conduct response efforts. Calls will be from (844) 628-7223 or (828) 264-4995. It may also show up as “NC Outreach” or “Contact Tracing.”

AppHealthCare encourages citizens to remember the three W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands.

North Carolina moved into Phase 3 of the statewide reopening plan beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2. Phase 3 was scheduled to end Oct. 23, however N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Oct. 21 that it would be extended by three weeks, pointing to case numbers’ continued rise.

Cooper announced Nov. 10 that the indoor mass gathering limit would be lowered to 10 people until Friday, Dec. 4.

“This reduction in our indoor gathering limit aims to slow the spread and bring down our numbers,” Cooper said. “It also sends a serious signal to families, friends and neighbors across our state. Success in slowing the spread will help our businesses.”

Ashe election results confirmed after canvassing

ASHE COUNTY — After canvassing was held Friday, Nov. 13, the results of Ashe County’s votes in the 2020 General Elections have been finalized.

A total of 15,921 ballots were cast in Ashe, 81.46 percent of registered voters in the county took to the polls, compared to 71.62 percent in 2016.

A breakdown of the unofficial election results are as follows:

Local Offices

Republicans completed a clean sweep of the three seats available on the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, with Jerry Powers, Jonathan Jordan and incumbent William Sands winning out. Powers received the most votes with 10,113, narrowly edging out Sands’ 9,990, while Jordan picked up 8,856 votes. Russell Killen received 6,063 votes, Beth Sorrell received 4,350 votes and Jim Cain Jr. received 3,319 votes.

In the local race for Board of Education, four candidates battled it out for two available seats. Josh Roten took the lead with 9,648 votes with Kim Simmons securing the second seat with 7,896 votes. Incumbent Lee Beckworth received 4,845 votes while incumbent C.B. Jones received 4,681 votes. There were also 71 write-in votes.

Candidate for Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Russell Vannoy, who ran unopposed, received 12,531 votes while 173 write-in ballots were cast.

Federal Offices

Ashe County voters opted for incumbent President Donald Trump to remain in the highest office in the nation; he received 11,451 Ashe votes compared to Joe Biden’s 4,164. Trump won the state with 49.93 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis won 10,619 votes in Ashe, with challenger Cal Cunningham receiving 4,279 votes. Tillis won the state with a narrow margin, beating Cunningham by less than 100,000 votes.

Rep. Virginia Foxx won her reelection bid thanks to 11,270 votes in Ashe County, challenger David Wilson Brown received 4,086 Ashe votes. Foxx won 66.93 percent of the vote in her district to keep her seat.

State Offices

Incumbent N.C. Governor Roy Cooper lost Ashe County to challenger Dan Forest, with Forest receiving 10,622 votes to Cooper’s 4,967. However, Cooper held on at the state level to serve another term with 51.52 percent of the vote.

Serving as Cooper’s Lieutenant Governor will be Mark Robinson, who defeated Yvonne Lewis Holley with 51.63 percent of the vote. Robinson won 11,166 votes in Ashe to Holley’s 4,282.

Incumbent State House Rep. Ray Russell lost both Ashe County and the rest of District 93 vote to Ray Pickett. Pickett received 53.01 percent of the vote at the district level, with 10,657 of those coming from Ashe to Russell’s 4,878.

For the N.C. State Senate District 45 seat, incumbent Republican Deanna Ballard won almost 70 percent of the vote to keep her seat against Democrat challenger Jeanne Supin. In Ashe County, Ballard won by more than 7,000 votes.

Jim O’Niell won Ashe’s vote for N.C. Attorney General, with 10,817 votes to Josh Stein’s 4,598. Stein won the race however, winning by just over 13,000 votes statewide.

Ashe’s pick for N.C. Auditor also did not seal the deal at the state level. Anthony Wayne Street managed 10,626 votes in the county to Beth Wood’s 4,613, but Wood won the office with 50.88 percent of the statewide voting.

Steve Troxler won the N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture race with 53.86 percent of the state’s votes over Jenna Wadsworth. Troxler was buoyed by 11,579 votes in Ashe to Wadsworth’s 3,863.

In the race for N.C. Commissioner of Insurance, Mike Causey won 51.76 percent of the statewide votes, which was helped by 10,965 Ashe County Votes compared to Wayne Goodwin’s 4,283.

Josh Dobson edged out Jessica Holmes for the N.C. Commissioner of Labor seat, winning at the state level with 50.83 percent of the vote. Dobson won by less than 100,000 votes, with 11,037 coming from Ashe County, while Holmes won 4,280.

Ashe’s pick for N.C. Secretary of State, E.C. Sykes, could not defeat Elaine Marshall for the seat. While Sykes picked up 10,513 votes in Ashe County, Marshall edged the statewide vote with 51.16 percent.

Catherine Truitt won her bid for the N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction with 51.38 percent of the vote statewide. Truitt won 10,955 votes in Ashe to Jen Mangrum’s 4,309.

Incumbent Dale Folwell defeated Ronnie Chatterji with 52.58 percent of the statewide vote. Folwell received 10,961 votes in Ashe.

Judicial Offices

10,722 Ashe County voters cast their votes for Republican candidate Paul Newby for NC Supreme Court Justice Seat 1 while incumbent Democrat Cheri Beasley received 4,619. Newby won the state race by just 285 votes.

In the race for NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 2, Republican candidate Phil Berger Jr. won Ashe County voters over with 11,024 votes while Democratic candidate Lucy Inman received 4,256 votes. Berger won 50.66 percent of the state vote for the win.

Republican candidate for NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 4, Tamara Barringer won the race against incumbent Democrat Mark A. Davis with 10,972 votes in Ashe County. Davis received 4,279 votes. At the state level, Barringer won 51.21 percent of the vote.

Republican candidate April C. Wood won Ashe’s vote for one of the seats on the NC Court of Appeals, with 11,075 votes to Democratic candidate Tricia Shields’ 4,151. Wood carried that to a state win with 51.78 percent of the vote.

Republican candidate Fred Gore received 10,938 votes in Ashe County in the race for Seat 5 NC Court of Appeals against Democratic candidate Lora Cubbage who received 4,248 votes. Gore won the statewide race with 51.27 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Republican candidate Chris Dillon won Ashe’s vote for Seat 6 on the NC Court of Appeals Judge with 11,025 votes while Democratic candidate Gray Styers received 4,135 votes in Ashe. Dillon sealed his reelection bid with 51.95 percent of the vote in the state.

Ashe voters favored Republican candidate Jeff Carpenter in the race for Seat 7 on the NC Court of Appeals. Carpenter won the county with 11,014 votes over incumbent Democrat Reuben Young who received 4,151. Carpenter won the statewide race with 51.59 percent of the vote.

Donna Shumate, who ran unopposed to serve as NC District Court judge for District 23, received 12,795 votes in Ashe County.