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Editor's note: Ashe Post & Times will update numbers listed in this story throughout the day to reflect any changes as they become available.

RALEIGH — The number of positive COVID-19 tests in North Carolina topped 800 as of 9 p.m. on March 27, according to reporting from the Raleigh News & Observer.

Governor Roy Cooper issued a "stay at home" order for all North Carolinians during a press conference at 4 p.m. today to help flatten the curve.

According to reporting by the News & Observer, at least four North Carolina residents have died from the virus or complications associated with it. The four residents were from from Cabarrus, Harnett, Johnston and Rowan counties, according to state and county officials.

All who have died to date as a result of complications associated with the virus either were high risk individuals who were either elderly or had underlying medical conditions, according to responses made by officials.

Positive tests increased to at least 883 as of 9:15 p.m. on Friday, March 27, according to the newspaper. The News & Observer is compiling the numbers of cases announced by counties throughout the day, noting that cases reported by county health departments can take up to 48 hours before they are included in the state's numbers.

The newspaper's number varies from the daily reports provided by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. At 11:40 a.m. on March 27, the agency reported 763 positive cases. NCDHHS reported a total number of 15,136 tests had been conducted at the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health and reporting hospital and commercial laboratories.

The counties with the highest number of positive tests, according to the News & Observer, include Mecklenburg County, with 259 reported cases, Durham County with 103 reported cases and Wake County with 123 reported cases.

Watauga County has reported five cases of COVID-19, the fifth of which was reported March 27.  There have been no reported positive cases in Ashe or Avery county.

AppHealthCare, the public health department serving Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties, reported that it had collected 63 tests in Watauga County as of March 25, while outside agencies had reported a total of 126 tests in the county. The health department collected no tests in Watauga County on March 26, it said.

AppHealthCare announced on its website March 27 that two Alleghany county residents tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to the agency, both individuals had travel history and the second was hospitalized in Virginia. The local public health staff have identified the close contacts of both individuals, who have all been in quarantine.

In Ashe County, the health department had collected four tests by March 27, while outside agencies have collected a total of 25 tests to date for the county. The health department collected no tests in Ashe County on March 27, it said.

In Watauga County, the health department has collected 67 tests of March 27, while outside agencies have collected a total of 140 tests. 

The department announced on March 24 that it was shifting from "broad based testing" to testing those who have urgent medical needs and demands for care.

North Carolina now has community transmission of COVID-19, AppHealthCare stated, and therefore, "we are moving to a different phase of our response efforts and ... increasing our population-based community mitigation strategies."

The goal of mitigation is to decrease spread of the virus among the population — especially for those who are at highest risk of clinical severity and health care workers — so fewer people need medical care at the same time, the department said. In addition, there is a need to implement strategies to conserve supplies and capacity so health care workers can care for people who need medical attention even during the peak of the outbreak, the health department stated.

"Though our local numbers are low compared to some other counties in our state, we also know that there is evidence of community transmission in North Carolina," said Jennifer Greene, AppHealthCare health director. "The numbers reported through our state are reflective of what we know today and have been expanding consistently each day. This is why it is very important that people who are at higher risk for severe illness stay at home to the greatest extent possible with the exception of key activities that they may need like getting groceries.

Deb Gragg with the Toe River Health District reported on March 26 the department had conducted 37 tests, with 23 coming back negative and 14 pending.

Johns Hopkins University and Medicine reports a total of 103,942 confirmed cases in the United States as of 9:15 on Friday, March 27. The total represents the largest total of cases worldwide, followed by China and Italy which both have numbers in the 80,000 range. The university reported that there has been a total of 1,689 COVID-19-related deaths across the country as of Friday night and 870 people nationwide have recovered after being infecting by the virus. 

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