ASHE COUNTY — In the weeks following North Carolina’s reopening process start, Ashe County has seen a rise in the number of confirmed and active COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) cases.

When N.C. went into Phase 1 of the reopening process on May 8, Ashe had 8 confirmed cases. Since then, the number has jumped to 32 confirmed cases, with 20 being active and a further 23 individuals being monitored as of presstime, according to local health department AppHealthCare.

AppHealthCare Director of Communications and Compliance Melissa Bracey said, “The increase in numbers has been due to an increase in testing and outbreaks in a congregate setting, in addition to cases linked to a meat processing plant.”

Bracey added that there have been 11 cases in Ashe, Watauga and Allegheny County linked to an outbreak in the meat processing plant. Another 13 cases have been linked to an Ashe “congregate setting” at a local farm, with another two cases residing outside of AppHealthCare’s district.

She said when there is a positive case identified in a congregate setting, testing is offered to all individuals, in order to slow the spread of virus. Pursuant to N.C. G.S. 130A-143, AppHealthCare does not identify any facilities by name.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has a twice-weekly updated list of outbreaks in congregate living settings, which includes nursing homes, residential care facilities and correctional facilities.

In the most recent update on Friday, May 22, NCDHHS listed a three-case outbreak to a facility on Old Highway 16 in Grassy Creek. The facility was listed as “Other,” which NCDHHS said includes homeless shelters and migrant farmworker housing.

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