Mountains prepare for MLK weekend crowds amid surge in COVID-19 cases

COVID concerns in the high country

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Positive COVID-19 case numbers are coming in now to show the impact of holiday crowds in the North Carolina mountains, just as the Martin Luther King weekend looms ahead.

In Avery County, the case count is at 168, according to County Manager Phillip Barrier, with 30 of those cases at a local prison.

That is higher than the caseload two weeks ago during the holidays but lower than what many expected. “It could have been bad,” said Barrier but he credits ski areas, restaurants and other businesses with sticking closely to CDC guidelines to keep their workers safe.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s was filled with traffic jams and crowded sidewalks in places like Banner Elk.

Though COVID-19 case numbers are up, health officials say no major outbreaks among local residents have been reported as a result of the holiday crowds.

They are asking businesses to keep following the rules.

Meanwhile, vaccinations expanded in Avery County on Tuesday to those 75 and older.

People waited in their cars for more than an hour to get their chance at the vaccine.

Barrier says if the people in Avery County continue to work together, combined with the vaccine, “We’ll beat the odds.”

He said he is looking forward to the day when the Coronavirus Crisis is just a memory.

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