Our Journey Begins

The Corona Times – March 22, 2020

Welcome to this the first post to the Mitchell County Historical Society’s journal documenting the COVID-19 virus experience in Mitchell County, North Carolina. It is our hope that the journal can provide a look into the days and weeks surrounding the virus outbreak and the measures taken to minimize its spread and protect the citizens of the county.

This first post is a snapshot of what has taken place over the past week as regular routines have been upset, businesses and schools have closed, events have been postponed or cancelled, and public health officials have provided instruction on how to slow the spread of the virus.

Here is a timeline of significant events since the crisis began. This is an attempt to document the disruption to normal routines the virus has caused.

  • MARCH 12, 2020 – The North Carolina High School Athletic Association postponed the 2020 high school basketball championships and suspended all spring high school athletic competition.
  • MARCH 14, 2020 – North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order closing K-12 public schools statewide
  • MARCH 16, 2020 – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommended that no mass gathers of more than 50 people take place in the state. In Mitchell County, this particularly affected local churches and social groups.
  • MARCH 16, 2020 – Mitchell County Schools begins the development of online and off-site lessons for students to continue their education during the school shutdown. Online classes begin on March 23, 2020.
  • MARCH 16, 2020 – Mitchell County Senior Citizens’ Center announces that all activities have been suspended and that meals could only be picked up by drive-up service or through the county’s Meals on Wheels program.
  • MARCH 16, 2020 – Mitchell County Commissioners proclaim a State of Emergency in the county, restricting mass gatherings and establishing a committee to make recommendations for additional steps to help control any spread of the virus in the county.
  • MARCH 17, 2020 – Governor Cooper issued an executive order that closes restaurants and bars for dine-in service, plus the order makes unemployment benefits more widely available for those whose work has been affected by shutdowns due to COVID-19.
  • MARCH 17, 2020 – Avery/Mitchell/Yancey Regional Library announced that all branches were closing as of 5:00 p.m. and would remain closed until further notice.
  • MARCH 18, 2020 – Mitchell County Schools begins distributing free meals to all children age pre-school through Grade 12 at 16 locations throughout Mitchell County. The meals are available from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
  • MARCH 20, 2020 – Penland School announced they were closing the spring session as of March 20 and that the campus is closed to anyone who is not on staff.
  • MARCH 21, 2020 – Governor Cooper issues an executive order waiving restrictions on child and elder care regulations to make it easier to provide these services on a temporary basis and ordered the Department of Motor Vehicles to only provide services on an appointment basis and closed offices that are not of enough size to maintain social distancing (a term referring to the maintenance of at least 6 feet distance around each person and discouraging skin-to-skin contact).
  • MARCH 21, 2020 – Mission Health announces that non-essential and elective surgeries have been cancelled and visitation to patients at any facility they operate has been closed until further notice.

As we move forward, additions to this timeline will be posted on the date they occur.

As restrictions on businesses and restaurants tightened late in the week of March 16, there was increasingly less traffic and people at various venues in the county, heeding the advice to stay away from others in an effort to slow down the spread of the virus. Walmart in Spruce Pine, normally open until 11:00 p.m., shortened hours to an 8:30 p.m. closure. Other businesses followed with shortened business hours.

Unemployment claims in North Carolina average two to three thousand a week. After Governor Cooper announced different rules for applying for unemployment, the state saw a spike of nearly 5,000 applications on Wednesday, March 18. We will post figures for Mitchell County as soon as they are made available.

There is a gallery of images of responses to shutdowns and curtailment of operations of schools and businesses in Mitchell County. We thank Jacob Gortney for several of these pictures. A teacher with Mitchell County Schools, Gortney offered these images to be included in our journal.

If you have stories, images, or videos that you would like to include in The Corona Times, please e-mail mitchellnchistory@gmail.com with your stories and files for inclusion. If you have problems sending us videos, please e-mail and we will make arrangements for you to upload the video to us.

 Click or tap on an image to see it in full online size. You can click or tap in the gray area around the image to go back to the gallery.The online images are of low resolution. We can provide higher-quality images upon request.

Finally, You will note a series of numbers contained in the blog. They document the spread of virus through confirmed cases by the federal Centers for Disease Control and by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. These are the official totals provided by state and local government at the date of the post and do not include estimates or cases not confirmed by these agencies. This is our effort to provide a gauge of the virus spread as it continues during the pandemic.




Cases in North Carolina


Cases in Western North Carolina


Deaths in North Carolina


Cases in the United States


Deaths in the United States

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