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COVID-19 Updates, Testing and Vaccines

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Community Update for Jan. 18, 2022

Buncombe County COVID-19 Infection Rates Reach New Record High

Buncombe County continues to see COVID-19 cases rising, reaching levels not previously seen in the pandemic. Currently, the local case rate is 1,152 new cases per 100,000 per week. This is an increase from 913 new cases per 100,000 last week. Additionally, the percent positivity continues to increase with rates at 20.2% last week and now at 22.9%

“Omicron is certainly showing us its power to infect our community and communities across the US,” stated Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “I am hopeful that as quickly as Omicron cases have surged, we may see them recede in the coming weeks. We can play a role in reducing cases by staying up to date on vaccines, isolating when we have symptoms and remembering to wear a mask and keep distance when interacting with others.”

The majority of new cases, 43.5%, have been in ages 25-49 years. Children ages 0-17 make up the second largest proportion of cases at 21.3% after seeing a decline in previous weeks.

Hospitalizations increased from about 10% to over 13% in the last week with ICU utilization reaching about 30%. Deaths remained stable last week. Hospitalization and ICU utilization rates among the unvaccinated remain much higher than vaccinated individuals statewide.

Public health officials are reminding the community that there are ways to reduce your risk:

  • Vaccinate: Vaccinate yourself, if not already, and get boosted when eligible
  • Test: Get tested if you have ANY symptoms of COVID-19 or know you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19
  • Isolate: Stay at home if you have any symptoms regardless of your test results
  • Mask: Wear a mask in all public indoor spaces, even if you are vaccinated

Individuals eligible for a booster are recommended to get their booster as soon as possible. Even with the new variant, boosters are showing to provide a significant level of protection.

To ensure that our community and students are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccine, Buncombe County Health and Human Services will partner with Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools to host several school based vaccination clinics. All vaccines will be available and free at the following dates and times. Please check www.buncombeready.org for confirmation of these events as the weather forecast in the coming weeks may necessitate rescheduling clinics. 

  • Asheville Middle School: January 22, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • North Windy Ridge Intermediate School: January 29, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • TC Roberson High School: February 5, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

COVID Testing:

If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, get tested. Many community partners are providing testing and home kit options are available. These locations and resources are listed at ncdhhs.gov/GetTested. If you know you need an appointment, confirm your testing opportunity by booking an appointment in advance. Please do not visit a hospital emergency department for a COVID-19 test. Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. To request free at-home tests, go to https://www.covidtests.gov/


Jan. 11 Update: COVID-19 Infection Rates Grow Another 40%, Public Encouraged to Limit Interactions if Possible

Buncombe County COVID-19 infection rates have grown precipitously in the last two weeks. In the last week alone, cases have risen approximately 40%. Currently, the case rate is 913 new cases per 100,000 per week. This is coupled by an increasing percent positivity. The current percent positivity is 20.2 compared to 13.7 one week ago.

“This is a very rapid increase in cases over the last few weeks,” stated Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “This is the time for people in the community to think about how to reduce your risk and protect your health. This should include a layered approach and limiting interactions with others, when possible.”

Hospitalizations are continuing to increase with 9.9% of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and ICU utilization has increased in the last week to more than 26%.

Public health officials are reminding the community that there are ways to reduce your risk:

  • Vaccinate: Vaccinate yourself, if not already, and get boosted when eligible.
  • Test: Get tested if you have ANY symptoms of COVID-19 or know you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Mask: Wear a mask correctly in all public indoor spaces, even if you are vaccinated.

Safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone 5 and older, and boosters are available for everyone 12 and older. Go to MySpot.nc.gov to find a vaccine location near you. Individuals eligible for a booster are recommended to get their booster as soon as possible. Even with the new variant, boosters are showing to provide a significant level of protection. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, vaccines and boosters continue to provide the strongest protection against COVID-19 serious illness, hospitalizations, and death. Unvaccinated individuals make up 80% of hospitalizations and 88% of COVID-19-related ICU admissions in North Carolina.

To ensure the Buncombe County community and students are up to date on the COVID-19 vaccine, Buncombe County Health and Human Services will partner with Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools to host several school-based vaccination clinics. All vaccines will be available and free at the following dates and times. 

  • Asheville Middle School: January 22, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • North Windy Ridge Intermediate School: January 29, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • TC Roberson High School: February 5, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

COVID Testing:

If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, get tested. Many community partners are providing testing and home kit options are available. These locations and resources are listed at ncdhhs.gov/GetTested. If you know you need an appointment, confirm your testing opportunity by booking an appointment in advance. Please do not visit a hospital emergency department for a COVID-19 test.

“Our community is working hard to support testing and vaccination needs,” said Saunders. “We are thankful for the partnerships with our public school systems, Harrah’s Cherokee Center, and A-B Tech for providing resources for these critical aspects of the COVID-19 response.”

Jan. 4 Update: Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Extend Indoor Public Face Covering Requirement as COVID-19 Rates “Skyrocketing”

The percent positivity has doubled in a month.

“COVID-19 case rates are skyrocketing.” That’s how Public Health Director Stacie Saunders began her Jan. 4 briefing to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. “As of yesterday, we were experiencing 654 cases per 100,000 per week,” Saunders explained. “This is a tremendous increase from last month when the rate was around 200 per 100,000, and this is far greater than what we saw at the peak of the surge just a year ago.”  

As of Jan. 3, the percent positivity increased to 13.7%, more than double the case rate from a month ago. Hospitalizations have increased, and almost 10% of inpatient beds are occupied by patients with COVID-19 up from 6% two weeks ago. To date, 454 Buncombe County residents have died related to COVID-19.

Saunders recommended that the face covering requirement be extended because cases are exponentially increasing, the Omicron variant is far more contagious than previous iterations, hospitalizations are rising, and new at-home therapeutics are in limited supply. The Board of Commissioners voted to extend the face covering requirement in indoor public spaces through Feb. 16, 2022.

Dr. Bill Hathaway, Mission Hospital Chief Medical Officer, provided an update on hospitalizations: “The number of patients who are hospitalized who are vaccinated is a very, very small number compared the total populations - between 5 and 10%. Those who have been boosted comprise an even smaller number. The vaccines are safe and effective, and they work when it comes to decreasing serious illness, hospitalization, and death.”

As a result of the concerted effort by vaccine providers, about 1/3 of the Buncombe County pediatric population received their first dose in the last two months. Approximately 55% of adolescents 12-17 years have received at least one dose, 60% of those 18-24 years have received at least one dose, and 70% or more of populations 25 and older have received at least one dose. Overall, 71% of the eligible population (5 years and up) has received one dose of vaccine and 68% of the eligible population has received their initial series. More than 40% of the fully vaccinated population has received a third or booster dose.

Saunders also announced new planned testing initiatives for Buncombe County, including purchasing a supply of rapid at-home test kits for community distribution. Depending on vendor supply, the tests are expected to arrive in the next week. Upon receipt, tests will be distributed to existing to community partners to have rapid tests available at their locations for distribution and pick-up. These locations may include community centers, fire departments, homeless shelters, libraries, churches, vaccine events and through community health workers. Details will be finalized upon receipt of the test kits and are dependent on the quantity of tests obtained. In addition, prepackaged face coverings will be sent to selected community locations for distribution to the public.

Saunders provided tips for utilizing at-home rapid tests:

Buncombe County Health and Human Services has also inquired about additional testing resources for limited time including additional N.C. Department of Health and Human Services resources and a FEMA team much like the one our area had for vaccine outreach. These two requests are pending.

If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, get tested. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC.

To find a vaccine provider near you, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines to search by zip code.

Dec. 21, 2021 Update: COVID-19 Rates Increase by Almost 50%, Hospitalizations Also Continue to Rise

After a short period of leveling, cases are on the rise again in Buncombe County. The local case rate grew to 232 new cases per 100,000 per week from 155 only a week prior. This indicates an almost 50% increase in cases in one week. The percent positivity is currently 5.6% and has remained fairly stable for over a week.

“New cases are quickly increasing for our community. This is a time when many are taking part in holiday events and parties and each one of those events increases the chances of being exposed to the virus,” stated Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “This increased holiday activity coupled with a new more contagious variant means we will likely see many more people infected before and after the holiday.”

Additionally, hospitalizations are continuing to increase with over 6% of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19, up from 4.7% last week. Intensive Care Unit (ICU) utilization also increased in the last week.

Public Health officials are reminding the community that there are ways to reduce your risk during the holidays:

People who are eligible for a booster are recommended to get their booster as soon as possible. Even with the new variant, boosters are showing to provide a significant level of protection.

“It’s been one year since Buncombe County Health and Human Services received our first shipment of vaccine. In this last year, we have successfully administered about 107,500 total doses of vaccine,” Saunders said. “And out of all those doses given, the vaccine dose that matters most today, is the one you haven’t gotten yet. If you have not started your vaccine series, now is the time. If you are eligible for your booster, now is the time.”

If you are traveling this holiday, please consider these recommendations to protect yourself during your travels:

For people who are gathering with others during the holidays, please consider the following recommendations:

If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, get tested. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC. Individuals can also order free at-home tests using the Find My Testing Site NC website.

To find a vaccine provider near you, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines to search by Zip Code.

Dec. 14, 2021 Update: Declining COVID-19 Rates Offer Hope in Advance of the Holidays

Cases are declining in Buncombe County since the last week’s community update. Last week, we saw rates climb to 208 cases per 100,000, which was expected given that we were 10-12 days out from Thanksgiving. Since then, cases have gradually declined to 155 cases per 100,000.

The percent positivity has dropped just below 6%. Last week, the percent positivity was 6.6%. Weekly testing numbers still are steady with the last several weeks averaging between 5,000 and more than 6,000 tests performed weekly. Death rate decreased slightly from 1.1 per 100,000 to 0.8 per 100,000, and sadly, two deaths were reported to the dashboard in the last week. Hospitalizations decreased slightly but ICU utilization went up; however, both indicators are favorable at this time. 

Public Health Director Stacie Saunders says, “I am encouraged that we’ve seen a decline that seems to be holding, and I am hopeful that we will continue to see a decline, or at least a leveling, as we approach winter holidays when we may see another increase before entering 2022.”

Vaccination rates continue to increase steadily with the total population in Buncombe County at 67% partially vaccinated and 64% fully vaccinated. Regarding the eligible population, 5 years and older, 70% are partially vaccinated and 67% are fully vaccinated. If you or your child still need to get vaccinated, please do so as soon as possible in advance of holiday gatherings. Free COVID-19 vaccines are available to anyone 5 and older at Buncombe County Health and Human Services between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville. No ID is required. Anyone 18 and older should get a booster six months after a two-dose series or two months after a single-dose vaccine. Learn more at www.buncombeready.org. Flu vaccines are also available to anyone six months and older.

Do spread cheer over the holidays by following the holiday guidance for large gatherings found on our website at www.buncombeready.org. As a reminder, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners extended the county-wide face covering requirement for all indoor public spaces through Jan. 5, 2022. The indoor mask requirement also extends to Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Black Mountain, Montreat, Weaverville, and Woodfin.

 

Dec. 7, 2021 Update: Case Rate Increases 54% as Buncombe County Surpasses 30,000 Total COVID-19 Cases

Since identifying the first case of COVID-19 in Buncombe County, 440 Buncombe County residents have died from COVID-19 related causes, and there have been 30,384 confirmed cases. The case rate has increased 54% over the last week, with 208 cases per 100,000 people. Just last week, 590 new cases were identified and there were three deaths. The positivity rate is 6.6%. Hospitalizations have risen from 2.8% of inpatient beds occupied with COVID-19 patients before Thanksgiving to almost 5% of inpatient beds as of Monday. The CDC still considers Buncombe County an area of high transmission.

“Please do your part to help make the upcoming holidays as healthy and safe as possible,” said Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “If you are not already vaccinated, then make this the gift you give to yourself and those that love you. While we make it through the holidays and the potential for higher case rates, remember our face covering requirement and wear a mask when in indoor public spaces. Always remember to keep distance between and others not in your household when shopping or visiting indoor spaces. And for lots of good reasons this season, wash those hands!”

While the Omicron variant has not been identified in North Carolina at this time, it is expected that it is already circulating. Vaccines, masking, ventilation, social distancing, and handwashing can help curb the spread of COVID-19 and its variants as well as the flu, which is starting to show signs of activity in the state at higher levels than last year.

Buncombe County Health and Human Services has administered 106,364 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines since December, 2020. Buncombe County and partners at Caramedics have provided 101 doses to homebound individuals since October. Anyone who needs homebound vaccine administration can call 828-419-0095 to schedule a visit.

Free COVID-19 vaccines are available to anyone 5 and older at Buncombe County Health and Human Services between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville. No ID is required. Anyone 18 and older should get a booster six months after a two-dose series or two months after a single-dose vaccine. Learn more at www.buncombeready.org. Flu vaccines are also available to anyone six months and older.

The County is partnering with MAHEC and FEMA to provide vaccines and boosters in the community. This week vaccines will be available from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 11 at Charles D. Owen High and A.C. Reynolds High.

Last week, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners extended the county-wide face covering requirement for all indoor public spaces through Jan. 5, 2022. The indoor mask requirement also extends to Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Black Mountain, Montreat, Weaverville, and Woodfin.

Nov. 30, 2021 Update: Buncombe County Extends Indoor Mask Requirement for Public Spaces Through Jan. 5, 2022

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has extended the county-wide face covering requirement for all indoor public spaces through Jan. 5, 2022. The indoor mask requirement also extends to Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Black Mountain, Montreat, Weaverville, and Woodfin.

In Buncombe County, COVID-19 case rates continue to be high, and per the CDC definition, the County remains an area of high transmission. The percent positivity remains in the moderate category, and the death rate remains in the substantial category.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases continue to increase after a high level plateau. The percent positivity is now consistently above 5% again, and we are likely to see a further increase after the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “Transitioning to living with COVID-19 means doing what we can now to reduce transmission and burden of new infections. Our goal is to dampen as much as possible any surge we may see during this holiday season with the hope of achieving decreasing case rate and spread as we enter the new year.”  

Buncombe County COVID-19 Metrics – Nov 29, 2021

Free COVID-19 vaccines are available to anyone 5 and older at Buncombe County Health and Human Services by appointment or walk-in between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville. No ID is required. Learn more at www.buncombeready.org.

COVID-19 Cases Rising in Buncombe County: Health officials urge caution over the holidays

Cases and percent positivity are rising in Buncombe County. The local case rate increased from 121 per 100,000 per week to 132 per 100,000 in the prior week. Additionally, after three weeks of stable percent positivity below 5%, Buncombe County is now at 5.1%.

“After seeing a high level of plateau for some weeks, there is a discernable increase in cases and percent positivity this week,” stated Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “Rising cases and a major holiday only a couple days away means we need to be thinking carefully about how to reduce risk and spread during our gatherings.”

November 23, 2021 COVID Metrics:

Public health officials offer the following tips and recommendations as people prepare for Thanksgiving and future holiday events:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended booster vaccine shots for all adults 18 and older to help strengthen and extend protections against COVID-19. If you received the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you can get your booster six months after your second shot. If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can get your booster two months after your shot. Anyone over 50 or at high risk, as well as those 18 or older who were vaccinated more than two months ago with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, should get a booster dose now.

There are many options for getting vaccinated if you haven’t already. Visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to find a vaccination site near you. Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville Tuesday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination. The BCHHS vaccination clinic will be closed on Thursday and Friday of this week due to the Thanksgiving Holiday. The next upcoming school-based vaccination clinics will be at Erwin High and TC Roberson on December 4 from 9 a.m. until  4 p.m.

If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, get tested. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC.

Buncombe County COVID-19 Case Rates Increase Heading into Holidays

For the second week in a row, Buncombe County saw the COVID-19 case rates increase. Up from 113 per 100,000 last week to 121 per 100,000 this week, the percent positivity has also increased to 4.7% this week from 4.4% last week. To date, 431 Buncombe County residents have passed away in COVID-19 related deaths, and the CDC continues to identify Buncombe County as an area of high transmission.   

“The levels we are seeing now rival those of the summer 2020 and winter 2020-21 surges, and we still have the holidays yet to come,” said Public Health Director Stacie Saunders.

In Buncombe County, the greatest proportion of cases are in individuals ages 25-49. Case rates in individuals ages 0-17 has been stable at 21%. At the same time, 15% of the Buncombe County population ages 5-11 has received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the less than two weeks they have been eligible.

“That’s almost 2,800 kiddos who have become superheroes for their community,” Saunders said. “I got to meet some of these superheroes at our 40 Coxe location. I got to learn about dinosaurs and favorite foods from them, watch them color and be creative while also talking with some of their parents and caregivers who expressed their gratitude for the opportunity.” Saunders also noted that many adults were getting vaccine doses and boosters at the same time.

To date, about 65% of the total Buncombe County population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and approximately 74% of the eligible population 12 and older has received at least one dose. At the November 13 outreach event at Asheville Middle, 393 people received vaccines, with 246 of those being pediatric ages 5-11.

November – December Saturday School Outreach Events

Outreach events will take place on Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the following Asheville City and Buncombe County schools:

All vaccine types will be available at each event.

Outreach events are open to everyone 5 years and older, no appointment necessary. Recipients will be asked to complete a brief registration form upon arrival. Vaccines are available at no cost regardless of health insurance coverage or immigration status.

Currently, locally funded $100 incentive cards are available while supplies last for eligible individuals (18 years and up) receiving their first dose of vaccine at the Buncombe County HHS vaccination clinic or at any BCHHS pop-up clinic. Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville Tuesday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination. Individuals can also visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to find a vaccination site.

If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, get tested. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC. StarMed offers testing at Harrah’s Event Center Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and on Sundays at A-B Tech from noon until 4 p.m.

Nov. 9, 2021 Update: Buncombe County COVID Trends Show No Major Change- Vaccination Remains Critical to Keep Moving in Favorable Direction

Buncombe County saw the COVID-19 case rate increase from 107 last week to 113 per 100,000 this week. The percent positivity has remained fairly constant for several days and is now at 4.4%, which is a decrease from 4.7% last week. It is likely that these trends will continue to go up and down with some plateauing as we continue the slow decline in transmission.

The death rate decreased with 4 deaths in Buncombe County residents reported in the last week, bringing the death rate per 100,000 to 1.5, down from 2.7 deaths last week. Hospitalizations continue to be low and are trending favorably at this time.

Please continue to monitor your symptoms and get tested if you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19. StarMed offers testing at Harrah’s Event Center Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and on Sundays at A-B Tech from noon until 4 p.m. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC.

Here in Buncombe County, the vaccination rate for total the population continues to slowly increase with 64% of the total population partially vaccinated and 61% fully vaccinated. With the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization and last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that children 5 to 11 years receive a lower dose Pfizer vaccine. Buncombe County HHS and many other providers in our community began vaccine administration to 5 – 11 year olds last week with many providers coming online and outreach events scheduled for the coming weeks. BCHHS administered about 180 first doses to children 5 – 11 years old and an additional 90 parents/caregivers/adults received their first, second, or booster dose on Friday at the BCHHS COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic located at 40 Coxe Avenue.

Vaccine is available, including at doctor’s offices, hospitals, local pharmacies and grocery stores. COVID-19 vaccines are free, regardless of insurance and immigration status and the only thing required for the pediatric dose is parental consent.

Stacie Saunders, BCHHS Public Health Director, urges parents to get their children vaccinated as cases of COVID-19 among children in the U.S. rose approximately 240% during the most recent surge. “The vaccine provides a safe, tested way to help keep school-aged children healthy and can help get kids back to safely being with their family and friends which will be especially important during the upcoming holidays.” Please visit www.buncombeready.org for more information on local vaccination events and make plans today to get your children vaccinated.

Buncombe County Health & Human Services Vaccine Clinic

The clinic will be open every day this week except for Nov. 11 in observance of the Veterans Day Holiday. Please bring your parking ticket with you to your appointment so you can get it validated on the way out. Next week, the clinic will be open Tuesday-Friday, 9 am – 4 pm.

November – December Saturday School Outreach Events

Outreach events will take place on Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the following Asheville City and Buncombe County schools:

Outreach events are open to everyone 5 years and older, no appointment necessary. You will be asked to complete a brief registration form upon arrival. If you need your booster, please bring your vaccination card so your booster can be documented appropriately. All vaccines will be available at these events. Please bring your insurance card if you have one. Anyone who still needs a vaccine can use the NCDHHS Vaccine Finder by visiting www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov.

Tonight at 5:30 p.m., BCHHS will host a parent-led “Let’s Talk: Pediatric Vaccines” to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines for young people. The event can be viewed in English on Buncombe County Government’s Facebook page and real time in Spanish on the BCHHS Facebook page.

 

Nov. 2, 2021 Update: Buncombe County COVID-19 Case Rates Show Promise, but Deaths Increase.

Buncombe County continues to see the case rate and percent positivity decline when compared to prior week. Cases per 100,000 per week decreased from 119 last week to 107 this week. At 4.7%, the percent positivity dropped below 5% for the first time since July. The death rate increased since week prior with seven new deaths reported in Buncombe County residents this week.

“The takeaway message right now is that we continue to see improvement, but the decline in the surge is happening slower than the rise or increase occurred,” said Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “This means we remain in a space of high transmission. Please don’t let your guard down. COVID-19 is still abundantly circulating in our community.”

While cases across the board are decreasing, the greatest proportion remains in people ages 25-49.

Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) recently concluded a 30-day vaccination push during which nearly 650 first doses were administered. About 71% of the eligible population in Buncombe County (people ages 12 and older) have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Last week the FDA provided emergency use authorization for vaccines for children ages 5-11. CDC recommendation is required before vaccinations can occur and approval is anticipated shortly. Upon direction from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, BCHHS will support pediatric administration and will modify operations at 40 Coxe to prepare the clinic for adolescents. All vaccine administration at 40 Coxe will take place Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday outreach events will take place from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on:

The NCDHHS will support a family vaccination site at the Edington Center, and FEMA will provide vaccine resource extension.  

On November 9, BCHHS will host a Parent Town Hall to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines for young people. Go to www.buncombeready.org to learn more.  

Currently, locally funded $100 incentive cards are available while supplies last for eligible individuals (18 years and up) receiving their first dose of vaccine at the Buncombe County Vaccination Clinic or at any BCHHS pop-up clinic. Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville Tuesday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination. Individuals can also visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to find a vaccination site near you.

Last week, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners extended the face covering requirement for indoor public spaces through Nov. 30.

If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, get tested. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC. StarMed offers testing at Harrah’s Event Center Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and on Sundays at A-B Tech from noon until 4 p.m.

Oct. 26 Update: Buncombe County COVID Case Rates and Percent Positivity Continues to Decline; Safe Trick or Treating Encouraged

Buncombe County continues to see the case rate and percent positivity decline when compared to prior week. Cases per 100,000 per week decreased from 162 last week to 119 this week. Percent positivity has remained below 6% for the last week and is currently at 5.4%. This case rate continues to be high, and Buncombe County remains an area of high transmission. The percent positivity, while improved, is higher than the desired 5%.

The death rate decreased since week prior but remains in the substantial indicating still a large burden of deaths for the population. In the last week, there were five new deaths reported.

Hospitalizations and ICU utilization remain stable for this week.

“I think we can be encouraged by these trends but we cannot let our guard down today,” states Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “We are still in a time of very high spread of COVID-19 We have typically seen an increase associated with holidays like the ones coming up, so please continue to be diligent. Get vaccinated if you are not yet, wear your face covering in all indoor public spaces, keep some distance between you and others, and always remember to wash your hands.”

Incentive Cards

Currently, locally funded $100 incentive cards are available while supplies last for eligible individuals (18 years and up) receiving their first dose of vaccine at the Buncombe County Vaccination Clinic or at any BCHHS pop-up clinic. Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination. Individuals can also visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to find a vaccination site near you.

Remember to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces to help stop the spread during this time of continued high transmission.

If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, get tested. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC. StarMed offers testing at Harrah’s Event Center Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and on Sundays at A-B Tech from noon until 4 p.m.

Halloween is fast approaching, stay safe by following some simple tips. If you are trick or treating:

If you are handing out treats this Halloween:

Oct. 19 Update: Buncombe County COVID Rates Decline Slightly but Transmission Remains High

View in Spanish here.

Since July 1, there have been more than 9,500 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Buncombe County and more than 80 COVID-19 related deaths in this same timeframe. While cases have declined slightly, transmission remains high, and 412 Buncombe County residents have died as a result of the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. The percent positivity as of Oct. 18 was 6.1%.

“I wanted to take a moment to highlight vaccination status on COVID-19 outcomes,” said Public Health Director Stacie Saunders in a briefing to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. “As we are moving through this Delta surge, vaccination status has mattered. In particular, those who were unvaccinated had a risk over four times that of the vaccinated to become ill. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of hospitalizations (over 85%) and ICU utilizations (90%) were in the unvaccinated, showing us that the COVID-19 vaccine that is widely available to us right now is reducing our risk of becoming ill, reducing the risk of serious illness should someone become ill and significantly reducing the risk of need for ICU intervention. Lastly, most recent data from NC DHHS indicates that the risk of dying for the unvaccinated is almost 20 times more than of a vaccinated individual.”

In Buncombe County, 73% of adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 71% of the eligible population ages 12 and up has been at least partially vaccinated. To date, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered 102,483 doses of the vaccine, including 231 to homebound individuals.

Saunders also warned about cold and flu viruses, which are also spreading and can present with some similar symptoms: “If you are having any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, which sometimes are the same as a cold, please get tested. Don’t assume it’s a cold.”  Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC. StarMed offers testing at Harrah’s Event Center Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and on Sundays at A-B Tech from noon until 4 p.m.

With fall events and celebrations approaching, BCHHS recommends the following attending outdoor or virtual events where the risk for spread of COVID-19 is lower. If you are planning to attend in-person, indoor events with groups of people:

The FDA is scheduled to meet on Oct. 26 about vaccines for children ages 5-11, and it’s anticipated that vaccine eligibility to begin for that age group in early November.

Stay up-to-date about vaccine opportunities using the Buncombe County emergency alert program. To enroll, text “BCAlert” to 99411 or go to www.buncombecounty.org/codered.

Currently, locally funding $100 incentive cards are available while supplies last for eligible individuals (18 years and up) receiving their first dose of vaccine at the Buncombe County Vaccination Clinic or at any BCHHS pop-up clinic. Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination. Individuals can also visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to find a vaccination site near you.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and isolate from others while waiting for your test results.

Oct. 12, 2021 Update: COVID Cases, Hospitalizations, Death Rate Continue to Decline

For the fourth consecutive week, Buncombe County is seeing a decline in local case rates. The case rate fell from 216 week prior to 198 in current week. For the last two weeks, the rate has dropped by about 8-10% each week. The percent positivity has shown a stabilization and is currently hovering between 6.7%-7.1% for the last three weeks. Hospitalizations have decreased in the last two weeks now with approximately 9% of inpatient beds occupied with COVID-19. Additionally, ICU utilization has decreased since week prior. Lastly, weekly death rate decreased from 2.3 deaths per 100,000 to 1.9, and represents five deaths reported in the last week.

“Overall, our local trends continue to improve,” says Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “This is a welcomed sight after this most recent surge, fueled by the Delta variant, which showed very rapid spread and transmission, especially among our unvaccinated population. While this is a hopeful trend, it is important to remember that while decreasing, this case rate and transmission rate is still very high. This is a steady decline but not a precipitous decline, meaning that COVID-19 is still widely circulating in our community.”

To date, 62% of the total population in Buncombe County has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 60% of the total population is fully vaccinated. Seventy-one percent (71%) of those 12 and older in Buncombe County are partially vaccinated. Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered more than 102,000 doses of vaccine since December 2020. BCHHS administered more than 600 total doses in the last week through vaccine efforts that included three school partnership events (Erwin, Enka, and North Buncombe), one fire department event (Barnardsville), and a multi-day event in partnership with the Mexican Consulate.

“Each vaccination is protecting another member of our Buncombe County community, which in turn helps to protect us all, especially those not yet eligible for vaccine,” reiterates Saunders. “We are actively planning for vaccination events for the anticipated eligibility of some of our youngest family and friends, 5-11 year olds. Until then, I hope that other members of our community will do their part to help protect our children from COVID-19.”

With fall events and celebrations approaching, BCHHS recommends the following attending outdoor or virtual events where the risk for spread of COVID-19 is lower. If you are planning to attend in-person, indoor events with groups of people:

Get your COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t already and encourage others attending your gathering to do so
Have guests wear a face covering and maintain physical distance from others when they are indoors
Move events and activities outdoors to reduce the risk of spread

Stay up-to-date about vaccine opportunities using the Buncombe County emergency alert program. To enroll, text “BCAlert” to 99411 or go to www.buncombecounty.org/codered.

Currently, locally funded $100 incentive cards are available while supplies last for eligible individuals (18 years and up) receiving their first dose of vaccine at the Buncombe County Vaccination Clinic or at any BCHHS pop-up clinic. Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination. Individuals can also visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to find a vaccination site near you.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and isolate from others while waiting for your test results. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC. StarMed offers testing at Harrah’s Event Center Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and on Sundays at A-B Tech from noon until 4 p.m.

Oct. 5 Update: COVID Cases Drop for Third Week; Buncombe County Nears 400 Deaths

For the third straight week, COVID-19 cases continue to decline, and the percent positivity is 6.7%, down from the mid-9% range a month ago. As transmission rates decrease, hospitalizations have also decreased. However, with 397 COVID-related deaths, Buncombe County is closing in on a grim milestone. Cases per 100,000 per week is now 216, and school-aged children make up approximately 24.5% of new cases.

“We anticipate children ages 5-11 to become eligible very soon, but until then, the rest of us need to do our part to keep our youngest protected,” said Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “This means eligible populations who are not yet vaccinated should consider vaccination now. The more we as a community are protected, the better we build a shield around those who cannot be vaccinated, including our younger children.”

Because of sustained high transmission levels, the indoor face covering requirement for indoor public spaces has been extended until the end of October.

Vaccinations

To date, BCHHS has administered more than 100,000 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with about 3,000 of those coming in outreach settings. Currently 59% of the total Buncombe County population is partially vaccinated, and 62% of the total population is partially vaccinated, which are slightly lower than previous reports. The Department of Health and Human Services released a statement on Friday that federal doses (like those administered by the Veterans Administration or a federal prison) that were submitted by the CDC to be added to the state vaccine dashboard had been submitted by county of administration and not county of residence. The CDC has since corrected this data submission to the state, and as of Friday, the dashboard has been updated to reflect all providers including those federal doses by county of residence.

Of note, 71% of the eligible Buncombe County population (residents 12 and older) has received at least one dose of vaccine and 67% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Saunders also encouraged community members to get flu vaccines: “Many providers have flu vaccine readily available now and you can visit your local pharmacies, grocery stores, primary care providers or us at the health department. Additionally, the measures that help reduce your risk of COVID-19 exposure, will also help reduce your risk of flu and cold exposure. Like wearing a face covering over your mouth and nose, keeping distance, and washing hands.”

According to recent NCDHHS data, individuals who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 have a risk that is 4 times that of their vaccinated counterparts in becoming ill with COVID-19. Additionally, unvaccinated individuals have a risk of death that is 16 times that of their vaccinated counterparts.

Stay up-to-date about vaccine opportunities using the Buncombe County emergency alert program. To enroll, text “BCAlert” to 99411 or go to www.buncombecounty.org/codered.

It is anticipated that Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5-11 will be announced soon.

Currently, locally funded $100 incentive cards are available while supplies last for eligible individuals (18 years and up) receiving their first dose of vaccine at the Buncombe County Vaccination Clinic or at any BCHHS pop-up clinic. Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination. Individuals can also visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to find a vaccination site near you.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and isolate from others while waiting for your test results. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC. StarMed offers testing at Harrah’s Event Center Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and on Sundays at A-B Tech from noon until 4 p.m.

 

COVID-19 Update for Sept. 28, 2021

COVID-19 cases are continuing to trend down as does percent positivity. For the second week, there is a downward turn in case rates and percent positivity. Cases fell from 295 to 240 per 100,000 in one week. The percent positivity decreased from 8.3% to 7.1%. Deaths decreased slightly in the last week. Hospitalization decreased slightly since last week but remains high and stable. ICU utilization decreased in the last week and is now below 50%.  

BCHHS administered 216 first doses the week of Sept 20th and this represents a third week of leveling of first doses administered. Outreach events for those who have yet to receive their first or second dose are scheduled for next week at Enka High, Erwin High, and North Buncombe High Schools on October 4th from 12 pm – 6 pm. Incentive cards will be available at these events.

Pfizer booster vaccinations began September 27, 2021 at the Biltmore Church Arden Campus with just over 260 estimated doses administered on the first day. The Pfizer Booster Site at Biltmore Church Arden is open M-F from 10-6 pm and no appointment is necessary.

Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director, advises the community to get a COVID vaccine wherever they can and to get it soon, saying, “While there is a lot of attention on boosters at the moment, we are still urging those not yet vaccinated in our community to start their vaccination series if they haven’t already gotten their first dose. While the metrics show a decline, these case and transmission rates are still too high.  One of our best tools to control and manage COVID-19 is vaccination. Bottom line, those who are unvaccinated are still at greatest risk for hospitalization and death if infected with COVID-19. These bad outcomes can be prevented. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, and put distance between yourself to reduce your risks” 

 

Sept. 21, 2021 Update

With 14 COVID-Related Deaths Reported Last Week, Indoor Face Covering Requirements Extended through October

Although cases per 100,000 per week decreased to 295 this week from 351 the week prior, COVID cases, rates, and percent positivity remain at high levels. The percent positivity decreased slightly to 8.3% from the mid-9% range for the past month. Hospitalizations remain level but high. Currently 13.4% of inpatient hospital beds are occupied with COVID-19 patients, and 54% of ICU beds are occupied with COVID-19 patients. Last week, there were 14 COVID-related deaths reported in Buncombe County.

Because of sustained high transmission levels, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) recommended extending the indoor face covering requirement for indoor public spaces until the end of October. Buncombe County Commissioners voted to extend the requirement through Oct. 29, 2021. Click here to read the order.

To date, BCHHS has administered almost 100,000 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with about 3,000 of those coming in outreach settings. Currently 65% of the total Buncombe County population is partially vaccinated, and 73 percent of the eligible population is partially vaccinated.

According to recent NC DHHS data, unvaccinated individuals have a risk that is 4 times that of their vaccinated counterparts in becoming ill with COVID-19. Additionally, unvaccinated individuals have a risk of death that is 14 times that of their vaccinated counterparts.

Last week, the FDA recommended COVID-19 Pfizer booster shots for individuals who received Pfizer and are:

The CDC and ACIP are expected to meet Sept. 22 regarding recommendations. When recommendations are finalized, BCHHS will announce booster vaccine opportunities using its emergency alert program. To enroll, text “BCAlert” to 99411 or go to www.buncombecounty.org/codered.

It is also anticipated that Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5-11 will be announced soon.

Currently, $100 incentive cards are still available through the NC DHHS extension while supplies last for eligible individuals (18 years and up) receiving their first dose of vaccine at the Buncombe County Vaccination Clinic. Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination. Individuals can also visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to find a vaccination site near you.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and isolate from others while waiting for your test results. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC. Beginning Sept. 27, StarMed will offer testing at Harrah’s Event Center.

Sept. 14, 2021 Update: COVID Cases, Rates, and Percent Positivity Remain at High Levels

Although cases per 100,000 per week decreased slightly to 351 this week from 366 the week prior, COVID cases, rates, and percent positivity remain at high levels. The percent positivity continues to show stabilization in the mid-9% range for roughly 3.5 weeks. The current percent positivity is 9.4%, a slight decrease from 9.6% in the week prior.

“While it is encouraging to see the case rate decrease, we are just now entering the period after the Labor Day holiday where, if previous post-holidays trends have taught us, we are likely to see a bump in cases,” said Public Health Director Stacie Saunders.

The majority of new cases in the last week continue to be in the 25-49 year old group (38.4%). The most vaccinated of the population, individuals 65 years and older, made up 10.9% of new cases. New cases in individuals less than 18 years old (0-17 years old) made up over 26% of all new cases, a six-point increase from two weeks ago.

Hospitalizations remain high with almost half of all ICU beds occupied with patients suffering from COVID-19. The number of deaths per 100,000 per week increased for the second week and is now 5.3 per 100,000, up from 3.1.

Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered more than 99,270 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine since December 2020. Approximately 73% of the eligible population (those 12 years and up) have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 69% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. Currently, 64% of the total population in the county has received at least one dose of vaccine, and 61% of the total population in the county is fully vaccinated.

According to recent NC DHHS data, unvaccinated individuals have a risk that is 4.4 times that of their vaccinated counterparts in becoming ill with COVID-19. Additionally, unvaccinated individuals have a risk of death that is over 15 times that of their vaccinated counterparts.

“These are not chances anyone should take. There are safe and effective vaccines that reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death,” stated Saunders. “Don’t gamble your health, and possibly your life, with COVID-19. Please take steps now if you are unvaccinated to protect yourself including getting your vaccine as soon as possible plus wearing a mask and keep distance to further reduce your risks.”

Incentive cards

Currently, $100 incentive cards are still available through the NC DHHS extension while supplies last for eligible individuals (18 years and up) receiving their first dose of vaccine at the Buncombe County Vaccination Clinic. Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination. Individuals can also visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov to find a vaccination site near you.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and isolate from others while waiting for your test results. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC.

Sept. 7, 2021 COVID Incidence Rate Remains High but Steady, Cases in Young People Rise

Transmission rates remain high, and while new cases have slowed, Buncombe County COVID-19 rates mirror those in mid-January. The weekly metrics indicate that current percent positivity is 9.6%, the same as a week ago. The incidence rate is currently 366 cases per 100,000 per week, similar to the previous week’s rate, but still more than twice the incidence rate seen at the beginning of August. Individuals ages 25-49 years make up the highest rates of new cases.

There have been 23,001 total cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, and 351 Buncombe County residents have died related to COVID-19. The rate of death has increased to 3.1 per 100,000 per week, up from 1.1 per 100,000 per week on Aug. 31. Unvaccinated individuals have a risk of COVID-19 related death that is 15 times that of those who are vaccinated.

Currently, 63% of Buncombe County is partially vaccinated, and 60% is fully vaccinated. Buncombe County Health and Human Services has administered more than 98,900 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine since December 2020. At-home and homebound vaccination services are available through Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS). Interested individuals can call (828) 419-0095 to get more information or to schedule a visit.

“In the recent weeks, we have seen a slight uptick in vaccination administration across the county and also in our clinics,” said Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “Vaccination is one of our greatest tools, and at this time of very high transmission, it will take vaccination and other layered approaches to succeed in controlling and managing COVID-19.”

In addition to current vaccine administration, BCHHS is actively planning for anticipated boosters. While no official guidance or directive has been given, community members can sign up to receive vaccine booster updates to their phones by texting “BCALERT” to 99411 or by going to www.buncombecounty.org/codered. The CDC recently recommended a third additional dose for moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Individuals must self-attest that they qualify for the additional dose, which can be accessed at the BCHHS vaccine clinic.

Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination at no cost. Individuals can also visit www.YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov to find vaccination opportunities throughout North Carolina. A limited number of N.C. Department of Health and Human Services incentive cards are available through Sept. 13 to people 18 and over who are receiving their first dose ($100) or who transport individuals receiving their first dose ($25).

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and isolate from others while waiting for your test results. Testing locations can be found at www.ncdhhs.gov/GetTested.

Please continue to take COVID-19 seriously by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and getting tested if you have been exposed or have symptoms. Visit www.buncombeready.org for more information on COVID-19 in Buncombe County.

 

Aug. 31, 2021 Update

COVID Incidence Rate Doubles in August, Majority of New Cases in People Ages 25-49

Transmission rates remain high in Buncombe County, and cases continue to rise. The weekly metrics indicate that current percent positivity is 9.6% up from 9.4% last week. Additionally, the incidence rate is currently 365 cases per 100,000 per week, up from 312 cases per 100,000 per week on August 23 and more than twice the incidence rate seen at the beginning of August.

NCDHHS Dashboard

The majority of new cases are in those 25-49 years of age (42.1%). New cases in individuals younger than 18 years rose to 20% of all new cases in the recent week, up from 14.5% in the previous weeks.

“Only those 12 and up are eligible for vaccination, meaning many of our youngest cases are not even eligible for vaccination at this time,” says Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “That makes it that much more important for those who are eligible to get vaccinated. The rest of us can create a shield of protection around those not eligible and help reduce their risk of exposure.”

Buncombe County Health and Human Services has administered more than 98,340 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine since December 2020. Approximately 72% of the eligible Buncombe County population (those 12 years and up) has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 68% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. Currently, 63% of the total population in the county has received at least one dose of vaccine and 59% of the total population in the county is fully vaccinated.

 

According to recent NC DHHS data, individuals who are unvaccinated are 4.4 times more likely to become ill with COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated. This risk is even higher for death, where unvaccinated individuals are 15.4 times more likely to die than someone who is vaccinated. 

“These are risks that you do not have to take. Vaccines are safe and effective and they are the best way to reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death for people,” says Saunders.

Individuals can visit the Buncombe County Health Department at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to receive a vaccination at no cost. Individuals can also visit www.YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov to find vaccination opportunities throughout North Carolina.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and isolate from others while waiting for your test results. Testing locations can be found at www.ncdhhs.gov/GetTested.

Please continue to take COVID-19 seriously by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and getting tested if you have been exposed or have symptoms. Visit www.buncombeready.org for more information on COVID-19 in Buncombe County.

Aug. 24, 2021 Update:

Buncombe COVID-19 Positivity Rate Continues to Rise
Pfizer Receives Full FDA Approvals


Buncombe County positive COVID-19 cases continue to grow, with 312 cases per week per 100,000, up from 261 last week. The percent positivity has risen to 9.4%, up about two points from Aug. 3. Currently, 63% of the total population in Buncombe County is partially vaccinated, and 59% is fully vaccinated.


Buncombe County is continuing to experience an upward trend in COVID-related hospitalizations. Based on state data from March through middle of August, unvaccinated individuals were 3.5 times more likely to get COVID-19 when compared to vaccinated individuals. It also remains that hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly in those who are not fully vaccinated.


“Vaccination remains the priority tool for stomping down COVID-19,” said Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “Vaccines are safe and effective in reducing severe illness, hospitalization and death. In this time of high transmission, particularly with the highly contagious Delta variant, it is important to layer infection prevention measures including wearing masks, regardless of vaccine status, and keeping distance.”


The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners passed a county-wide face covering requirement for all indoor, public spaces that is in effect until Sept 30. Face coverings must be worn in all indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status unless a medical exemption applies. Click here to read the full order


Pfizer Vaccines Receives Full FDA Approval


The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has now received FDA approval for those 16 years and older. Those 12-15 years can still receive the Pfizer vaccine under emergency use authorization. All vaccine types, including Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are available at Buncombe County Health and Human Services, 40 Coxe Ave. Asheville. Walk-in vaccines are available between Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Go to www.buncombeready.org to learn more.


Additional Dose Recommended for Moderately and Severely Immunocompromised Individuals


People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine series (two doses) are advised to receive an additional third dose to better protect themselves from COVID-19. The CDC recommends an additional dose for people in the following categories:

COVID-19 Testing


Visit the Find my Testing Place website to find COVID-19 testing locations in Buncombe County or to request a free, at-home COVID test. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.
For more information about COVID-19 and vaccines in Buncombe County, go to www.buncombeready.org.

 

Aug. 10, 2021 Buncombe County COVID-19 Incidence Rate and Hospitalizations Grow

More than 90% of all newly investigated cases are in those not fully vaccinated

Since the COVID-19 update at the Aug. 3 Board of Commissioners meeting, the COVID-19 incidence rate has grown to 219 per 100,000 per week, which is a two-fold increase from two weeks ago. More than 90% of all newly investigated cases are in those not fully vaccinated. In addition, the number of inpatient beds with COVID-19 has grown to 8.3%. Hospitalization data are lagging indicators, since the new cases rise as individuals become sick, with hospitalizations following.
The current rate of incidence is 7.4%, up from 3.4% three weeks ago.

On average, 67 new cases are entering the public health workflow daily.

Currently, 61% of the total population in Buncombe County is partially vaccinated, and 58% of the total population is fully vaccinated. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recently added federal doses on the state dashboard, which gave counties a better picture of vaccination rates.


When broken down by age, Buncombe County has considerable vaccine coverage for those who are 65 years and older. With federal doses now included, these rates are 80% or more partially vaccinated. Groups in younger brackets still lag with 25-49 years at only 60% partially vaccinated and 18-24 years at 50% partially vaccinated.

Vaccines in Buncombe County


Buncombe County Health & Human Services vaccine administration takes place at the Buncombe County Health Department, 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville. Walk-in vaccines are available between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Appointments can be scheduled online at www.buncombeready.org. Additional vaccine providers can be found by visiting https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.

In addition, a mobile vaccine event will be held on Monday, Aug. 16 from 12-3 p.m. at Smoky Park Supper Club for anyone 12 and older.
Visit the Find my Testing Place website to find COVID-19 testing locations in Buncombe County or to request a free, at-home COVID test. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

For more information about COVID-19 and vaccines in Buncombe County, go to www.buncombeready.org.

Aug, 3, 2021 Update: With Rapid Transmission, COVID-19 Infection Rate Doubles

Overwhelming majority of cases in younger, unvaccinated individuals

In the two weeks since the most recent Buncombe County Health and Human Services COVID-19 update, the COVID-19 incidence rate has more than doubled. “I’m coming here today with a sense of urgency,” said Public Health Director Stacie Saunders. “Everyone has heard by now that the Delta variant is incredibly contagious. With reports that it spreads as fast or faster than small pox, the 1918 Flu, or chicken pox, individuals with the Delta variant can infect between six and eight people.”


The current rate of incidence is 7.2%, up from 3.4% two weeks ago. BCHHS is seeing about 50 new cases per day and 151 cases per 100,000 per week. Most cases were in those not fully vaccinated.

In Buncombe County, the average age for people with new cases is 39. “Vaccination is working to protect our elders who grew up in a time when they saw their classmates and childhood friends deeply impacted by infectious diseases, some that would permanently disable children and others that would ultimately kill children,” said Saunders. “They were also the generations that began to see the first impacts of widespread vaccinations and they began to experience childhoods without the threat of common infections of the time because of vaccines. These vaccines are our best shot at cutting off the virus’ supply chain and limiting its ability to change further.”


To date, BCHHS has administered almost 97,000 total doses of vaccine to date, and 55% of the total Buncombe County population has been at least partially vaccinated.  

Incentive cards


This week, Buncombe County will begin offering incentive cards through the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Summer Incentive Program. Individuals who are 18 and over and are receiving their first dose of the vaccine will receive $100, and those providing a ride to individuals getting a first dose will receive $25. These incentives will be available at the BCHHS vaccine clinic at 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville and at BCHHS outreach events. A public announcement will be made when the Summer Incentive Program cards have arrived and are available.
In the update, Buncombe County Public Health officials made the following recommendations for action to stop the spread of COVID:

  • Buncombe County Government implement a County employee vaccine policy to ensure the workforce is protected and will limit the spread to the community
  • All public indoor spaces require masks indoors, regardless of vaccine status, while transmission rates are increasing
  • Universal masking for all students and staff in K-12 settings
  • Mask-wearing by everyone in all public indoor spaces, regardless of the business or facility’s requirements, during this time of high transmission

COVID vaccines in Buncombe County

Buncombe County Health & Human Services vaccine administration takes place at the Buncombe County Health Department, 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville. Walk-in vaccines are available between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Appointments can be scheduled online at www.buncombeready.org. Additional vaccine providers can be found by visiting https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.
“Please honor the sacrifices of our emergency services responders, nurses, public health workers, restaurants workers, business owners, teachers, and school-aged children by getting your vaccine,” Saunders concluded. “Don’t squander the hard work of our entire community by choosing to let this virus use our bodies. We can all take steps to shut down COVID-19 through vaccination and masking.”  


Visit the Find my Testing Place website to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

2021 Recent Community Updates

July 24

COVID Infection Rates Show “Clear and Steady Increase”, 92% of Cases in Individuals Not Fully Vaccinated

Average age of individuals testing positive is 39

On Wednesday, July 21, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided an update on the recent rise in COVID cases.

In the last week, on average, 16 new cases have entered the daily workflow, up from fewer than eight cases a day. About 92 percent of all new cases in Buncombe County are among individuals who are not fully vaccinated, and the average age of those individuals is 39.
“In the last two weeks, there has been a clear and steady increase in cases each day,” said Saunders. “With the more transmissible Delta variant growing exponentially and now being the predominant strain in our state, the greatest risk is for our younger, unvaccinated friends, family members and neighbors.” In Buncombe County, 54 percent of individuals ages 25-49 are fully vaccinated.

Statistics

  • 18,349 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic started
  • Cases per 100,000 per week have increased from 34 to 51 in the past week
  • Percent positivity, which had been consistently under 2.0 percent just a few weeks ago, has grown to 3.4 percent, indicating increased viral community transmission
  • There have been 327 COVID-19 related deaths
  • Roughly 80 percent of adults 65 and older in Buncombe County are fully vaccinated
  • 54 percent of total Buncombe County population is partially vaccinated, 52 percent fully vaccinated

“The more the virus spread amongst us, the more we give it the opportunity to create additional mutations and possibly more variants,” said Saunders. “When we are not vaccinated, we act as factories for the virus, but the good news is, we can limit that viral supply chain and limit the productivity of the virus with vaccines.”

Buncombe County Health & Human Services vaccine administration takes place at the Buncombe County Health Department, 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville. Walk-in vaccines are available between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Appointments can be scheduled online at www.buncombeready.org. Additional vaccine providers can be found by visiting https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.
Individuals who are not vaccinated should practice precautions like mask-wearing and social distancing.

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

Saunders will provide an additional COVID update to the Board of Commissioners at its Aug. 3 meeting.

For more information about COVID-19 and vaccines in Buncombe County, go to www.buncombeready.org.

June 23, 2021

Site Consolidation

Starting June 23, 2021, the Buncombe County COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic will be located in the Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) building located at 40 Coxe Avenue, in Downtown Asheville. COVID-19 vaccines are no-cost to the individual and no appointment is necessary. The Vaccination Clinic will be open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. The Clinic is conveniently located in the heart of downtown across from the Post Office and is accessible through public transit. There is free parking for visitors in the Sears Alley Parking Garage. Please bring your parking ticket with you inside of the building so that we can offer you free parking. The public is encouraged to visit www.buncombeready.org or call the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095 for more information.

June 15, 2021

On Tuesday, June 15, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided the latest vaccine information and COVID rates. Due to increases in vaccination rates and reductions in positivity rates, additional regular, formal briefings will be suspended unless needed.

COVID-19 trends in Buncombe County as of June 15:

  • There have been 18,044 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 325 COVID-19 related deaths in our community.
  • There are 15 cases per 100,000 per week, down from 28 per 100,000 two weeks ago.
  • The percent positivity remains below at 2 percent in the weekly metrics, with it being 1.2 percent today.
  • About five new cases per day are entering the public health work flow, with all new cases in the previous week in individuals younger than 64 years old, with the majority being 25-50 years old.
  • Local hospitalizations remain low. 

Vaccines Statistics

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered more than 95,300 total doses of the vaccine with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services.
“We continue to see the greatest portion of our time and effort in our outreach focused on equity and reaching those not yet vaccinated,” said Saunders. “We continue to work with community centers, community-based organizations, workplaces, recreation, schools, and many other places.” In the last month, Buncombe County Health and Human Services staff have planned, facilitated, and/or implemented 18 events reaching about 440 people.

According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services Dashboard, about 52 percent of the total Buncombe County population has been vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine.
In addition:

  • Vaccination uptake among those 65 years and older remains high at more than 78 percent.
  • Vaccination rates among the 12-17 year old group saw the biggest increase from 26.7 percent to 31 percent.

Buncombe County Health & Human Services vaccine administration takes place at A-B Tech Conference Center, 16 Fernihurst Drive, Asheville. Walk-in vaccines are available during clinic hours of Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Appointments can also be scheduled by visiting www.buncombeready.org or by calling (828) 419-0095.
“We are thankful to A-B Tech,” said Saunders. “Many thanks to President Gossett for the use of the incredible conference space, and special gratitude to Clint Gorman and Kevin Mills of A-B Tech for assisting us in so many ways at the site.”

On June 23, vaccine administration will move to the Health Department site at 40 Coxe Ave. Walk-in vaccine hours will be Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Last week, Governor Cooper announced the Your Shot at A Million statewide vaccine incentive. Four vaccinated North Carolinians 18 and older will win $1 million each and four North Carolinians ages 12 to 17 will win tuition for post-secondary education. The $4 Million Summer Cash and Summer Cash 4 College Drawings will run every other Wednesday from June 23 through Aug. 4. Those vaccinated on or after June 10 will be entered twice for each drawing increasing the chance of winning for the newly vaccinated.

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

Saunders closed the briefing encouraging people to get vaccinated: “Nationally, nearly all of the people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated. Please get vaccinated if you haven’t yet. While new cases are low, the virus is still among us posing particular risk for those not protected.”

June 1, 2021 Update

On Tuesday, June 1, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided the latest vaccine information and COVID rates.
COVID-19 trends in Buncombe County as of May 28:

  • There have been 17,965 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 322 COVID-19 related deaths in our community.   
  • There are 28 cases per 100,000 per week, down from 47 per 100,000 two weeks ago.
  • The percent positivity remains stable at 2.4 percent in the weekly metrics.
  • Local hospitalizations remain low.

Vaccines Statistics as of May 28 (dashboard not updated due to Memorial Day holiday)

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered more than 93,000 total doses of the vaccine with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services.
Buncombe County statistics for all vaccine providers per NC Department of Health and Human Services Dashboard: About 51 percent of the total Buncombe County population (132,570 people) has been vaccinated with at least one dose.
In addition:

  • More than 77 percent of people 65 and older in Buncombe County have received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • More than half of people between 25 and 64 in Buncombe County have received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • About 43 percent of people 18-24 in Buncombe County have received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • About 27 percent of children ages 12-17 in Buncombe County have received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • 43 percent of the total North Carolina population has received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • 53 percent of North Carolina adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine

All Buncombe County Health & Human Services vaccine administration takes place at A-B Tech Conference Center, 16 Fernihurst Drive, Asheville. Walk-in vaccines are available during clinic hours of Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Appointments can also be scheduled by visiting www.buncombeready.org or by calling (828) 419-0095.
The vaccine site at A-B Tech will continue through June before transitioning to the Health Department site at 40 Coxe Ave. at the end of the month.

Upcoming pop-ups (no appointment necessary)

  • June 5 – Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center, 12-2:30 p.m.

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.
While no longer mandated broadly, health officials encourage people to continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even they’ve been vaccinated. Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear a face covering indoors. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine appointments, and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

The next COVID update will take place during the June 15 Board of County Commissioners briefing.

May 18, 2021 Update

Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders briefed the Buncombe County Commissioners during their briefing on May 18. To date Health and Human Services has administered more than 90,000 vaccine doses in Buncombe County.
COVID-19 trends in Buncombe County as of May 18:

  • There have been 17,802 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 315 COVID-19 related deaths in our community.
  • There are 47 new cases per 100,000 per week, down from 83 per 100,000 two weeks ago.
  • The percent positivity is 2.6 percent, down a full percentage point from two weeks ago.
  • Regional hospitalizations remain low overall, though show a slight uptick in the 18-county region. Local hospitalizations remain low.

Vaccines Statistics as of May 18

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered more than 90,000 total doses of the vaccine with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services.

Buncombe County statistics for all vaccine providers per NC Department of Health and Human Services Dashboard: About 49 percent of the total Buncombe County population (127,664 people) has been vaccinated with at least one dose.
In addition:

  • Almost 77% of people 75 and older in Buncombe County have received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • More than half of people between 25 and 64 in Buncombe County have received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • About 41% of people 18-24 in Buncombe County have received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • About 18% of children ages 12-17 in Buncombe County have received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • 41% of the total North Carolina population has received at least one dose of the vaccine
  • 52% of North Carolina adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine

“I would like to note that as of last week, the state reported the lowest age group as 0-17 and at that time, just more than 5 percent of that age band had received at least one vaccine,” said Saunders. “To see this jump 13 percentage points in just a matter of days is a testament to families and caregivers who want to protect their loved ones and the community and a testament to vaccine providers across the county who quickly adapted to providing vaccine to teens and adolescents. If you have not yet received your vaccine, get ahead of summer camp, vacation, and summer travel by getting your teens or tweens vaccinated now.”

Upcoming Vaccine Events

All Buncombe County Health & Human Services vaccine administration takes place at A-B Tech Conference Center, 16 Fernihurst Drive, Asheville. Walk-in vaccines are available during clinic hours of Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Appointments can also be scheduled by visiting www.buncombeready.org or by calling (828) 419-0095.

Pop-up vaccine events (no appointment necessary):

  • May 22 – Asheville Middle School, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • May 25 – Big Ivy Community Center, 8 a.m.-noon

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.
While no longer mandated broadly, health officials encourage people to continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if they’ve been vaccinated. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine appointments, and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.
The next COVID update will take place during the June 1 Board of County Commissioners briefing.

May 4, 2021 Update

COVID Trends Remain Stable, Walk-in Appointments Available for COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 trends in Buncombe County as of May 4:

  • There have been 17,531 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 314 COVID-19 related deaths in our community.
  • There are 83 new cases per 100,000 per week, down from 97 per 100,000 two weeks ago.
  • The percent positivity is 3.6 percent, down from the 4-4.5 percent range of the last several weeks.
  • Regional hospitalizations continue to remain low and stable.

Vaccines Statistics as of May 4

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered more than 82,790 total doses of the vaccine with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services.
“Each vaccine means we are closer to controlling the virus,” said Saunders. “Each vaccine means we are closer to things we have missed so much. Each one is a step we make toward recovering our economies, restoring our normal lives, and reviving our communities.”

Buncombe County statistics for all vaccine providers per NC Department of Health and Human Services Dashboard: About 47 percent of  population (121,346 individuals) vaccinated with at least one dose and 40.5 percent of population is fully vaccinated.

With the consolidation of vaccine administration to one site, BCHHS has added additional outreach opportunities focusing on neighborhoods, community centers, and historically marginalized populations like homebound, unhoused individuals, migrant farmworkers, and African American communities. BCHHS is also supporting worksite outreach. BCHHS also will be working to provide vaccine opportunities in Swannanoa/Black Mountain, Sandy Mush, Weaverville, and Southside.

Site Consolidation


Beginning May 10, all Buncombe County Health & Human Services vaccine administration will take place at A-B Tech Conference Center, 16 Fernihurst Drive, Asheville. Walk-in vaccines are available during clinic hours of Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Appointments can also be scheduled by visiting www.buncombeready.org or by calling (828) 419-0095.

Restrictions Eased

“Governor Cooper announced recently that he will be looking to lift restrictions in June,” explained Saunders. “This is based on the desire, thus far, of folks to get their vaccine and the hard work that vaccine providers have been doing across the state to vaccinate North Carolinians.”
During his press conference last week, Cooper further stated that he is considering lifting the mask mandate when our state reaching two thirds of adults receiving at least one dose of vaccine. This is the threshold that the state has set for us to see a continued dampening of transmission and help control the virus. North Carolina as a whole is at about 50 percent. of adults having received at least one vaccine.

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

Emergency Alerts

Buncombe County residents can stay up-to-date on emergency situations by signing up for BC Alerts by texting “BCAlert” to 99411 or by clicking here. Users can select which type of notices they’d like to receive, the languages for the communications, and even TTY options. These alerts include key information about COVID vaccines and waitlists as well.

If residents have previously signed up for BC Alerts, they will need to re-register in order to continue receiving them due to a change in emergency alert providers. Visit www.buncombecounty.org to learn more.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine appointments, and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

The next COVID update will take place during the May 18 Board of County Commissioners briefing.

April 20, 2021 Update

Slight Uptick in COVID-like Illness, Vaccines for Everyone 16 and Older Encouraged, Available Immediately

On Tuesday, April 20, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided the latest vaccine information and COVID rates during a COVID-19 community update. Of note, COVID-like illness surveillance, an early indicator, shows a slight uptick in the week ending April 10.

Saunders encouraged vaccines for everyone 16 and up to prevent increases in cases: “As we continue vaccinate, I want to remind everyone that our best chance for the community, for each of us to get back to the things we love – travel, hugs with family, singing along with our favorite bands at our favorite venues and all the other things we’ve missed in this past year – is to get your shot. We all now have a spot and there is vaccine supply in many locations. No need to wait – get your vaccine today and begin protecting yourself, your loved ones and our community and economy!”

Vaccine appointments are available immediately by going to www.buncombeready.org or by calling 419-0095. You can also visit myspot.nc.gov to find a vaccine provider near you. Pfizer is the only vaccine to have received EUA for use in 16- and 17-year-olds; these individuals should check with their preferred vaccine provider to confirm that Pfizer is available.

COVID-19 trends in Buncombe County as of April 20:

  • There have been 17,051 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 311 COVID-19-related deaths in our community.
  • There are 97 new cases per 100,000 per week, up from 73 per 100,000 last week.
  • The percent positivity remains below 5.0 percent has bobbed between 4.0 and 4.5 percent for the last several weeks and is currently 4.1%.
  • Regional hospitalizations continue to remain low.
  • The percentage of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients is at levels so low and stable that our hospital system is no longer routinely updating this indicator but will reinstate should the metrics change significantly.

Vaccine Statistics as of April 20

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered more than 77,660 doses of the vaccine with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners, with 43,200 first doses, about 33,000 second doses and just under 1,500 single-shot doses.
Buncombe County statistics for all providers per NC Department of Health and Human Services  Dashboard: 43 percent of people are vaccinated with at least one dose and 31 percent of people are fully vaccinated.

Testing
Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

Volunteers Recognized
Saunders took a moment to honor the volunteers who have been assisting vaccine operations: “This week marks National Volunteer Week, and I want to recognize all the volunteers across our county, our region, and our state who are assisting with vaccine operations and throughout the pandemic response. Particularly for the dedicated and compassionate volunteers that assist in our Buncombe County operations, the vaccine team and I appreciate you and value the work you do each day – everything from decontaminating chairs to guiding visitors as to where to go to actually administering a shot into an arm – we are delighted to have you a part of our team.”

Emergency Alerts

Buncombe County residents can stay up-to-date on emergency situations by signing up for BC Alerts by texting “BCAlert” to 99411 or by clicking here. Users can select which type of notices they’d like to receive, the languages for the communications, and even TTY options. These alerts include key information about COVID vaccines and waitlists as well.

If residents have previously signed up for BC Alerts, they will need to re-register in order to continue receiving them due to a change in emergency alert providers. Visit www.buncombecounty.org to learn more.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine appointments, and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.
The next COVID update will take place during the May 4 Board of County Commissioners briefing.

April 13 Update

Buncombe County COVID Vaccines Appointments Open to Everyone 16 and Older,

Appointments Available Immediately

On Tuesday, April 13, Buncombe County Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore provided updated vaccine information and COVID rates during a COVID-19 community update. Vaccine appointments are available immediately by going to www.buncombeready.org or by calling 419-0095. Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for use in 16- and 17-year-olds, these individuals should check with their preferred vaccine provider to confirm that Pfizer is available.  
COVID trends in Buncombe County as of April 13:

  • There have been 16,805 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 311 COVID-19-related deaths in our community. 
  • There are 73 new cases per 100,000 per week, and we are seeing about 28 new cases per day enter our public health work flow.
  • The percent positivity has been between 4.0 and 4.4 percent for the last several weeks.
  • Local hospitalization indicators have increased slightly, but overall remain stable.

“Just as the health director has stated in prior updates, I will stress that while indicators are not increasing, it is still so important to pay attention to this leveling off,” said Mullendore. “This is far from over, and we are still a long way from having the type of immunity our community needs to be safe. We will only get there if we practice the three Ws and get  the vaccine as soon as possible.”

Vaccine Statistics as of April 13
Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered 70,489 doses of the vaccine with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners, with 42,951 people partially vaccinated and 29,253 fully vaccinated.
Weekly vaccine allocation: 3,520 baseline doses, 300 equity bump doses
Vaccine events: This week, Buncombe County partnered with the Mexican Consulate for walk-in vaccines for our Latinx community. In addition, Buncombe County partnered with Meals on Wheels and Mission Health Partners’ Caremedics to vaccinate homebound individuals. Staff have also worked with community organizations to vaccinate unhoused community members.

Johnson & Johnson

Out of an abundance of caution, Buncombe County is pausing the use of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine pending additional review from the FDA and CDC. With all three vaccines, it’s common to briefly experience a low fever, headache, fatigue, and/or muscle pain. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been paused after the risk of more severe side effects became approximately one in a million. “This is a sign that the vaccine safety monitoring system is working well,” said Mullendore.

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

Emergency Alerts

Buncombe County residents can stay up-to-date on emergency situations by signing up for BC Alerts by texting “BCAlert” to 99411 or by clicking here. Users can select which type of notices they’d like to receive, the languages for the communications, and even TTY options. These alerts include key information about COVID vaccines and waitlists as well. If residents have previously signed up for BC Alerts, they will need to re-register in order to continue receiving them due to a change in emergency alert providers. Visit www.buncombecounty.org to learn more.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine appointments, and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org. Moving forward, COVID updates will occur twice a month at the Board of County Commissioners Briefings.

Buncombe County COVID Vaccines Open to Group 5 Wednesday,

Appointments Available Immediately

On Tuesday, April 6, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided a COVID-19 update to the Board of Commissioners ahead of Wednesday’s opening of vaccine appointments to Group 5. Vaccine appointments are available immediately by going to www.buncombeready.org or by calling (828) 419-0095. Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for use in 16- and 17-year-olds, these individuals should check with their choice vaccine provider to confirm that Pfizer is available.

In addition, Saunders provided an update to the Commissioners on the latest COVID trends in Buncombe County. As of April 6:

  • There have been 16,615 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 308 COVID-19-related deaths in our community. 
  • There are 79 new cases per 100,000 per week, and we are seeing about 28 new cases per day enter our public health work flow.
  • The percent positivity for the last week has been between 4.0 and 4.4 percent this week.
  • Local hospitalization indicators remain stable.

“I continue to stress that while our indicators are not increasing, this continued leveling off is just as important to pay attention to and requires all of our attention,” said Saunders. “It is critical to wear a mask in public places and with others outside our households. The pandemic is not over – we absolutely must continue to social distance and wash hands frequently.”

Vaccines

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered 62,541 doses of the vaccine with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners, with 36,700 people partially vaccinated and 25,752 fully vaccinated.

Weekly vaccine allocation: 3,520 baseline doses, 300 equity bump doses
Additional allocation: 800 doses, which are being transferred to Ingles and Health Ridge pharmacies, and 500 doses of Johnson & Johnson to support outreach to homebound, incarcerated, and unhoused individuals

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

Emergency Alerts

Buncombe County residents can stay up-to-date on emergency situations by signing up for BC Alerts by texting “BCAlert” to 99411 or by clicking here. Users can select which type of notices they’d like to receive, the languages for the communications, and even TTY options. These alerts include key information about COVID vaccines and waitlists as well.

If residents have previously signed up for BC Alerts, they will need to re-register in order to continue receiving them due to a change in emergency alert providers. Visit www.buncombecounty.org to learn more.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine appointments and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

For Immediate Release
March 30, 2021

Buncombe County COVID Cases to Continue Plateau, Vaccine Waitlist Complete

Active groups can schedule online at buncombeready.org or by calling (828) 419-0095

On Tuesday, March 30, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided a COVID-19 update to the Board of Commissioners. As of March 30:

  • There have been 16,409 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 301 COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic’s start.  
  • There are 27 new cases per day, and the number of new cases per 100,000 per week is 75.
  • The percent positivity has ticked up to 4 percent. 

“Our successes so far are still so fragile,” said Saunders. “We must stay diligent and confident in the 3 Ws until more of our neighbors are vaccinated.” Saunders also emphasized to stay home and get tested if people experience symptoms or believe they’ve been exposed to COVID-19. Testing locations can be found at the North Carolina Find My Testing Place website.

Vaccines

Beginning March 31, remaining individuals for Group 4b will be eligible for vaccines. This group includes other essential workers and those living in other group settings that have not been vaccinated. The waitlist previously utilized by Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has been exhausted, so individuals looking for an appointment may schedule their own by going to www.buncombeready.org or by calling (828) 419-0095. Both options are available 24 hours a day.

  • Vaccines administered by BCHHS since Dec. 22, 2020: 58,707
  • Total doses of vaccine administered in Buncombe County: 136,259
  • Total doses administered in N.C.: 4.7 million
  • Percentage of the Buncombe County population fully vaccinated: 19%
  • Percentage of Buncombe County population partially vaccinated: 33.3%
  • Buncombe County baseline weekly vaccine allocation: 3,510
  • Additional vaccine doses received for equity purposes: 300
  • Additional vaccine doses received to then transfer: 1,170 for transfer to Ingles Markets  

To get more information on vaccine distribution in Buncombe County, text “covid” to 99411. Vaccines for Group 5, all North Carolinians, are expected to become available April 7.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine appointments and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

March 23, 2021 Update

Buncombe County COVID Trends Plateau, Testing Urged if Exposure Suspected

On Tuesday, March 23, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided a COVID-19 community update.

  • There have been 16,194 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There were no additional COVID-19-related deaths in the past week.
  • There are 30 new cases per day, and the number of new cases per 100,000 per week is stable in the 80s.
  • For three weeks, the percent positivity has plateaued, hovering between 2.8 percent and 3.4 percent. Today’s percent positivity is 3.4%.
  • Hospitalizations in the region remain stable.
  • Testing is critical, and anyone experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms or believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should seek out testing at the North Carolina Find My Testing Place website.

Vaccines

  • Vaccines administered by BCHHS since Dec. 22, 2020: 49,830
  • Total doses of vaccine administered in Buncombe County: 94,345
  • Total doses administered in N.C. as of yesterday: 3.6 million
  • Percentage of the Buncombe County population fully vaccinated: 13.5%
  • Buncombe County baseline weekly vaccine allocation: 3,510
  • Additional vaccine doses received for equity purposes: 300
  • Additional vaccine doses received via transfer: 400 from hospital partner for outreach and vaccination of detention center clients and individuals experiencing homelessness

BCHHS is currently administering vaccines to healthcare workers, people 65 and older, frontline essential employees, people with high-risk medical conditions, people experiencing homelessness, and incarcerated individuals.

To sign up for the vaccine, go to  www.buncombeready.org or call 828-419-0095. BCHHS is currently calling individuals between 62,000 and 65,000 on the waitlist, with about 15,000 active individuals remaining on the waitlist. To be removed from the waitlist, please call 828-419-0095.
To get more information on vaccine distribution in Buncombe County, text “covid” to 99411.

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

March 16, 2021 Update

Buncombe County COVID Trends Continue to Improve, Group 4 Waitlist Opens March 17, at 8 a.m.

On Tuesday, March 16, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided a COVID-19 update to the Board of Commissioners. As of March 16:

  • There have been 15,970 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 294 COVID-19-related deaths in our community. 
  • There are 57 new cases per 100,000 per week, down from 98 just last week.
  • The percent positivity is 2.9 percent and has remained stable between 2.8 and 3.1 percent this past week.
  • Hospitalizations in the region remain stable and hospital reports of COVID-like symptoms have decreased.
  • Department of Health and Human Services surveillance shows very little flu-like activity this season.

“Seeing our trends come back into more favorable areas is a welcomed sight, but it worries me that folks will see these improving indicators and believe that they no longer need to worry about COVID-19,” said Saunders. “That is false. Our trends are better, but COVID-19 still remains among us. This is actually the time to continue following the three Ws in order to maintain and further improve our current state.”

Vaccines and the Group 4 Waitlist

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered 44,246 doses of the vaccine with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners. At 8 a.m. on March 17, the waitlist will open to Group 4 – people with high-risk medical conditions, people experiencing homelessness and incarcerated people.

To join the waitlist, go to www.buncombeready.org or call 828-419-0095 on Wednesday after 8 a.m. For more details on who is included in Groups 1, 2, 3, and 4, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov.

As of March 15, our state has administered more than 3.1 million total doses of vaccine. This translates to almost 20% of the population receiving at least partial vaccination and about 13% having now been fully vaccinated.
Among all Buncombe County vaccine providers, more than 83,000 total vaccines have been administered equating to 19.8% of the county population achieving at least partial vaccination and almost 12.2% being fully vaccinated.

To get more information on vaccine distribution for Group 4 in Buncombe County, text “covid” to 99411. To be removed from the waitlist, please call 828-419-0095.

Equity Efforts

Of the total Buncombe County population, about 6 percent (15,000 people) is Black/African American. Roughly 2,260 individuals are both Black/African American and 65 years and older. Through vaccine operations, BCHHS reached about 25.8% of those individuals that are African American and 65-74 years and 25.8% of those individuals who are Black/African American and 75 years and older. This has increased from about 22 percent just two weeks ago.

Recent equity bump allocations in the last two weeks have helped to engage and vaccinate eligible Latinx population members. Based on total population information, roughly 10 percent of the population identifies as Latinx, which is roughly 23,147 individuals in Buncombe County. Of that total population, about 3 percent of the population has received at least one dose. Two weeks ago that figure was 1.4 percent.

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

Emergency Alerts

Buncombe County residents can stay up-to-date on emergency situations by signing up for CodeRED

If residents have previously signed up for BC Alerts, they will need to re-register in order to continue receiving them due to a change in emergency alert providers. Visit www.buncombecounty.org to learn more.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

March 9, 2021 Update

Buncombe County COVID Rate Drops to Below Surge Values; Group 3 Waitlist Opens at 8 a.m. March 10

On Tuesday, March 9, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided a COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine community update. As of March 9:

  • There have been 15,822 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 293 COVID-19-related deaths in our community. 
  • The number of new cases per 100,000 per week has dropped to 98 per 100,000 per week. With about 37 new cases per day, the numbers are more similar to pre-surge values.
  • The percent positivity is stable for the past week at 3.1 percent.
  • Hospitalizations in the region remain stable.

“These indicators are looking more and more like the metrics prior to the holiday surge,” said Saunders. “This is encouraging and a welcomed sight after a very tough holiday season with significant community spread and transmission. I want to see these trends continue and move further down, and to do that we need your continued help by wearing masks, washing hands, and limiting interactions. If we do our part now, we can see our trends remain stable if not continue to decline. These simple steps are so important as we continue to vaccinate the community.”

Vaccines and the Group 3 Waitlist
Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has been vaccinating members of our community with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners, and at 8 a.m. on March 10, the waitlist will open to all frontline essential employees. To join the waitlist, go to www.buncombeready.org or call 828-250-5000 on Wednesday after 8 a.m.

Individuals who are working in-person in one of the eight essential sectors are eligible for vaccinations. The eight essential sectors are critical manufacturing, education, essential goods, food/agriculture, government/community services, health care/public health, public safety, and transportation. For more details on these sectors and other vaccine information visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov.

To date, BCHHS has administered 38,146 total vaccines, with about 63 percent of those being first doses. For the last three weeks, BCHHS has received a baseline allocation of 2,340 doses. In addition, for the last three weeks, BCHHS has received 300 additional doses each week for equity projects. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services allocated equity “bumps” for the purposes of improving the equitable distribution of vaccines to marginalized populations. With the equity allocations, BCHHS has worked with community partners like Triedstone Missionary Baptist Church and Haywood Street Mission to hold events to reach populations that may have limited access to vaccination opportunities but may be at highest risk of severe illness if they were to contract COVID-19.

This week in addition to our baseline and our equity allocation, we have accepted a transfer from our hospital partner of 1,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson for appointments. BCHHS is currently scheduling in the 25,000-28,000 range of the waitlist.

BCHHS continues to run first-dose operations from the AB Tech site. Through March 19, second doses will be administered at Reynolds High. On March 20, second-dose operations will transition to Biltmore Church South as a drive-through site.

To get more information on vaccine distribution for Group 3 and beyond, text “covid” to 99411. To be removed from the waitlist, please call 828-419-0095.

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit www.starmed.care to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.

Emergency Alerts

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that time is of the essence in a crisis, and it’s also critical in the recovery after. Buncombe County residents can stay up-to-date on emergency situations by signing up for CodeRED.

Users can select which type of notices they’d like to receive, the languages for the communications, and even TTY options. These alerts include key information about COVID vaccines and waitlists as well.

If residents have previously signed up for BC Alerts, they will need to re-register in order to continue receiving them due to a change in emergency alert providers. Visit www.buncombecounty.org to learn more.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

March 2, 2021 Update

Vaccine Rollout Continues in Buncombe County as Infection Rates Stabilize
On Tuesday, March 2, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided a COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine update to the Board of Commissioners. As of March 2:

  • There have been 15,585 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 293 COVID-19-related deaths in our community. 
  • The number of new cases per 100,000 per week has plateaued and is now 178 per 100,000 per week. New cases mirror pre-surge levels, but are not as low as numbers from last summer.
  • The percent positivity is stable at 3.4 percent.
  • Hospitalizations in the region have continued to decline but do show some stabilization in recent days.

Vaccine Rollout

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has been vaccinating members of our community with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners. As of yesterday, BCHHS had administered 32,133 total vaccinations. BCHHS is currently vaccinating individuals in Groups 1 and 2 – healthcare workers and adults 65 and older, as well as Group 3 school personnel. Governor Cooper announced today that the remaining Group 3 Additional Frontline Essential Workers will be eligible beginning March 3. The waitlist in Buncombe County will not open fully to Group 3 on March 3 due to upgrades and surge testing that was planned previously based on the original eligibility date of March 10. BCHHS will notify the public once it determines the date for opening the waitlist to Group 3. To get more information on vaccine distribution for Group 3 and beyond, text “BCAlert” to 99411.

Last Saturday, BCHHS vaccinated approximately 500 school staff. More than 4,100 school personnel signed up to receive vaccinations, and it will take approximately four weeks to vaccinate those who expressed initial interest. Any school personnel not included in the initial list will join the Group 3 general waitlist.
MAHEC is partnering with the Buncombe Partnership for Children to identify and assist in vaccinating childcare facility staff eligible for vaccine.

Equitable Distribution

As a vaccine provider, equitable distribution has been a guiding principle. Through its vaccine operations, BCHHS has vaccinated more than 500 of the estimated 2,260 individuals who are African American and 65 years or older. In addition, approximately 330 Latinx individuals have received the vaccine, but with roughly 23,317 Latinx individuals qualifying in the current phase, BCHHS is working with community partners to identify additional opportunities for access. Approximately 94 percent of vaccines are going to Buncombe County residents.
NC DHHS has county-level vaccination data available on a dashboard available here: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/vaccinations

Vaccine Allotment

Our current baseline allocation is 2,340 - two trays of Pfizer. In addition to the baseline, BCHHS also received a 300-dose equity bump for the this three-week allocation period. The intent of these doses is to provide access in addition to baseline for historically marginalized populations. Last week, BCHHS partnered with Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church, Western Carolina University and others to administer more than 280 doses at the church. This week, BCHHS is partnering with Haywood Street to vaccinate approximately 150 homeless individuals as well as other recipients of services who are eligible in current groups.  
In addition to the baseline allotment, BCHHS continues to accept transfers from local partners. Last week, BCHHS accepted 300 doses from our hospital partner and this week BCHHS is working to accept a transfer of approximately 500 doses from MAHEC partners. All transferred doses are applied to our waitlist.
If eligible for one of the vaccine groups, individuals can call 828-250-5000 or visit buncombeready.org to get on the waitlist. Buncombe County staff is currently scheduling in the 17,000 range of the waitlist. Approximately 40,000 individuals remain on the wait list, and they are contacted in the order which they signed up. If individuals need to remove their name from the waitlist, please email ready@buncombecounty.org or call us at (828) 419-0095 or (828) 250-5000. To view more vaccine providers, visit the Find Your Spot to Take Your Shot website.

Testing

Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for drive-through COVID-19 testing. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.
Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

Feb. 23, 2021 Update:

Vaccine Rollout Continues in Buncombe County as Trends Improve

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided a weekly COVID community update. today:

  • There have been 15,120 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 289 COVID-19-related deaths in our community. 
  • The number of new cases per 100,000 per week has decreased significantly since the beginning of the New Year and is now 171 per 100,000 per week.
  • The percent positivity also continues to decline and currently is 3.7 percent.
  • Hospitalizations in the region continue to decline.

Vaccine Rollout

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has been vaccinating members of our community with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners. To date, BCHHS has administered 25,502 total vaccinations.

BCHHS is currently vaccinating individuals in Groups 1 and 2 – healthcare workers and adults 65 and older, respectively. Through BCHHS and private vaccine administration, approximately 12 percent of Buncombe County’s general population has received at least a first dose of the vaccine.
Beginning this week, the baseline allocation will be 2,340 doses. While this may seem like an increase, it is the same number of vials as the previous three weeks but is now based on the expectation of six doses per Pfizer vaccine bottle.
In addition, this week BCHHS will receive 300 additional doses from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for improving the equitable distribution of vaccine to marginalized populations. This week, BCHHS will partner with Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church and Western Carolina University to hold a vaccine event to better meet the needs of our historically marginalized populations and provide opportunities for vaccine access that otherwise may be limited for those who qualify in the active phases of adults 65 and older, health care workers and school personnel. Vaccines are available by appointment only.

If eligible for one of the vaccine groups, individuals can call 828-250-5000 or visit buncombeready.org to get on the waitlist. Buncombe County staff is currently calling individuals between numbers 10,000 and 12,000. Approximately 40,000 individuals remain on the wait list, and they are contacted in the order which they signed up. If individuals need to remove their name from the waitlist, please email ready@buncombecounty.org or call us at 828-419-0095 or 828-250-5000.

NC DHHS has county-level vaccination data available on a dashboard available here: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/vaccinations

Vaccines for School Employees

Last week, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners directed BCHHS staff to begin providing vaccines to school employees by diverting one tray of vaccines – approximately 1,000 doses – from each week’s baseline allocation. Vaccinations for public, private and charter school personnel will occur at the A-B Tech site by appointment.

By close of business Wednesday, school administrators will provide BCHHS lists of school staff who have expressed interest in receiving the vaccine. BCHHS schedulers will use those lists to schedule about 1,000 appointments each week for school staff. It will take several weeks to complete the lists. If a school employee misses the deadline to be placed on that list by their school administrator, they will then be directed to the Buncombe County wait list for Group 3 when it opens on March 10 to frontline essential workers.
MAHEC has received vaccine doses and is partnering with the Buncombe Partnership for Children to identify childcare facility staff eligible for vaccine.  

Testing

BCHHS is no longer offering COVID-19 testing. BCHHS worked with NC DHHS to establish a testing vendor, StarMed, in the county. Visit the Find my Testing Place website or visit starmed.care to register for drive-through COVID-19 testing at the Buncombe County Sports Park. Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested.
Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

Feb. 16, 2021 Update:

Buncombe County COVID-19 Positivity Rate Continues to Decline, School Employees Slated to Begin Receiving Vaccinations

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided a weekly COVID community update. As of Feb. 16:

  • There have been 14,671 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 274 COVID-19-related deaths in our community. 
  • The number of new cases per 100,000 per week has decreased significantly since the beginning of the New Year and is now 183 per 100,000 per week and approximately 68 per day, down from 98 per day just two weeks ago.
  • The percent positivity also continues to decline and currently is 4.1 percent.
  •  Hospitalizations in the region continue to decline with about 6.4 percent of area inpatient beds occupied with COVID-19 patients, down from 11 percent two weeks ago.

Vaccine rollout

Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has been vaccinating members of our community with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners.

To date, BCHHS has administered 21,237 total vaccinations, and as of yesterday, 1.6 million doses have been administered in North Carolina. BCHHS is currently vaccinating individuals in Groups 1 and 2 – healthcare workers and adults 65 and older, respectively. Through BCHHS and private vaccine administration, approximately 10 percent of Buncombe County’s general population has received at least a first dose of the vaccine.

Currently, BCHHS is receiving 1,950 first doses of vaccine each week and is scheduling about 2,000 appointments each week. While there has been an increase in Buncombe County’s weekly allocation since beginning the rollout, vaccine supply remains very low.

On Feb. 13, BCHHS held an equity-focused vaccine event. Partnering with CHOSEN, YMCA, ABIPA, WNC Medical Society, IPHA, Housing Authority, City of Asheville, and Buncombe County Government, more than 330 vaccinations were administered. The vaccines were transferred to BCHHS from Appalachian Mountain Community Health Centers.

North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services now has county-level vaccination data available on a dashboard available here: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/vaccinations

According to BCHHS COVID-19 Vaccine Management System data:

  •  93 percent of vaccine recipients are individuals with a Buncombe County address.
  • 6 percent of vaccine recipients are North Carolina residents residing outside of Buncombe County.

If eligible for one of the vaccine groups, individuals can call (828) 250-5000 or visit buncombeready.org to get on the waitlist. Buncombe County staff is currently calling individuals between numbers 6,500 and 8,500. Approximately 40,000 individuals remain on the wait list, and they are contacted in the order which they signed up. If individuals need to remove their name from the waitlist, please email ready@buncombecounty.org or call us at (828) 250-5000.

Vaccines for School Employees

Last week, Governor Cooper announced that eligibility for Group 3 would begin Feb. 24 for childcare employees and school employees in pre-k through 12th grade.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners directed BCHHS staff to begin providing vaccines to school employees by diverting one tray of vaccines – 975 doses – from each week’s general allocation. Communication about how to become part of the vaccination process will come from school and district leadership.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

Public Health Update Feb. 9, 2021

Buncombe County COVID-19 Positivity Rate Continues to Decline but B.C. 1.1.7 Variant Detected Locally

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided a weekly COVID community update.

Key takeaways

  • There are 14,193 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County since the pandemic’s start.
  • There have been 270 COVID-19-related deaths in our community. 
  • The number of new cases per 100,000 per week has decreased significantly since the beginning of the New Year and is now 277 per 100,0000 per week, 33 percentage points lower than four weeks ago.
  • There are an average of 70 new cases per day, down from 98 per day last week.
  • The percent positivity also continues to decline and is 5.6 percent.
  • Hospitalizations in the region continue to decline with about 8 percent of area inpatient beds occupied with COVID-19 patients.

New strain identified in Buncombe County

While the overall metrics Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) monitors continue to trend in a more favorable direction, the B.1.1.7 variant, which originated in the United Kingdom, is circulating in our community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts random surveillance on COVID-19 test samples for potential variant strains for better understanding of what is currently circulating. Through surveillance systems, three cases with B.1.1.7 variant have been identified in Buncombe County. Twenty-one B.1.1.7 variant cases have been identified throughout North Carolina using the surveillance process.

Typical case investigation and contact tracing occurred at time of initial positive result for each case prior to the variant sequencing results and each of the cases has since been released from isolation. According to the CDC, the B.1.1.7 variant is a more highly transmissible strain of COVID-19. Early indications show that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (the same as those used in Buncombe County) are effective against this strain of the virus.
“This variant is spreading throughout the country and our state,” said Saunders. “We should expect to see more cases of variant in our community as transmission rates of COVID, while declining slightly, continue to indicate heavy community spread. It is important for our community to know that the same measures that are good at stopping the spread of initial novel coronavirus strain are just as good at stopping the spread of variants.”

Vaccine rollout

Since December 22, BCHHS has been vaccinating members of our community with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners. To date, BCHHS has administered 16,400 total vaccinations. About 80 percent of these are first doses and the remaining portion represents second doses. BCHHS is currently vaccinating individuals in phase 1 and 2 – healthcare workers and adults 65 and older, respectively.
Currently, BCHHS is receiving 1,950 first doses of vaccine each week and is scheduling about 2,000 appointments each week. While there has been an increase in Buncombe County’s weekly allocation from the state, vaccine supply remains very low. 
If eligible for one of the vaccine groups, individuals can call 828-250-5000 or visit buncombeready.org to get on the waitlist. Buncombe County staff is currently calling individuals between numbers 6,000 and 8,000. Approximately 40,000 individuals remain on the wait list, and they are contacted in the order which they signed up. If individuals need to remove their name from the waitlist, please email ready@buncombecounty.org or call us at 828-250-5000.

Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.

Current metrics as of Feb. 1, 2021

Current metrics as of Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021

graph of current COVID-19 metrics in Buncombe County
  • 12,040 total cases in Buncombe County
  • Percent positivity 8.8% 
  • 230 deaths
  • See more at the NCDHHS COVID dashboard

Metrics from Jan. 12, 2021

  • 11,080 total cases in Buncombe County
  • Percent positivity 11.4% up .5%
  • 206 deaths
  • See more at the NCDHHS COVID dashboard

Current Trends as of Monday, Jan. 4, 2021:

  • 9,890 total cases in Buncombe County
  • Positivity up to 11.4% from 8.9% last week We saw a large increase post-Thanksgiving and continue to see those case climb post-Christmas. This is the large surge of cases that we have experienced since pandemic surge. We are currently seeing about 134 new cases per day enter our public health work flow. This has remained stable for the last two weeks.Deaths increased significantly due to long term care facility not reporting daily. This has been addressed. 
  • Increased signs and symptoms at testing sites
  • Hospitalizations increased
  • Buncombe County is now RED in the NCDHHS alert system (Current County Transmission Data From NCDHHS)
  • Stay Home, Limit Interactions, Practice the 3Ws, and Get vaccinated when it’s your turn. 
  • NCDHHS determines timeline for Phases and the State allotment of vaccine is the limiting factor on throughput
  • Planning for expanded capacity at larger future location. Details coming soon.
  • Scheduling for the vaccination for group 1B will begin on January 7, 2021. Vaccinations will be scheduled for the week of Jan 11, 2021. 

Click here to see Buncombe's most recent metrics. 

2020 Community Updates

Dec. 23, 2020, COVID-19 Update

Buncombe County Public Health officials held a community update. Watch the video below.

See the latest numbers on the COVID-19 Coronavirus Cases Dashboard

December 23, 2020 Key takeaways from Public Health

  • Trends are not improving. Click here to see the Buncombe County metrics as of Monday, December 21, 2020. 
  • Celebrate the holidays with only your household.
  • A negative covid test is not a guarantee. Please continue to limit your gatherings
  • Phase 1a vaccination for MEDICAL first responders is going well. This week, BCHHS vaccinated 300 first responders in our community. 
     

Updated Local Order: 

  • Buncombe County, City of Asheville, and Town of Montreat will move to add more stringent measures in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. 
  • The new local order signed on Dec. 23, 2020, reduces the capacity for indoor dining in restaurants from 50% of stated fire capacity to 30%
  • Lowers the number for an indoor mass gathering for social gatherings with individuals from outside your household from 10 persons to 2 persons
  • New restrictions are effective as of Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. Click here to see the unsigned order.

Dec. 17, 2020 COVID-19 Update

We as a nation have surpassed 17 Million cases since the pandemic began. We have lost over 307, 000 Americans related to COVID. In recent days, we are losing over 3000 Americans each day.

Almost 6,000 North Carolinians have died related to COVID-19. In our own community, we have lost 136 of our own neighbors related to COVID-19.

Our state has reached almost 452,000 identified cases of COVID-19 cumulatively and we are adding about 6,000 new cases on average in the last few days to that total.

In Buncombe, our percent positivity is now around 7% and we now have a total of 7,400 total cases of COVID-19 identified since the pandemic start. About a week after Thanksgiving, we began to see our cases increase. Now well into the post-Thanksgiving surge, each day, we are adding more than 100 new cases. This is an incredibly difficult workload for our nurses, tracers, and support staff who have been dedicated to case investigation since March, continuing to put in long hours to help protect you, me and our whole community.

Increasing trends statewide and locally are unsettling. There is time to time to turn these trends around without further restrictions, we have the tools to help reduce the spread…but it depends on not just SOME OF US…but ALL of us following through. We truly hope that our community will take our advice as we head into the holidays next week.

Celebrate the holidays with those only with those in your household. We do not recommend that you travel to a family get together– not even just down the road a piece. We are urging you to celebrate the upcoming holiday with those in your household only.

We saw with Thanksgiving that travel to family gatherings outside the household contributed to the surge of cases we are experiencing now. Limit physical contact with people who do not live with you. We are encouraging you to try different ways to express fellowship and joy with friends and family instead of traditional gatherings.

COVID Vaccine: 

Currently, there are two vaccines that have been shown to be highly protective against COVID-19 illness, including severe illness. One, a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for use last week and we are expecting to hear that Moderna’s vaccine will received authorization today. Scientists had a head start in creating these vaccines -- they were built upon years of work in developing vaccines for similar viruses. No short cuts were made in the development of the vaccines. It was through decades of scientific advancements and massive cooperation of the best minds in vaccine science from all over the world, that we now have 1 – and soon, 2 -- vaccines that can protect us from getting sick with COVID-19. More than 70,000 people participated in the clinical trials for these two vaccines to see if they are safe and effective. To date, the vaccines are nearly 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, including severe illness, with no safety concerns.

You will NOT get COVID from these vaccines and your DNA will NOT be altered by these vaccines.

These mRNA vaccines do not contain the virus that causes COVID. They work by giving instructions to our cells to make a harmless piece of a protein that is found on the surface of the virus. After the protein piece is made by our cell, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them. The protein piece moves to the surface of the cell. Our immune system recognizes that the protein doesn’t belong there, and begins mounting an immune response by making antibodies against that protein. This is just like what happens naturally when someone gets infected with COVID-19. Then, if we were to come into contact with the virus, our bodies would be prepared to fight it off.

The benefit of these vaccines, like all vaccines, is that those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.

Studies found that the vaccines were safe and protective against COVID-19 illness in persons with underlying health conditions compared to persons without these chronic conditions. Because underlying health conditions can increase the risk for severe COVID-19 illness, it is important for individuals with chronic health conditions to get the COVID vaccine.

The ingredients of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine are: mRNA, 4 lipids or fats, plus some salts and sugar. The vaccine contains no preservatives. Anyone with a history of a severe allergic reaction (like anaphylaxis) to any ingredient of the COVID-19 vaccine or to a previous dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine should not receive it. But those who have had severe allergic reactions (like anaphylaxis) to prior vaccines or injectable medications can still get the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. And anyone with a history of anaphylaxis or other allergic reaction due to things like shellfish & other foods, latex, pollen, animal dander or insect stings, etc.) should get vaccinated without any special precautions.

We will be following the states Prioritization Framework laid out for Phase 1A of the vaccination plan. This means our first vaccinations will be going to our healthcare workers at highest risk of exposure to COVID, Public Health staff with high risks of exposure, County and City EMT’s and Paramedics, and staff who work our COVID Testing sites and COVID Vaccination sites.  These initial vaccinations will be dispensed at a Closed Point of Distribution specifically for those groups that fall into Phase 1A.

Our Incident Management Team is hard at work planning for an efficient and equitable vaccination process. At this time, we do not know how may doses of the Vaccine BC Public Health will be receiving in the following weeks, but as we receive more of the Vaccine we will expand vaccine distribution to a larger pool of Health Care workers at high risk and also start taking the vaccine out to Long Term Care Facilities for both staff and residents.

We do not have a projected timeline for when we will go to Phase 1B or Phase 2, but we do know that NCDHHS will not move the state into Phase 1B of vaccine distribution until the entire state has completed phase 1A.

Vaccines are here, and it’s a pivotal moment in our fight against COVID-19, but we have a long road ahead of us before we have enough people vaccinated to start changing our trends and it will be even longer still for those trends to change enough for the state to start relaxing restrictions.  It’s as important as ever to follow Public Health Guidance.

Multi-Agency Covid Enforcement Task Force

To ensure compliance in our business community, the Multi-Agency Covid Enforcement Task Force is continuing to follow up on hundreds of complaints and reports of violations. So far the Task Force has either observed or assessed over 60 local businesses and has observed a very high level of compliance across the retail, restaurant, and gym industries.  Overall, our business community is following state and local guidance to protect our community.

Recently, there have been questions as to how hundreds of complaints have not translated into any citations being issued. Please note, just because the Task Force has not issued a citation we are still being successful in bringing businesses into compliance. There have been many instances where the Task Force has found a business in non-compliance upon arrival, provided education and materials, and brought them into willing compliance on-site.

The purpose of the Task Force is to ensure that the local business community is educated and in compliance with the latest iterations of the Governor’s Executive Orders.

If we see a business that is not in compliance with these requirements we will interact with management, educate them regarding the Executive Orders, and bring them into compliance at that time.  If a business cannot, or refuses to come into compliance at that time it would be grounds for a citation.  We have not seen that occur yet. We have seen 100% compliance with the face covering, capacity, and greeter requirements. We have not seen 100% compliance with signage requirements upon arrival, but we bring supplies with us and are able to resolve signage issues on-site and have had 100% willingness to quickly address any issues we point out to businesses.

Any business that receives 3 or more complaints is forwarded to the NCDHHS for documentation and follow up in which they send a formal letter to the business.  Locally, those businesses will also receive a letter from the Health Director making them aware of the reports of non-compliance and urging them to review relevant guidance. Those businesses also go into the queue for assessment from the Task Force and we are currently working our way through that list when the reports we receive are relevant and actionable.

Of the roughly 400 reports the Ready Team has received, about 94% concern face-covering non-compliance.  In Executive Order 181, subsection 2.4 there is a list of 10 exceptions from wearing a face-covering for both workers and guests, including medical and behavioral concerns, with a clause that states anyone declining to wear a face covering and citing any one of those 10 reasons should not be required to produce any documentation nor proof of condition.  This means that if staff or patrons at a store are not wearing a face covering and using one of those exceptions, they are still in compliance with the executive orders as written.  Individual business owners have the discretion of whether or not they allow those with an exception to enter their premises. If they choose not to and ask that person to leave the premises and that person refuses, they can be charged with trespassing and other laws that they may violate.  If the business owner chooses to allow those exceptions, they are still in compliance with the executive orders as written.

Wearing masks reduces COVID transmission, and everyone should understand that is the goal of the face-covering guidance. Our metrics are turning very sour, very fast and the only tools we have to influence them before we have widespread immunization is by following the three W’s. If we see the same surge in cases after Christmas that we have seen since Thanksgiving, Public Health will likely need to recommend enhanced restrictions to safeguard the capacity of our local healthcare systems.

December 7, 2020 Community Update: 

In the week following Thanksgiving, our nation, our state, and our county have seen a significant increase in new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

We as a nation have surpassed 14.7M cases since the pandemic began. We are adding over 200,000 cases each day in the last few days. We have lost over 280,000 Americans related to COVID.

As a state, we have had over 394,990 confirmed cases since identifying our first NC case. In the last week, we have been adding over 6000 new cases each day. And sadly, over 5,500 of our fellow North Carolinians have died related to COVID-19, an unfortunate and sad benchmark we wish to have never met. Our percent positivity as a state has continued to climb, now reaching 10.4%.

Locally, we have not seen much improvement in our indicators.  Buncombe County has now surpassed 6100 total cases of COVID-19. We are consistently adding 75 new cases a day on average and on December 6th, our Buncombe added a record 110 new cases. We have experienced 133 COVID-19 related deaths.

Several of our key metrics remain in unfavorable areas. Our new cases per 100,000 population per week has increased by 23% from 142 just a week ago to 201 this week. Our percent positivity, which had been consistently below 5%, has now increased to 5.5%. These metrics indicate increased viral transmission here in our community.

On December 3rd, seven days after Thanksgiving, we began to see a significant increase in new cases. Many of these new cases are reporting having partaken in Thanksgiving festivities with others outside their household.

A couple of weeks ago, in anticipation that cases may increase after the holidays, Buncombe County Public Health began hiring additional case investigators and contract tracers. Those new investigators and tracers have been onboarding over the last several days and the remaining surge staff will onboard by December 14.

Prior to this recent staffing surge, we had approximately 20 investigators and 20 tracers. After all surge staff is onboarded, we will have about 30 investigators and about 30 tracers. Even with this additional staff, and especially if new cases continue at the rate they are now, it is likely our investigation and tracing staff will experience delays in reaching new cases.

Do your part by limiting your interactions, ideally only those in your household, do the simple things like wearing a mask, keeping 6 feet apart, and washing your hands. When you do these things you are showing your support for our public health warriors, our first responders, our hospital and health care workers, our students and schools, our businesses and economy, and our community.

If you are having symptoms or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, please seek out testing. Testing helps us identify new cases and slow the spread of the virus. Click here for information on testing.

COVID-19 Vaccines

We are aware that two vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, respectively, have completed their trials and have shown extremely promising efficacy.

Our state will be receiving its first shipment of doses next week. This first shipment will likely be completely designated for hospital systems in our state. It is likely that a second shipment of vaccine will be arriving in the state shortly before Christmas. These first shipments of vaccine are prioritized for health care workers, first responders, and those in congregate living settings like LTCF staff and residents. As more shipments come to the state, we will move through the priority groups making our way to the general population. Currently, educational campaigns and outreach strategy planning is underway here in Buncombe County.

Task Force Update

The Multi-Agency Task Force convened last week to ensure compliance with the latest Executive Orders and the most recent local declaration. The Task Force consists of Public Health Officials, Sheriff’s Deputies, Asheville Police Department, and City and County Fire Departments and Fire Marshals. Businesses were observed in response to complaints logged with the Ready Team and also by proactively spot-checking businesses.

Key factors assessed are:

  • Signage requirements
  • Mask compliance
  • Capacity limitations
  • Greeters at stores with over 15,000 sqft
  • Compliance with 6-foot physical distancing

The Task Force observed 40 businesses throughout the County and Downtown Asheville and specifically assessed 12 businesses ranging from restaurant, gym, and retail.  Other than minor signage violations, most of those 40 were stores observed to be in compliance. No citations were issued, no issues with occupancy or mask wearing were observed, and the only frequently observed issues were businesses that lacked the emergency maximum occupancy at the entrance.

This Task Force will continue to convene and assess businesses regularly in the coming weeks through routine surveillance and in response to complaints logged with the Ready Team. Businesses are encouraged to use the information and resources found at www.buncombeready.org if they have questions or need to access the emergency occupancy signage.

Click here to see the Dec 7, 2020 presentation.  Video / audio coming soon. 
Buncombe County Dec 7 Metrics

November 30, 2020 COVID-19 Update

  • New Cases per 100k increased from 142 to 163. This represents an almost 14.8% increase. Increasing at a slower rate than experienced in last 2 weeks. That may be a good sign but we will need to wait and see what the next 1-2 weeks brings with the incubation period after Thanksgiving.
  • Percent positivity has remained stable and actually decreased since last week to 4.5%. We continue to be under 5%.
  • Total number of tests is the highest since starting to use metrics and county saw its highest record of tests in one week with week ending 11/21. Saw over 7,250 tests administered. This is an average of 6,632 for the last 4 weeks. With cases increasing and percent positivity decreasing, we may be experiencing sheer volume of testing influencing our number of new cases but it is too soon to feel confident about. The Thanksgiving rush for testing is likely contributing to increasing cases despite decreasing percent positivity.
  • Hospital data remains favorable both in local metrics and in new State alert map (where, as of last week, Buncombe remained in Yellow). Local hospital system did see uptick in days following Thanksgiving in hospitalizations. About 4% of inpatient were COVID-19 last week and closer to 5% this week.

Click here to see the metrics from November 20, 2020.

November 24, 2020 COVID-19 Update

  • Buncombe County will provide a community update tomorrow (Nov 25,2020) at 1pm to provide information on local enforcement efforts. 
  • As of November 24, our current total COVID-19 case count in Buncombe County is 5,304. This is an increase of 72 cases since the prior day.
  • We have experienced a total of 125 COVID-19 related deaths.
  • Our New Cases per 100,000 population per week has increased 19.3% since last week and while our percent positivity remains below 5%, it has increased to 4.7%.
  • COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 also increased significantly since last report.
  • Hospital data remains stable.
  • The increasing new cases per 100,000 and rising percent positivity indicate increased transmission and spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Click here to see the most recent metrics.

November 17, 2020: COVID-19 Buncombe County Update:

metrics chart

Community Briefing: Key Takeaways

In summary – our nation and our state has been experiencing high rates of viral transmission in the last week. This has resulted in record daily case counts for both our country and our state. To date, the United States has experienced over 11M confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic start and over 250,000 deaths related to COVID-19. One quarter of a million people.

Our state currently has experienced over 312,000 confirmed cases since identifying our first NC case. And sadly, almost 5000 of our fellow North Carolinians have died related to COVID-19.

Here in Buncombe, we are on the brink of reaching 5,000 cases in our community with over 100 of our neighbors having died related to COVID-19. After a week of stable trends, we have experienced an increase in new cases per 100k in the last 2 days. Two clusters, including one at a state prison in the area, are contributing to the increase but not responsible for all of the increase. We saw an increase in the percent positivity rate since last week however, the  percent positivity remains under 5%. Testing increased since last week. Deaths per 100k remained stable since last week. Hospital data remains stable.

Contact tracing tells us that family get-togethers, social gatherings, and places of work are sites of potential spread and exposure. Remember that the 3Ws must be followed all the time in order to work – this means with your family, friends, and co-workers. This means in at dinner with neighbors, at church, and in the breakroom.

Some of our neighbors will be missing someone special to them because of COVID-19. Our thoughts are with them.

EVERY interaction, even those with your family, is an opportunity for the virus to spread. Our local indicators are on the rise. The things we do or don’t do matter. Our future trends and decisions lie in the hands of each and every community member.

  • WASHING our HANDS
  • WEARING a MASK
  • AND KEEPING 6 FEET APART – even anyone outside our immediate household…that means any people we know who are NOT in our household.
  • Remember to get a Flu Vaccine – protecting ourselves against the Flu means helping our hospitals not being overwhelmed this season

This year showing that love and appreciation will need to look a little different in order to reduce risk and continue to protect our families, friends and neighbors.

First and foremost, we recommend that you limit your interactions including reducing your Thanksgiving festivities to only those in your immediate household. The best way to reduce your risk and the risk to others is to limit your travel and limit your physical contact with people who do not live in your household.

If you are choosing to hold a family get-together or plan to travel for the holiday, PLEASE take the following precautions to reduce the spread of virus.

  1. Remember that the current Executive Order limits indoor get-togethers to 10 people. Outdoor gatherings carry less risk but not zero risk. Whether indoor or outdoor, follow the social distancing guidance. That may seem odd – but just because you know someone doesn’t mean that you are not at risk for catching or spreading the virus. Practice the 3Ws indoors.
  2. Consider alternatives for family members that are high risk groups – like dropping your favorite dishes at their door and virtual greetings.
  3. Ask guest to quarantine for 14 days prior to attending the gathering to reduce risk to you and others.
  4. Consider getting tested 3-4 days prior to travel or attending a holiday gathering. Knowing your status ahead of time may mean you protecting your members at highest risk for serious illness. BUT remember, a negative test gives you information about THAT point in time. EVEN if you receive a negative test, you should still practice the 3Ws when meeting with people outside your household.
  5. If you are visiting us from out-of-town, please adhere to the current precautions. We are an awesome place to visit but frequenting indoor spaces like restaurants and bars pose greater risk for exposure and spread. This may mean you then spreading virus to your friends and families, some that may be at high risk.
  6. Self-quarantine AFTER attending a Thanksgiving gathering.

Please help us stop the spread:

  • PLEASE PRACTICE THE 3Ws EVERY DAY, EVERY TIME
  • PLEASE LIMIT YOUR INTERACTION THIS HOLIDAY AND CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES TO YOUR TRADITIONAL ACTIVITIES
  • LIMIT YOUR TRAVEL AND FOLLOW THE MASS GATHERING GUIDANCE OF NO MORE THAN 10 PEOPLE AT A GATHERING
  • IF YOU ARE CHOOSING HIGHER RISK ACTIVITIES LIKE AN INDOOR FAMILY GATHERING OR TRAVELING, CONSIDER GETTING TESTED PRIOR TO THE EVENT. YOU CAN FIND TESTING SITE ON BUNCOMBEREADY.ORG or FIND MY TESTING SITE WEBSITE.
  • IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING SYMPTOMS NOW OR IN THE FUTURE – GET TESTED AND THEN STAY AT HOME UNTIL YOU RECEIVE YOUR RESULTS AND GET FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.

Remember, information on testing sites can be found on our webpage. There is a pop-up testing site on Patton Avenue tonight, Nov 17, from 6 – 10 PM and we encourage folks to get tested. If you have concerns about an establishment not enforcing the mask requirement, call the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095 to log your complaint. And, lastly, BCHHS is offering walk-up flu shots November 18 from 1-4pm at 40 Coxe Avenue.

October 29, 2020: COVID-19 Buncombe County Update:

As of October 29, 2020, there have been 4,116 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. Sadly, 103 people have passed away from a COVID-related death. Our seven day average for cases per day has increased to 43. Our local percent positivity has continued to increase and is now at 4.2%. While this is below the 5% that is desired by NC DHHS it is a significant increase from last month. The State of North Carolina as a whole is reporting that 6.8% of tests are returning positive for COVID-19. This increase in percent positivity indicates that we are likely experiencing increased viral transmission. Over the last four weeks, over 5,400 COVID-19 tests per week have been administered in Buncombe County.

Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director, states, “Our case investigations and tracing continues to indicate that individuals are not consistently keeping six feet distance between themselves and others. This is extremely disheartening as we know that keeping distance, wearing a face covering and washing our hands often do help reduce the spread COVID-19.”

Saunders continues, “In addition, we are finding through investigation that many new cases are associated with smaller gatherings, like those with family and friends. Please remember, COVID-19 is highly contagious. Every time you are interacting with others at businesses, places of worship, retail spots, and even gatherings in your neighborhood, it is an opportunity for exposure. Right now, the best protection is reducing contact with others outside of your household as much as possible and practicing the 3Ws. By doing these simple things, we can reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please do your best to remain safe for yourself and those around you by keeping up your social distancing habits. We need your help.”

Halloween will be different this year and understandably, this is hard for some families and children, however it is imperative that safety is the priority during a global pandemic. With traditional trick-or-treating where a child (or adult) goes door-to-door, there are multiple exposures to people who could be infected with COVID-19. Sometimes people don’t even know they have COVID-19 and, while they may seem healthy, they could be spreading the virus to others. We urge people to consider alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating such as placing pre-prepared bags of goodies outside for a scavenger hunt with immediate family or even a haunted trail. If there are high-risk individuals in the household, consider not answering the door to trick-or-treaters this year or leaving bags of treats outside the door on a table so children will not have to reach into a bucket or ring a doorbell. NCDHHS has released guidance for safer holidays that can be found here.

Pop-up testing will be at the Buncombe County Sports Park on Sunday, November 1st, from 1:30-5:30 PM. Pop-up testing will also be offered on Thursday, November 4th at the Ingles on Highway 74, from 2-6 PM. Remember, there is no out-of-pocket cost at any county COVID-19 testing site. If you have insurance, it will be billed to cover the cost of the test. Spanish medical interpreters are at each testing site location to assist as needed.  More information about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County at www.buncombeready.org.

Nov. 5, Public Health Update

Nov. 5, Public Health Presentation

Media Questions submitted on October 28, 2020:

According to NCDHHS dashboard, (percent positive graph)  Buncombe county has been up and down and now seems to be trending down -  can you talk about what you are seeing along with reasons behind the trends?
-Addressed in press release

Below is an excerpt from the most recent  NCDHHS Clusters report  - do any of these situations apply to Buncombe county?
Key Takeaways from this Report
• Cases associated with clusters in religious gatherings have increased since mid-September.
• Cases associated with clusters in social gatherings (such as parties, family gatherings, weddings, funerals) increased in September, after few cases were reported in August.
The number of cases associated with clusters in colleges, and universities have continued at a steady level since the beginning of September, after peaking in late August.
No cases associated with clusters in agriculture, food processing, or construction/contractor settings have been reported during the month of October.
-Yes, the same trends seen at the state level are also seen at the local level, in general. See release for case investigation findings.

 Testing - up, down or steady and any thoughts. 
-Addressed in release. Last four weeks, we have consistently seen over 5,400 tests administered per week. This is an increase. 

Same for contract tracing?
-As cases increase, contact tracing typically increases, as well. Because individuals have not been adhering to 6 feet distance between themselves and others, we have seen an increase in the overall number of contacts associated with a case.

Is Buncombe County recommending any changes to the current Phase 3 restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19? 
-Not at this time, however, we are monitoring the data trends and will be presenting current trends and any recommendations to the Board of Commissioners on next Thursday at their pre-meeting.

Have contact tracers identified any trends that may be causing the recent spike of cases in Buncombe County? 
-Addressed in press release.

Has Buncombe County received any antigen rapid tests? If so, how many? How will those be distributed? Are rapid tests available in Buncombe County and what is the average turnaround time to get results when a resident is tested for the virus?
-BCHHS not received or deployed any antigen rapid tests. There is an ever-growing number of providers in Buncombe County who are using either rapid antigen or rapid PCR tests. You would need to check with other healthcare or testing providers regarding Ag testing opportunities. While BCHHS is not providing rapid tests, we are seeing a 24-48 hour turn-around time for test results through our community testing sites.

How many cases have been identified so far in school settings?
-There has been one cluster identified in the school setting. We will defer to the public, private, and charter schools on questions about single cases in students and staff.

Have any new clusters been identified?
-Cluster information regarding school, childcare settings, and LTCFs can be found on the NC DHHS website.Clusters do occur in other types of organizations. The clusters identified so far in October have been related to religious gatherings and an institute of higher education.

When contact tracers are tracing cases, are they finding any changes in recent reports that people are relaxing on safety measures? 
-Addressed in release above

Are there common threads with contact tracing, ie restaurants, cookouts, etc.?
-Addressed in release above

With Halloween this weekend, what specific guidance is the county giving parents and trick-or-treaters? How about for voting on Election Day?
-Practice the 3Ws on Election Day and every day! Wait 6’ apart, wear a face covering, and wash / sanitize your hands. We think that Election Services has done a great job preparing for this election during a global pandemic.   
We addressed Halloween precautions in the release above. Here is a link to a news article that provides helpful information as well as a great risk-assessment infographic.

Overall, how do health officials feel about the number or trends of new cases in the county, especially with Halloween this weekend and Election Day next week? Optimistic? Concerned going into cold weather/flu season?
-We are more concerned about Halloween because the activities people normally engage in at Halloween, like door-to-door trick or treating and parties with others outside the household, are higher risk for exposure to COVID-19.
-Election Services has done a great job preparing for the election during the pandemic and we feel optimistic about their safety precautions.
-We are concerned about heading into cold and flu season. We strongly encourage flu vaccination as soon as possible if you have not already been vaccinated.

Oct. 20 Briefing

En Espanol

COVID-19 Buncombe County Update provided on Oct. 14, 2020

As of Oct. 15, 2020, there have been 3,598 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. We, as a community, have experienced 94 COVID-related deaths. We have seen our new cases per day on average increase since the end of September. We are currently seeing about 30-32 new cases per day on average. Additionally, our local percent positivity has experienced an upward trend in the last few weeks. Our current percent positivity is about 3.6%. While this is still below 5%, it is an increase since mid-September and may be indicative of increased viral spread in the community. Our community has administered 80,374 COVID-19 tests. All of this information is a sobering reminder that COVID-19 is still present and is a force to reckon with.

Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director, states, “We are seeing an increase in positive COVID cases as people are moving around more. We are concerned about the direction of these numbers and it’s important to be vigilant in wearing our face coverings and keeping our distance so we can see these numbers come back down. This is a discouraging trend but we know that folks in Buncombe County will do what is right for each other. Right now, the absolute best protection is reducing contact with others outside of your household as much as possible and practicing the 3 Ws. By doing these simple things, we can reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

Buncombe County is partnering with faith communities, neighborhood associations, and other community-based organizations to offer “pop-up” testing in locations throughout Buncombe County that are more accessible to historically marginalized populations. These “pop-up” testing sites will not require pre-registration and will be geared specifically toward people who live, learn, work, play, and pray in those areas. Testing site selection is based on Census data and the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index and is coordinated with organizations embedded in communities. Buncombe County will continue to offer COVID-19 testing Sundays at A-B Tech in Asheville and on Thursdays at the Buncombe County Sports Park.

Remember, there is no out-of-pocket cost at any county COVID-19 testing site. If you have insurance, it will be billed to cover the cost of the test. Spanish medical interpreters are at each testing site location to assist as needed. More information about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County at www.buncombeready.org.

Flu shots

Don’t slip on getting a flu shot this year! Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and older and now is the time to get a flu shot. Friday, Oct. 16, 2020 will be a free walk-up flu shot clinic at Stephens-Lee Center from 2-6  p.m.

Media questions and answers (Oct. 14, 2020):

What is your team seeing as far as compliance with COVID-19 safety guidelines?

  • We are observing many people around town not wearing face coverings and not social distancing. It seems as if people are beginning to relax these protective measures and we are seeing an increase in cases as a result.

Are schools following all of the COVID-19 standards set by NCDHHS?   

  • Our public schools continue to be great community partners in dealing with very difficult circumstances. They are really doing a great job of maintaining lines of communication, being proactive and careful and just overall doing the best they can in these extremely tough situations. . The StrongSchools Toolkit clearly states what schools are required to implement and includes additional recommendations that schools may implement. ACS and BCS, particularly the School Nurses serving those districts, are in consistent communication with local public health. Local public health provides additional consultation on requirements and recommendations. Local public health also provides periodic updates on key indicators for school districts to aid their decision-making.  

Have there been additional business violations since the county task force was sent out to monitor restaurants and other businesses for compliance in early August?

  •  No additional warnings have been issued to local businesses.

Does BCDHHS know what caused the spikes in Buncombe’s case count on Oct. 3 (63 new cases) and Oct. 10 (58 new cases).

  • There is no single causation identified for the increase in cases. These cases are occurring following a major holiday and entry into Phase 3 lifting of restrictions. Our case investigations are finding that in general individuals are interacting in more spaces but no one space/area/location has been identified. It is important to remember that EVERY interaction is an opportunity for exposure particularly as more business and activity restrictions are lifted and people are moving about.

What is the breakdown between PCR and antigen tests administered in Buncombe County?

  • This can be found on the NC DHHS website by filtering on Buncombe County. 

Has the testing turnaround time increased for local tests?

  • For the community testing sites, we typically receive results within 24-48 hours. We hear that it is averaging around 72 hours for commercial labs.

Fall tourists are here! Is Buncombe County doing anything different in terms of restrictions compared to the state Phase 3 order?  For example 11 p.m. bar curfew and public face mask mandate? Is Buncombe County in complete lockstep with the Governor’s order? Explain what the differences are so people who travel here can know the difference.

  •    Buncombe County is aligned with NC Governor’s Phase 3.

Secretary Mandy Cohen yesterday announced the state is going in the wrong direction – in terms of case count going up and hospitalizations going up.  Are those trends being reflected here in Buncombe County and what steps are being taken to bring numbers down?

  • Much like state trends, we are seeing our local indicators trend upwards, as well. We have seen our new cases per day on average increase since the end of September. We are currently seeing about 30-32 new cases per day on average. Additionally, our local percent positivity has experienced an upward trend in the last few weeks. Our current percent positivity is about 3.6%. While this is still below 5%, it is an increase since mid-September and may be indicative of increased viral spread in the community.

What are the most critical areas Buncombe County is concentrating on right now in terms of COVID spread?  Colleges? Schools? Nursing Homes? Political Campaign events?

  • Widespread community spread has been well-documented for months now in our state and county. Every interaction is a potential opportunity for exposure. It is important for our community, all of us, to practice the 3Ws every day. When we commit to the 3Ws, we are helping reduce spread in all areas of our community whether or not we are directing a part of that area. When I wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart, I am protecting residents at a LTCF because I may interact with staff that work at LTCF when I am in the general community. Our actions in the community have an impact on the health of our most vulnerable populations. We are still seeing cases and outbreaks in long term care facilities.

______________________

Media Questions & Answers (October 7, 2020) 

What is Buncombe County hearing from the CDC about the earliest distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine? Do you have any information about the CDC’s vaccine rollout strategy at the county level?

  • The CDC communicates with the states and the state communicates with counties. If and when a COVID-19 vaccine is available, that information would come from NCDHHS. While there is no approved vaccination at this time, public health practices and plans for vaccine distribution as a part of its preparedness function.

Fall has arrived and school is back in session.  What trends are you seeing in terms of people contracting Coronavirus?  Has the reopening of schools contributed to the spread? Are there other factors contributing to the spread?

  • We have not seen a change in the age distribution of cases. Our highest infection rate is in the 25-49 year-old age group. We continue to see cases in long-term care facility residents and staff. Outside of those cases, generally we see that people are moving about more often, however, no one setting has been identified over others as a source of spread. As temperatures cool, we know that people will be more likely to congregate in indoor settings, which is problematic as the virus spreads more easily in indoor settings. Therefore, the 3Ws are highly important.

It seems for the past 6 months, the number of Coronavirus cases hasn’t wavered much.  Why do you think that is?

  • As we have said in the past, we continue to see upticks in cases as the phased reopening occurs and around holidays. We saw our highest average increase in cases per day in July and then a decrease in August and September. We are seeing an increase in new cases per day again but it is probably too early to tell about any correlation with the recent lifting of restrictions.

The President this week removed his mask after returning to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center and said Americans should not fear Coronavirus.  Does this undermine YOUR message as a public health department?

  • Any death from COVID-19 is one too many. In our daily work with those who are infected and affected by COVID-19, we recognize the impact of this virus on their lives. This is a serious novel coronavirus that we are still learning about. Public health takes this seriously and has remained consistent in messaging about the importance of the 3Ws. Mask wearing, handwashing, and keeping social distance from others is the most effective means of preventing COVID-19 infection.

Where does the county stand in terms of preparedness for the upcoming flu season and so-called “Twindemic” – or  Flu and Covid combining?  Does the county and its hospitals have enough flu vaccine, PPE ventilators, etc.

  • Local public health is working with community partners to gauge flu vaccine availability throughout the county and planning community outreach efforts with community partners in areas where there is limited or no vaccine availability. Buncombe County continues to receive flu vaccine supply and we have no concerns at this time about flu vaccine shortages. Those who have questions can call the BCHHS Immuniation Clinic at (2828) 250-5096. 

What is your assessment of the Coronavirus 6 months later?  Why haven’t case numbers dropped significantly yet?

  • We addressed this in the earlier question. As the phased reopenings and holidays occur, we generally see upticks in cases. This illustrates the importance of adhering to the 3Ws.

Press Release Oct. 1, 2020: 

COVID-19 Buncombe County Response and Updates

The State of North Carolina will transition to Phase 3 of reopening beginning at 5 p.m. on October 2, 2020. Buncombe County will align with Executive Order 169 with no additional local requirements. Phase 3 will last three weeks, and is currently scheduled to end on October 23. Local leaders and public health officials will continue to monitor trends in Buncombe County to ensure that the move to phase 3 does not push local trends in a negative direction.

Under Executive Order 169, current mask mandates and other precautions will remain in place, but new provisions will include:

  • Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7% occupancy for spectators. 
  • Smaller outdoor entertainment venues, like arenas or amphitheaters, may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less. 
  • Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30% of capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
  • Bars may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less. 
  • Amusement parks may open at 30% occupancy, outdoor attractions only. 
  • The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. 
  • The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will be extended to October 23. 

As of today, there have been 3,154 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. We, as a community, have experienced 85 COVID-related deaths. Any death resulting from COVID-19 is a loss for our community and our sympathies are with those who have lost loved ones to this global pandemic.

Our community has administered over 75,500 COVID-19 tests and our current percent positivity in Buncombe County is 3.0%. This is slightly up from the previous week. We are currently seeing about 21-22 new cases per day. This is a slight increase from last week but still an overall decrease in new cases per day on average since July.

Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director, states, “As more restrictions are lifted, there are more opportunities for exposure and this makes it extremely important for continued commitment to the 3Ws. This is our best defense to fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Remember to wear a face covering, wash your hands and stay 6 feet apart.”

As Buncombe County Government continues to adapt to the evolving needs of our community during COVID-19, we have adjusted our community testing model to ensure a scalable and sustainable testing approach. Testing efforts will transition to a hybrid model that combines the fixed testing sites with community-based mobile sites. This is a positive step that puts our response in line with the changing needs of our community.

The number of COVID tests performed in Buncombe County remains high, as tests are available through local urgent care clinics, federally qualified health centers, and many other primary care provider offices. Over the past month, there consistently has been lower utilization of our Tuesday testing site at the Swannanoa Ingles compared to the other two testing sites. The county has decided to discontinue the Tuesday Swannanoa Ingles testing site starting in October.

Buncombe County will continue to offer COVID-19 testing for the general public on Sundays at AB Tech in Asheville and on Thursdays at the Buncombe County Sports Park.

Remember, there is no out-of-pocket cost at any county COVID-19 testing site. If you have insurance, it will be billed to cover the cost of the test. Spanish medical interpreters are at each testing site location to assist as needed.

We are entering flu season. Flu is a serious respiratory illness and can sometimes be deadly. Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Now is the time to get your flu vaccine! Get a flu vaccine anywhere you can, as soon as you can.

September 24, 2020 Key Takeaways:

  • As of today, there have been 2977 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • We as a community have experienced 83 COVID-related deaths.
  • Our community has administered 70,981 COVID-19 tests. We continue to see about 4,000 tests administered throughout our county each week.
  • Testing efforts help us not only identify those with active infection but also helps us better understand the level of spread of virus in the community.
  • Percent positivity is the percent of test administered that come back with a positive result. This indicator provides information on community spread.
  • According to the NC COVID Dashboard, the statewide percent positivity is currently 4.8%.
  • This percent positivity for the state has been trending down steadily in the last few weeks.
  • Our current percent positivity in Buncombe County is holding stable at 2.8%. This has also been steadily decreasing over the last few weeks.
  • We also continue to see an overall decrease in new cases per day on average since July. Currently, we are seeing about 18 new cases per day.
  • Our indicators continue to be promising and show the distinct commitment Buncombe County has made to fighting the spread of COVID-19.
  • There is a new way to tool available by NC DHHS to help stop the spread of COVID-19. NC DHHS launched the COVID-19 exposure notification app, SlowCOVIDNC, this week.
  • The SlowCOVIDNC app quickly notifies you if you may have been exposed to COVID-19, allowing you to reduce the risk of illness for you and your loved ones by providing you with NCDHHS recommendations on how to self-quarantine and when to get tested.
  • As we cautiously begin to reopen parts of our economy and incrementally increase the number of people who can gather, this app would be especially helpful in detecting possible exposure.
  • SlowCOVIDNC complements traditional contact tracing performed by public health because it can notify individuals when they may have had an unknown community exposure to COVID-19.
  • This app would be beneficial for people who are in settings where social distancing is hard to maintain or where you are coming into contact with many different people at larger events, such as civic or sporting events and even parties.
  • For those interested in the app, participation is voluntary and you can begin by downloading the free SlowCOVIDNC Exposure Notification app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and enable Bluetooth and Exposure Notifications.  
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, you may obtain a unique PIN to submit in the app. This voluntary and anonymous reporting notifies others who have downloaded the app and were in close contact with you that they may have been in close contact with someone in the last 14 days who has tested positive.
  • Use of the app is completely voluntary and more information on how it works can be found at NC DHHS website covid19.ncdhhs.gov/slowcovidnc
  • If you are having symptoms or feel like you may have been exposed to COVID-19 regardless of symptoms, please get tested. 
  • Testing helps us quickly identify active infections which helps us slow the spread and protect you and our other neighbors.
  • You can find testing locations near you by checking out Find My Testing Site website.
  • If you meet criteria, you will then complete the registration and afterwards, receive a call from the Ready Team with your appointment location, date and time.
  • Remember there is no cost at our community testing sites. If you have insurance, it will be billed to cover the cost of the test.
  • Spanish medical interpreters are on site at each community testing site location to assist those you need it.  
  • More information about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County can be found at www.buncombeready.org.
  • This is a good time to remind everyone that if you are having symptoms consistent with COVID, you should not go to work or school.
  • Going to work when you are sick puts others at risk and some of the individuals you are around could have underlying health issues or other risk factors that put them at risk for severe illness.
  • You should STAY AT HOME and seek testing through your healthcare provider, urgent care or a community testing site. Once you are tested, you will still need to stay home until results are back and you receive next steps.
  • Remember, even if your test is negative for COVID, if you have symptoms and are not feeling well, you should STAY AT HOME.
  • We are entering Flu season and a negative COVID-19 test is not a free pass to resume activities.
  • With COVID-19 circulating in our community, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever to protect yourself and the people around you from flu, and to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • The flu is a serious respiratory illness and can sometimes be deadly.
  • Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.
  • Vaccination against the flu can make illness milder and reduce the risk of more serious outcomes should you still get the flu, making it especially important for those at higher risk of complications, such as people over 65, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or obesity. Some of those same groups are also at high risk of complications from COVID-19.
  • Contact your healthcare provider, local pharmacy, or our Immunization Clinic for more information about flu vaccine or to schedule an appointment.
  • And it I could not end our briefing today with reminding you to keep practicing the 3Ws and limiting your interactions.
  • These steps are our best defense right now against spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Our community’s commitment to these easy steps has and will continue to help us slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Key Takeaways Sept. 17, 2020

  • As of today, there have been 2,841 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • We as a community have experienced 77 COVID-related deaths.
  • Our community has administered 67,239 COVID-19 tests. We continue to see about 4000 tests administered throughout our county each week.
  • Testing efforts help us not only identify those with active infection but also helps us better understand the level of spread of virus in the community.
  • Percent positivity is the percent of tests administered that come back with a positive result. This indicator provides information on community spread.
  • Recent percent positivity published on the NC COVID Dashboard shows 5.6% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive in NC as a whole.
  • This percentage for the state has been trending down in the last few weeks.
  • Our current percent positivity in Buncombe County is holding stable at 3%. This has also been steadily decreasing over the last few weeks.
  • We also continue to see an overall decrease in new cases per day on average since July. Currently, we are seeing about 16 new cases per day.
  • Our indicators continue to be promising and show the distinct commitment Buncombe County has made to fighting the spread of COVID-19.
  • We may see an increase in cases following the incubation period after Labor Day. We continue to monitor the new cases for any upward trend.
  • This is a good time to remind everyone that if you are having symptoms consistent with COVID or think you may have been exposed, please get tested.
  • We often get asked about exposure and what it means to might have been exposed.
  • Exposure means that you have been in contact with a person who is known to have COVID.
  • Exposure can also mean that you work or live in environments where you are more likely to come in contact with individuals who may or may not know that are infectious.
  • This includes some of our frontline and essential workers that keep our community thriving like grocery store employees, restaurant workers, factory, manufacturing, or construction employees.
  • If you are having symptoms or feel like you may have been exposed, please get tested.
  • Quickly identifying active infections, helps us slow the spread and protect you and our other neighbors.
  • Remember to check with your healthcare provider about testing. If you do not have a healthcare provider or yours is not providing testing, there are several community options for testing.
  • Check out Find My Testing Site website to find a location near you.
  • If you meet criteria, you will then complete the registration and afterwards, receive a call from the Ready Team with your appointment location, date and time.
  • We always like to remind everyone that cost is not a barrier at our community testing sites and there is no out-of-pocket cost for testing. If you have insurance, it will be billed to cover the cost of the test.
  • We also have Spanish medical interpreters at our community test locations.
  • More information about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County can be found at www.buncombeready.org.
  • We also wanted to let you know that we will be changing up our Community Briefings.
  • Beginning in October, we will end our Thursday Community briefings at 3 pm and switch to providing our update at the Board of Commissioner Briefing every 1st and 3rd Tuesday at 3 pm.
  • This means that the Sept. 24 Community Briefing will be our last  Thursday briefing and we will then present at the Oct. 6 Board of Commissioner Briefing at 3 pm.
  • On the off-week, the EOC will provide an opportunity for media to send their questions in for a response that will be sent to all media partners. Please know that we stand ready to hold community updates in the event that there is a major update for our community.
  • The Let’s Talk COVID series will continue to supplement the COVID-19 Community Updates with more editorial, anecdotal information and experiences from community leaders and community members.
  • We want to thank you all for your support of the briefings and we hope you will continue to tune in as we change our frequency. 

Key Takeaways Sept. 10, 2020

  • As of today, there have been 2703 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • Sadly, as a community we have experienced 72 COVID-related deaths.
  • Our community has administered 62,711 COVID-19 tests.
  • We are seeing about 4,000 tests being done in our community each week.
  • Testing efforts help us not only identify those with active infection but also helps us better determine the level of spread of virus in the community.
  • Percent positivity is percent of test administered that come back as positive.
  • Recent percent positivity published on the NC COVID Dashboard shows 6.3% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive in NC.
  • This percentage for the state has been trending down for the last few week.
  • Our current percent positivity in Buncombe County is around 3%.
  • We continue to see an overall decrease in new cases per day on average since July.
  • Currently seeing about 20 new cases per day on average. This is a drop from 40 new cases per day back in July.
  • Given that we just concluded a major holiday where traditionally families and friends have celebrated with gatherings or travel, we may see an uptick in new cases during the next few weeks.
  • Remember if you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19 OR think you may have been exposed, please get tested.
  • Quickly identifying active infection, helps us slow the spread and protect our loved ones and neighbors.
  • If you or someone you know is interested in testing, there are several options in our community.
  • Remember to check with your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider or yours is not providing testing, there are several community options for testing.
  • Primary care providers, community health centers, urgent cares, hospital systems, and several pharmacies are offering testing.
  • You can also schedule an appointment at one of our County COVID-19 community testing sites. Check out Find My Testing Site website to find a location near you.
  • If you meet criteria, you will then complete the registration and afterwards, receive a call from the Ready Team with your appointment date and time.
  • Just a reminder that at the community sites, cost is not a barrier and there is no out-of-pocket cost to the testing. If you have insurance, it will be billed to cover the cost of the test.
  • We also have Spanish medical interpreters on site at the community test sites.
  • More information about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County can be found at www.buncombeready.org.
  • This is also a good time to remind everyone that flu season is upon us.
  • This will be a unique flu season in that it will be occurring at that same time that we still have COVID-19 circulating in our community.
  • Two serious respiratory illnesses can wreak havoc on our community, especially our most vulnerable populations and could potentially stress our health care systems
  • Remember to get your flu vaccine this year. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider or your pharmacy about flu vaccine availability.
  • This is one additional way you can help protect yourself and others from respiratory illness this fall and winter.
  • And don’t forget to keep practicing the 3Ws and limiting your interactions.
  • These steps are our best defense right now against spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Our community’s commitment to these easy steps has and will continue to help us slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Our metrics continue to be trending in the right direction. This is a testament to your commitment to protect yourself and others.  
  • We need you to keep it up! Get behind the mask, wash your hands often, and stay at least 6 feet apart.
     

Key Takeaways Sept. 3, 2020

  • As of today, there have been 2,565 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. Our community has administered over 58,851 COVID-19 tests.
  • Sadly, we as a community have experienced 72 COVID-related deaths.
  • Vast majority of these deaths have been in long-term care facilities
  • Recent percent positivity published on the NC COVID Dashboard shows 7.6% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive in NC.
  • This percentage for the state has been hovering around 8% for the last few weeks.
  • Our current percent positivity in Buncombe County is 3.5%
  • We are currently seeing about 20 new cases per day on average. This is a drop from 40 new cases per day back in July.
  • Our metrics continue to move in the right direction.
  • We as a community have worked hard to reduce transmission by committing to the 3 Ws – Wear, Wait, and Wash and limiting our interaction.  
  • The 3 Ws are critical as we move into Phase 2.5.
  • I want to remind everyone that if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 OR think you may have been exposed to COVID -19 regardless of symptoms – We want you to get tested.
  • If you are someone who lives in high risk settings like homeless shelters or migrant farm worker camps and you think you may have been exposed – we want you to get tested.
  • If you are someone over 65 or you are someone of any age with underlying health conditions and you think you have been exposed, we want you to get tested.
  • If you work in places where it is hard to maintain 6 feet of distance and think you might have been exposed, you guessed it, we want you to get tested.
  • Because COVID-19 is highly transmissible and can be spread by people who do not know they have it, testing is important for people who have symptoms AND for people who are at higher risk for being exposed to COVID-19. 
  • The goal of testing, tracing, and isolating is to keep COVID-19 from spreading throughout our community. Quickly identifying those with illness helps us slow the spread of the virus in our community.
  • There are several testing options in our community.
  • If you DO NOT HAVE a healthcare provider who offers testing for COVID-19 and you meet criteria to get tested, you can use the state’s Find My Testing Site website to find COVID testing near you. There are many places in our county offering testing for COVID 19 – including primary care providers, community health centers, urgent cares, hospital systems, and pharmacies.
  • The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) launched the NC Medicaid Optional COVID-19 Testing program yesterday, which will reimburse Medicaid providers for costs associated with COVID-19 testing of people without insurance.
  • This new program allows community providers to offer cost-free testing to uninsured North Carolinians. It’s a good step to increasing access to testing AS WELL AS decrease barriers to testing.
  • To qualify for the program’s testing coverage, people must meet three criteria:
    • 1.Live in North Carolina
    • 2. Not be eligible for or enrolled in Medicaid or have other health insurance
    • 3. Hold U.S. citizenship or other legal immigration status as mandated by federal regulations.
  • The reimbursement program will continue during the duration of the COVID-19 federal declaration of emergency.
  • You can also schedule an appointment at one of the county’s COVID-19 community testing sites.
  • Once the registration form is complete and submitted, a representative from the Ready Team will contact you over the phone to schedule a date and time for testing.
  • Once you have scheduled your appointment, all you have to do is show up at the testing site on your scheduled date and time and get tested.
  • REMEMBER Cost is not a barrier to testing at our Community Testing sites.
  • There is no out-of-pocket cost to the testing.
  • If you have insurance, it will be billed to cover the cost of the test.
  • Spanish medical interpreters will be at the testing sites.
  • And, a reminder - Regardless of your citizenship status, testing is available.
  • Our Community Testing sites are normally available on:
    • Sundays at A-B Tech

    • Tuesdays at the Ingles in Swannanoa

    • Thursdays at the Buncombe County Sports Park

  • Reminder: Community Testing sites on Sunday, Sept. 6, and Tuesday, Sept. 8,  are canceled due to the Labor Day holiday. If you need testing during this time, please visit Find My Testing Site for other community options.
  • This year, Labor Day will be a time to honor our workforce and the resilient workers who have helped our community stay strong during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have educated children, cared for the sick, and continued to ensure that we have the necessities of daily life. Lets honor their hard work by continuing to commit to slowing the spread of COVID by practicing the 3Ws. Please, if you go out, you should act as if you yourself are infected with COVID-19 and take every precaution you can to prevent infecting others.
  • Earlier this week Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 163 which will take the state into Reopening Phase 2.5. 
  • The Governor based this decision on a combination of positive data trends and metrics across the state.
  • Buncombe County is also observing the same positive trends and metrics locally and will therefore be fully aligning with Executive order No. 163.

Key Elements of Phase 2.5

  • Our Highest Risk population, those with certain existing medical conditions or over the age of 65 are still recommended to follow the Safer at Home Guidelines.
  • Mass Gathering guidelines have changed and will now allow for groups of up to 25 people to meet indoors and 50 to meet outdoors, provided they can still maintain 6ft of distance between persons. 
  • These new mass gathering limitations still require 6 ft of spacing between parties and the use of face coverings and enhanced hygiene and sanitation practices. 
  • If you do not have the square footage and space available to give 25 people their 6 ft bubbles, you must reduce your group size to whatever number can accommodate with that physical distancing requirement.
  • Per Executive Order No. 163, children ages 5 and up are required to wear a face covering in any situation where a face covering is stipulated by Executive Order. Also of note, face shields no longer meet the definition of approved face coverings.
  • Museums are now allowed to open up to 50% capacity. 
  • Playgrounds are now also open to the public.
  • Gyms and other fitness facilities such as yoga, dance, and martial arts studios are allowed to open to 30% of their stated fire capacity. 
  • This new Maximum Occupancy must be posted conspicuously at the entrance to the facility. 
  • This 30% is again dependent on being able to maintain 6ft distance between persons. If 6ft of distancing cannot be maintained, the maximum occupancy must be reduced to achieve that required spacing. 
  • This 6ft interval also applies to the distance between workout machines, so they will either need to spread apart or restrict use to maintain required spacing.
  • Customers and staff of gyms MUST wear face coverings unless strenuously exercising. 
  • The definition of strenuous exercise will be applied at an individual level and be determined by the customer and facility staff.
  • All equipment must be disinfected between every use with an EPA approved disinfectant.
  • If gyms are asking customers to disinfect after use they must post instructions on the proper method and specific sitting times for the specific disinfectant they are using.
  • Movie Theaters, Bars, Pool Halls, and Night clubs and music halls remained closed. 
  • In addition, Tour Buses and other sightseeing transportation conducted for amusement are ordered closed.

Key Takeaways Aug. 27, 2020

  • As of today, there have been 2,350 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. Our community has administered almost 50,000 COVID-19 tests.
  • Sadly, we as a community have experienced 67 COVID-related deaths. The majority of those deaths have been associated with long-term care facility outbreaks.
  • Recent percent positivity published on the NC COVID Dashboard shows 8.2% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive in NC.
  • This percentage for the state has been hovering around 8% for the last few weeks.
  • Our current percent positivity in Buncombe is stable at about 4-5%.
  • We continue to see about 25 new cases per day on average. This trend has been consistent for about 3 weeks.
  • Our metrics are stable but this is not a sign that we can stop doing the things that help stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • It is important for us to continue to commit to the 3Ws. We are making a difference each time we Wear a Face Covering, Wait 6 feet apart, and Wash our hands.
  • The CDC revised their guidance yesterday on who should seek testing.
  • We want to be clear that NC DHHS testing guidance HAS NOT changed and Buncombe County Health and Human Services will continue to utilize the NC DHHS testing guidance.
  • The goal of testing, tracing, and isolating is to keep COVID-19 from spreading throughout a business or community.
  • While testing is a point-in-time reading, it can help to protect frontline staff and their families, who are the backbone of our community and industries by identifying and stopping the spread of COVID-19 earlier.
  • Because COVID-19 is highly transmissible and can be spread by people who do not know they have the disease, testing is important for people who have symptoms AND for people who are at higher risk for being exposed to COVID-19. 
  • So what does exposure mean?
  • Exposure goes beyond contact with a confirmed positive case.
  • Exposure can also look like staff serving a customer who was coughing or employees working side by side in a factory or setting with lots of different people coming into close contact with one another. Because there is widespread community transmission, these conditions create a higher risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. 
  • Again, If you are having any symptoms of COVID-19 or think you may be at risk for exposure regardless of having symptoms  then you should get tested.
  • While there are a range of COVID symptoms, the most commonly reported symptoms at the community testing sites are sore throat, fever, and cough.
  • If you DO NOT HAVE a healthcare provider who offers testing for COVID-19 and you meet criteria to get tested, you can use the state’s Find My Testing Site website to find testing near you.
  • There are many places in our county offering testing for COVID-19 including primary care providers, community health centers, urgent cares, hospital systems, and pharmacies.
  • You can also schedule an appointment at one of the county community testing sites. We went over the steps last week and wanted to review them again.
  • Once the registration form is complete and submitted, a representative from the Ready Team will contact you over the phone to schedule a date and time for testing.
  • Just as a reminder, PLEASE do not show up at the sites before making an appointment with a member of the Ready Team and receiving your ASSIGNED appointment time. This is especially important over the weekend, at the Sunday site. If you do not receive a call back from the Ready Team- you do not have an appointment yet.
  • And then all you have to do is show up at the testing site on your scheduled date and time and get tested.
  • Cost is not a barrier to testing at our Community Testing sites.
  • There is no out-of-pocket cost to the testing.
  • If you have insurance, it will be billed to cover the cost of the test.
  • Spanish medical interpreters will be at the testing sites.
  • In case you are tuning in for the first time, our Community Testing sites are normally available on:
    • Sundays at AB Tech
    • Tuesdays at the Ingles in Swannanoa
    • Thursdays at the Buncombe County Sports Park
  • Note: The Community Testing sites on Sunday, Sept. 6, and Tuesday, Sept. 8, are canceled due to the Labor Day holiday.
  • If you need testing during this time, please visit Find My Testing Site for other community options.
  • More information about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County can be found at www.buncombeready.org.
  • Once a case is identified, local public health works with that positive case to identify their close contacts.
  • These are the peopl
    • Results are dependent on obtaining a good sample. Follow the directions closely.
    • Rapid antigen at-home tests are most accurate when viral load is higher and when symptoms are present. They can be less accurate in those who do not have symptoms or who have lower viral loads.
    • Vaccinate: Before gathering, attending events, or traveling, get a COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Test: Get a COVID-19 test before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household and before and after traveling, regardless of your vaccine status.
    • Mask: Wear a mask indoors in public, even if you are vaccinated.
    • Wear a mask while traveling. If possible, wear a medical grade mask.
    • Get tested 1-2 days before and 3-5 days after traveling, and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including boosters, and against flu.
    • Do not travel if you are not fully vaccinated and boosted. If you do travel and are not fully vaccinated and boosted, in addition to testing, stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if you test negative.
    • Follow CDC’s guidance for travel during COVID-19 and NCDHHS’s guidance for public transportation.
    • Require guests and family members to be vaccinated and boosted if eligible before the event.
    • Get tested 1-2 days before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household.
    • Guests who are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain physical distance from others, especially when they are indoors. If possible, wear a medical grade mask.
    • Keep gatherings small and host gatherings outdoors, when possible.
    • If gathering indoors, use a space that is large enough to allow for physical distancing. Increase circulation of outdoor air by opening windows and doors. Follow CDC guidance on Improving Ventilation in Your Home.
    • If you are sick or have symptoms, do not host or attend a gathering. Get tested and seek treatment. More information on treatment is available at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/treatment
    • If you are fully vaccinated:
      • Wear a mask when visiting indoor public spaces and at crowded outdoor events if you are visiting an area with high transmission levels.
      • For all individuals, please remember that Buncombe County has a face covering requirement for all indoor public spaces at this time.
    • For unvaccinated individuals:
      • Wear a face covering in indoor spaces and outdoor spaces.
      • Keep distance between you and others to reduce exposure.
      • If you are attending a holiday event, consider getting tested before your gathering.
    • If you are hosting an event:
      • Move activities outside, if possible. If not possible, open windows and doors as much as possible to improve ventilation.
      • Encourage guests to get tested prior to your event if they are not vaccinated.
      • Encourage guests to wear face coverings at your event and keep distance if you are hosting a comingled (vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals together) event.
      • Have hand sanitizer and handwashing opportunities throughout your home or event space.
    • Nov. 20 – North Buncombe High School
    • Dec. 4 – Clyde A. Erwin High (BCHHS) & T.C. Roberson High School (MAHEC/FEMA)
    • Dec. 11 – Charles D. Owen High (BCHHS) & A.C. Reynolds High School (MAHEC/FEMA)
    • Nov. 13 – Asheville Middle School
    • Nov. 20 – North Buncombe High School
    • Dec. 4 – Clyde A. Erwin High (BCHHS) & T.C. Roberson High School (MAHEC / FEMA)
    • Dec. 11 – Charles D. Owen High (BCHHS) & A.C. Reynolds High School  (MAHEC / FEMA)
    • Nov. 13 – Asheville Middle
    • Nov. 20 – North Buncombe High
    • Dec. 4 – Erwin High, TC Roberson High
    • Dec. 11 – Owen High, A.C. Reynolds High
    • Keep it outside. Trick or treat in small groups and avoid crowds particularly indoors
    • Remember to wear a costume that allows you to wear a face covering
    • Maintain six feet of distance between you and other trick or treating groups, especially if knocking and gathering near front doors
    • If you are 12 years or older and not yet vaccinated, now is the time to get your vaccine
    • Grown-ups: Carry hand sanitizer with you while trick or treating and remind children to use it between candy stops
    • Wear a face covering while interacting with trick or treaters
    • Set up a candy table and distribute candy outside and not at your front door
    • Remind groups to stay six feet apart so there are not too many people gathered together
    • Consider making grab bags or lay out individual pieces of candy on a table to avoid several hands in a candy bowl
    • Have some sanitizer ready for visitors to use
    • Get your COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t already and encourage others attending your gathering to do so. Pfizer boosters are available via a drive-through at Biltmore Church – Arden between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. until Oct. 22
    • Have guests wear a face covering and maintain physical distance from others when they are indoors
    • Move events and activities outdoors to reduce the risk of spread
    • 65 or older
    • At high risk of severe COVID-19
    • At high risk of occupational exposure
    • Receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
    • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
    • Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
    • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
    • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
    • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
    • Individuals must self-attest they qualify for the additional dose by having a condition or taking a medication that causes them to be moderately to severely immunocompromised. These vaccines are available at the Buncombe County Health and Human Services walk-in clinic.