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Buncombe EOC in Action: Hospital Surge Capacity, Interactive Food Assistance Map

This is the second in a series where we look at the diverse methods our EOC is using to meet real needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first article “Buncombe EOC in Action: A Look at Community-Based Responses to COVID-19” can be found here.

Since news of the COVID-19 outbreak, Buncombe County officials have taken guidance from experts in the medical and scientific communities and treated this as a public health crisis. On March 12, Buncombe County proactively declared a state of emergency and put weeks’ worth of logistical planning into action by opening its emergency operations center (EOC). Since then, a collaboration of governments, nonprofits, school systems, and other stakeholders have been diligently and innovatively looking at ways to address myriad community needs stemming from COVID-19.

Below are some of the resources our EOC has developed and ways you can learn more about those programs.

Hospital surge capacity: Hoping for the best, planning for the worst

One of the EOC’s first priorities was to audit health care facility capacity and determine what peripheral support is available. “We thought about worst-case scenarios. If we have a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitals are overrun, we need to have options,” says County Manager Avril Pinder. As a continued testament to the EOC’s collaborative spirit, A-B Tech approached us with the idea of transforming space in its Allied Health building to help relieve stress on hospitals.

The Army Corp of Engineers helped design the space, the North Carolina Fire Marshal provided inspections, and it will be staffed by County EMS, regional health workers, and students from A-B Tech and other health care programs. Our team has been able to convert the 30-bed facility to have room for 50 patients and supplied it with essential medical supplies with assistance from the Mountain Area Healthcare Preparedness Coalition. This space will give priority to people whose caretakers become ill and need a safe place to stay.

Thanks to all our partners for your eagerness and generosity to establish this potentially vital facility.

Meal assistance: Addressing food accessibility during the COVID-19 pandemic

Food insecurity is always an issue for our community, but the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded and expanded the problem. The EOC’s Food Workgroup acted quickly to determine food gaps, find distribution partners, and identify ways to connect residents to meals. “United Way’s 211 is leading the effort of publishing food resources including a website where residents can search feeding sites by location, day of the week, and type of service,” notes Community Development Specialist Rebecca Brothers.

The County and City of Asheville also collaborated to create an interactive map where you can find nearby food sources. Brothers says the Food Workgroup couldn’t achieve its mission without the help of our school systems, MANNA Foodbank, and rural food pantries such as Sandy Mush Community Center Food Pantry.

For more information about food assistance you can call 211 or check the below resources:

Previous EOC in Action articles