Skip to Main Content

COVID-19 Updates and Testing

Stay up to date

Department of Health News

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Cases Weekly Community Update


Click for the COVID-19 Coronavirus Cases Dashboard

As of  Oct. 1, 2020, updates will be provided in press release format on this page. Video updates will be provided in the event of major developments. Click here to watch bi-weekly updates provided at the  Commissioners' Briefing at 3pm, on the first and third Tuesday each month. 

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. 

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

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. 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, visit www.buncombeready.org and click on the COVID-19 Self Checker link to registered for testing at one of these sites. You also can complete the registration process by calling (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday – Friday.  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.  If you have symptoms of COVID-19, are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, visit www.buncombeready.org and click on the COVID-19 Self Checker link to get registered for testing at one of these sites. You also can complete the Self Checker and registration process by calling (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 am – 5:00 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.  

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.
  • You can also schedule an appointment at one of our County COVID-19 community testing sites. Visit Buncombe County Self-Checker at buncombeready.org to complete the self-checker to see if you meet criteria for testing at one of our community testing sites. You can also complete the Self Checker over the phone by calling (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm., Monday – Friday.
  • 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.
  • You can also schedule an appointment at one of our County COVID-19 community testing sites. Visit Buncombe County Self-Checker at buncombeready.org to complete the self-checker to see if you meet criteria for testing at one of our community testing sites. You can also complete the Self Checker over the phone by calling (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm., Monday – Friday.
  • 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.
  • You can also visit Buncombe County Self-Checker at buncombeready.org to complete the self-checker to see if you meet criteria for testing at one of our community testing sites.
  • You can also complete the Self-Checker over the phone by calling (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm., Monday – Friday.
  • 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.
  • Go to the Buncombe County Self-Checker online or over the phone to make sure you should be tested.
  • The Buncombe County Self-Checker can be found online at www.buncombeready.org.
  • You can also complete the Self-Checker over the phone by calling the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 am – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.
  • Once you complete the Self-Checker online or over the phone, and your answers indicate that you should be tested, you will fill out a registration form.
  • 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.
  • Go to the Buncombe County Self-Checker online or over the phone to make sure you should be tested.
  • The Buncombe County Self-Checker can be found online at www.buncombeready.org.
  • You can also complete the Self-Checker over the phone by calling the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm., Monday – Friday.
  • Once you complete the Self-Checker online or over the phone, and your answers indicate that you should be tested, you will fill out a registration form.
  • 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 people who have been within 6 feet of the known case for 15 minutes or longer.
  • Contact tracing then begins. This is the process of contacting the individuals who were in close contact of the known positive individual.
  • Contact tracing is a very important part of stopping the spread of virus in our community. Remember to answer the call.
  • Individuals being contacted will get an initial text from the number 45394, or an email from dhhs.nc.gov with follow-up phone calls from their local health department or NC OUTREACH (844-628-7223).
  • The Community Team will never ask for anyone’s Social Security Number, bank or credit card numbers, or any other financial information at any time.
  • Any information shared during the call is a private health record and is strictly confidential.

Election Services Director Corinne Duncan

  • Safe and secure elections are the highest priority for Buncombe County Election Services click here to see more about what we are doing to keep everyone safe.
  • To date, we have received more than 25,000 applications for mail-in absentee ballots.
  • This is a significant increase from the 2016 general election, when we received 7,500 applications.
  • If you’ve submitted an application, you won’t receive a notice it’s been received – you’ll just get your ballot in the mail.
  • You don’t need to fill out more than one application. If you’ve sent one in, we are taking care of you. It won’t harm your application to send in a duplicate, but it does slow our office down.
  • Next Friday, Sept. 4, we will start mailing out the first ballots. If you have already submitted a request, you should get a ballot within two weeks.
  • When mailing in, your ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day, Nov. 3, however, we do need to receive your ballots within three days of Election Day to be counted, so with delays in postal operations, we encourage everyone to mail well before Election Day.
  • You can also drop your ballot off in person. After Sept. 4, community members can deliver their ballots to our office at 77 McDowell St. where we will have a separate line for absentee ballot delivery so you won’t need to go through our lobby. This is just one way we’re working to ensure voters and elections staff are staying safe.
  • Another option is to deliver absentee ballots to any of our 16 Early Voting locations, which are open from Oct. 15-31. You can find those locations at buncombecounty.org/vote.
  • There is not a separate line for absentee by-mail delivery at these locations.
  • If you hand-deliver your absentee ballot either at our office or at an early voting location, you will sign for it and an elections official will check it in.
  • You are allowed to turn in ballots for near relatives, but you cannot return ballots for friends or neighbors.
  • To help reduce the time you are in a polling location, come prepared by looking up and researching your sample ballot beforehand. You can find your sample ballot through the voter lookup tool on our website.
  • Curbside voting, for those unable to physically enter the voting location due to age or disability, will use disposable privacy sleeves.
  • We will not be screening voters for fever or other symptoms, and we will not turn anyone away. Election workers will self-screen for symptoms or exposures and report any to the County Board of Elections.
  • Your vote matters, and Buncombe County Elections Services is committed to doing everything we can to ensure that you can cast your ballot safely.
  • There are many ways to vote safe and if anyone has questions, call our office at 828-250-4200 or go to www.buncombecounty.org/vote.

Key Takeaways Aug. 20,2020

  • As of today, there have been 2166 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • Our community has administered almost 50,000 COVID-19 tests.
  • Sadly, we have experienced 54 COVID-related deaths. The majority of those deaths have been associated with long-term care facility outbreaks.
  • Another trend we have been following has been the percent of tests that come back positive for COVID-19, known as percent positivity.
  • Recent percent positivity published on the NC COVID Dashboard shows 8% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive in NC.
  • This percentage for the state has ranged from 7-10% over the last month.
  • Our current percent positivity in Buncombe is stable at about 5%
  • For the last 30 days on average we were seeing about 40 new cases per day. This week we are still seeing 25-30 new cases per day on average.
  • This is an improvement but not a sign that we can stop doing the things that help stop the spread like Wearing a face covering, Waiting 6 feet apart, and Washing our hands.
  • As a reminder, testing for COVID-19 is available in our community.
  • If you do not have health insurance and are worried about the cost of testing, we encourage you to contact your closest Federally Qualified Health Center or one of our local clinics that offers discounted fees or programs that cover the cost of testing and your visit.
  • If you are an uninsured, you may be eligible for help with paying for certain COVID-19 (coronavirus) testing costs through the NC Medicaid Optional COVID-19 (MCV) Testing Program. To be eligible, you must:
    • Live in North Carolina
    • Not be covered by Medicaid, Medicare or other health insurance
    • Be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national or have eligible immigration status
  • 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.
  • You now 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.
  • Step 1 Complete the Buncombe County Self-Checker online or over the phone to make sure you should be tested.
    • The Buncombe County Self-Checker can be found online at www.buncombeready.org.
    • If you need help completing the Self-Checker, you can call the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm., Monday – Friday.
  • Step 2 Once you complete the Self-Checker online or over the phone, and your answers indicate that you should be tested, you will fill out a registration form.
  • Step 3 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.
    • 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.
  • Step 4 Show up at the testing site on your scheduled date and time and get tested.
  • As a reminder our Community Testing sites are available on:
    • Sundays at A-B Tech
    • Tuesdays at the Ingles in Swannanoa
    • Thursdays at the Buncombe County Sports Park
  • Cost is not a barrier to testing at these 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.
  • More information about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County can be found at www.buncombeready.org.
  • As a reminder- if you are getting tested because you are symptomatic or have been exposed to a known positive case, then you should isolate after being tested and remain isolated until you receive your tests results with instructions regarding next steps.
  • Once a case is identified, local public health works with the case to identify their close contacts. Contact tracing then begins.
  • This is the process of contacting the individuals who were in close contact of the known positive individual. Contact tracing is a very important part of stopping the spread of virus in our community.
  • It is important that people answer the call when the Community Team reaches out as the Team is trying to provide important information to you about your risk and health.
  • Individuals being contacted will get an initial text from the number 45394, or an email from dhhs.nc.gov with follow-up phone calls from their local health department or NC OUTREACH (844-628-7223).
  • The Community Team will never ask for anyone’s Social Security number, bank, or credit card numbers, or any other financial information at any time.
  • Any information shared during the call is a private health record and is strictly confidential.
  • It’s almost time for flu shots. The flu vaccine is always important but for the upcoming flu season, flu vaccination will be very important to reduce burden of flu illness because it can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population. 
  • This means it can also help lessen the resulting burden on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The impacts of flu vary- But it’s not just a week in bed for some – the flu can turn deadly and is particularly dangerous for those over 65, young children, and those with compromised immune systems.
  • Many providers, pharmacies, and other health agencies will be receiving their flu vaccine supplies soon, if not already. We strongly encourage you to get a flu vaccine to protect yourself this season.
  • We appreciate your compliance to the face covering mandate, please continue to do this important work.
  • If you have a question or concern about face coverings or the Governor's most recent order, you can call the Ready team at 828-419-0095.
  • While we are hopeful to see continued stability in numbers and trends, in order to continue moving in the right direction, now is the time to further commit to our efforts to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
  • Remember to stay 6 feet apart and wash your hands often.

Key Takeaways Aug. 13, 2020

  • As of noon today, there have been 1972 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.

  • Over the past week, we continue to see hopeful trends in some of our important COVID-19 data.

  • We are hovering around 30 new cases per day.
  • Roughly a month ago, we were experiencing on average 40 new cases per day.
  • Sadly, Buncombe County has experienced 51 COVID-related deaths; 41 of those individuals were residents of long-term care facilities.
  • Another trend we have been following has been the percent of tests that come back positive for COVID-19, known as percent positivity.
  • Recent PERCENT POSITIVITY published on the NC COVID Dashboard shows 7% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive in NC.
  • This percentage for the state has ranged from 7-10% over the last month.
  • In Buncombe County, during most of July, 5% of tests came back positive for COVID-19, which was up from 2-3% in June.
  • Over the last couple of weeks, our percent positivity has decreased slightly to 4.5%.
  • In order to continue to see those promising signs, we have to remain diligent and we must stay attentive to the 3Ws and other precautions. Now is not the time to let our guard down.
  • Please continue to do your part to limit your exposure to others outside your household and remember to WEAR, WAIT and WASH.
  • As a reminder, testing for COVID-19 is available if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact of someone with a confirmed positive test.
  • 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.
  • If you do not have health insurance and are worried about the cost of testing, we encourage you to contact your closest Federally Qualified Health Center or one of our local clinics that offers discounted fees or programs that cover the cost of testing and your visit.
  • These would include Mercy Urgent Care, Range Urgent Care and MAHEC Family Health Center at Biltmore.
  • You now can also schedule an appointment at a county community testing site.
  • The new screening and appointment process for the community testing sites is working well and we are seeing a reduction in wait times - from the long wait time in line to getting test results back.
  • Here are the steps to get tested at one of the Buncombe County Community Testing Sites:
  • Step 1. Complete the Buncombe County Self-Checker online or over the phone to make sure you should be tested.
    • The Buncombe County Self-Checker can be found online at www.buncombeready.org.
    • If you need help completing the Self-Checker, you can call the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm., Monday – Friday.
  • Step 2. Once you complete the Self-Checker online or over the phone, and your answers indicate that you should be tested, you will fill out a registration form.
  • Step 3: 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.
    • 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.
  • Step 4: Show up at the testing site on your scheduled date and time and get tested.
  • Community Testing sites are available on:
    • Sundays at AB Tech
    • Tuesdays at the Ingles in Swannanoa
    • Thursdays at the Buncombe County Sports Park
  • Cost is not a barrier to testing at these 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.
  • Reminder that if you are getting tested because you are symptomatic or have been exposed to a known positive case, then you should isolate after being tested and remain isolated until you receive your tests results with instructions regarding next steps.
  • Once a case is identified, local public health works with the case to identify their close contacts.
  • Contact tracing is a very important part of stopping the spread of virus in our community.
  • Unfortunately, we have been notified of scams where people have been called by individuals posing as contact tracers. These scammers are telling people that in order to complete contact tracing they must give credit card information or pay for services. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Contact tracers working with public health will NEVER ask you for your credit card information or payment. Contact tracing is provided to individuals at no cost.
  • If you are called by one of these scammers, we encourage you to contact your local law enforcement to report the incident and provide them with any information you can to help identify these scams.
  • As we look toward the start of school and in person learning, let’s do all that we can to keep ourselves and others safe. 
  • We want to outline what will happen if a positive COVID case occurs in the school setting and what that response will look like.
  • It is important to know that every response will be based on the unique circumstances of the occurrence of the virus and there is no single response to all cases that occur in school settings.
  • If there is a positive COVID case in a student or staff member, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (as required by NCGS 130A-136) will be notified and the communicable disease staff and school nurses will work to identify the details of exposure.
  • Public health will begin the case investigation process including identifying onset of symptoms and when the positive test result occurred and will work with the student, family, and staff to identify close contacts (those within 6 feet for a period of 15 minutes or longer).
  • Public Health will take that information and determine the extent of possible exposure and will identify actions that need to be taken to contain the spread.
  • The school administrators and school nurse, along with public health nurses will craft a communication to share with those identified as close contacts (including impacted teachers, students, staff, and anyone else identified as a close contact). Anyone identified as a close contact, will be instructed to self-quarantine until they can get tested.
  • The school will send a general notification to families and staff if an outbreak ( as defined as 5 or more positive cases) occurs at a school. This notification will not include identifying information such as student, staff, coach, grade etc. Public Health will remain in communication with those who have been identified as close contacts.
  • Please understand that COVID-19 is primarily spread through droplets which means, if social distancing, wearing face coverings, and hand hygiene guidance is followed, there may be no need to close the school if the close contacts have been excluded and there is sufficient space to continue normal operations.
  • Again, every response will be based on the unique circumstances of the occurrence. There is no single response to all cases that occur in school settings.
  • We need our students and those who care for them to do their part at SCHOOL and at HOME to maintain social distance from others outside of their household, wear face coverings, and wash or sanitize hands often to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • The goal of every action in this sequence of events is to protect STUDENTS and STAFF and move towards class room learning and activities as soon as possible.We need everyone's help to do this.
  • With the start of a new school year, we cannot emphasize enough how important it is for everyone in our community to be fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • Please make sure that you and your family are up to date on all age-appropriate immunizations. Getting immunizations is easy and cost is not a barrier- as there are programs that can help to cover or pay for the cost of vaccines for children, 19 and under. 
  • If you have questions about which vaccines you or your child needs, please call your doctor or the Immunization Clinic at (828) 250-5096.
  • This uncertain time has added stress to all of our lives and it is so important to take care of ourselves and our mental health now and always.
  • Connecting with others is one of the best ways to ward off feelings of loneliness or isolation. We encourage you to reach out to those healthy influences around you when you need to.  A
  • nyone living in western North Carolina can call VAYA’s 24/7 Access to Care Line at 1-800-849-6127. 
  • You can also call 211 for connection to resources and assistance.
  • Find out more about Asheville City Schools Return to Learn here.
  • Find out more about Buncombe County Schools Return to Learn here.
  • In response to growing complaints regarding local restaurants not complying with State and local requirements, a multi-agency task force was formed to evaluate and assess the level of compliance and determine whether or not to recommend additional restrictions or requirements on restaurants and breweries.
  • This task force was composed of members of Public Health, the Sheriff’s Office, Asheville Police Department, City Fire Marshals and Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE).
  • Since last Friday the task force has assessed 30 restaurants and breweries in downtown Asheville, greater Asheville, and Buncombe County Jurisdictions.
  • Overall observations indicate a high level of compliance and an eagerness to come into compliance wherever a deficiency was identified.  The most common non-compliance issues were a lack of required signage, in which we were able to provide the required resources on the spot, or a failure to post the newly defined Maximum Emergency Occupancy (generally defined as 50% normal capacity).
  • All locations which were evaluated were given a written warning indicating which requirements they were failing to meet. Even restaurants that met all requirements during evaluation were given the warning document with a focus on maintaining compliance. There have been no citations issued.
  • Based on the observations and results of the Restaurant Task Force, Public Health has recommended to county leadership to continue aligning with Executive Order No. 153 which curtails the sales of alcoholic beverages at 11 p.m.  We will continue to follow up on complaints as we receive them.  Persons who wish to report what they believe to be violations of current orders can email Ready@buncombecounty.org or call the Ready team at (828) 419-0095.

Key Takeaways Aug. 6, 2020

  • Welcome to Buncombe County’s new Public Health Director Stacie Saunders.
  • Public Health’s fundamental roles are to prevent, protect, and promote.
  • Buncombe County has seen an improvement over the past week in some important data and trends.
  • An average of 30 new cases a day have been reported to Buncombe County Public Health, down slightly from average of 41 new cases a day the prior week.
  • There has been significant improvement in the time it takes for lab results to return.
  • There have been 1,776 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • Sadly, 46 Buncombe County residents have died as a result of their COVID-19 infections; 39 of those individuals were residents of long-term care facilities.
  • In Buncombe County, for much of July, 5% percent of tests have come back positive.
  • Last week this percent decreased to 4.5% positive, indicating that we are seeing a slight improvement in trends.
  • Now is the time to dig down and continue in our efforts to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
  • Please do everything you can to limit your exposure to others outside of your household and practice the 3Ws when you must be out in public around others.
  • Wear a face covering, wait 6 feet apart from others and wash your hands often.
  • Our public health staff are working hard to do contact tracing and investigation.
  • Our nurses are here as a resource and we are trying hard to answer all of the questions coming into the nurse line. We ask that you use the guidance from the CDC or State first, then give us a call if you still have questions and need to speak with someone.
  • If you meet any of the following criteria, we are recommending that you get tested for COVID-19:
    • Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    • Close contacts of known positive cases, whether or not you have symptoms, should be tested.
  • Unless you are an employee in a long-term care facility, repeat testing is not recommended.
  • Click here for the State’s Find My Testing Place website.
  • Starting Sunday, Aug. 9, Buncombe County is providing COVID-19 testing for anyone that lives, works, or learns in Buncombe County and is experiencing symptoms or has been identified as a close contact to someone with COVID-19 or is a member of a high-risk group who has suspected exposure to a person with COVID-19.
  • There is a new screening and scheduling process for the testing sites. The new process allows people to schedule their testing time in advance, avoid long wait times, and offers a quicker turnaround time for test results. We have partnered with a local lab to ensure a 48-hour turn around time. The sites are designed as drive-through sites, but those who walk up or take the bus will have access to these services.
  • 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 or you can contact us to assess your need for testing at the community testing site.
  • Here are the steps to getting tested at the Buncombe County Community Testing Sites:
    • #1. Complete the self-checker online or over the phone to assess your need for testing. The Buncombe County Self-Checker can be found online at www.buncombeready.org. The Ready Team can be reached at (828) 419-0095 from 8:30 am – 5 pm., Monday – Friday.
    • #2. Once you complete the self-checker online or over the phone, and your results indicate that you need testing, a representative will contact you to schedule a date and time for testing.
    • #3. Show up at the testing site on the scheduled date and time for testing.
  • Community Testing sites are available on Tuesdays (Swannanoa Ingles), Thursdays (Buncombe County Sports Park) and Sundays (AB Tech Allied Health Building).
  • Cost is not a barrier to testing but if you have insurance, it will be billed for testing at the community testing sites.
  • Spanish medical interpreters will be at the testing sites.
  • More information about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County can be found at www.buncombeready.org.
  • The number one action that we can all take right now is to prevent COVID from spreading in the first place.
  • You can do this by wearing a face covering, staying at home as much as possible and not participating in activities that put you and your family at risk.
  • Yesterday, based on state-wide data trends, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 155 which extends Phase II restrictions in North Carolina for another 5 weeks, until September 11.
  • Buncombe County will fully comply with Executive order No. 155
  • There are two areas of concern in which our community is not putting forth our best effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
  • These areas of concern are gyms and restaurants.
  • Per Executive Order No. 141, Phase II of re-opening, gyms and indoor exercise facilities are mandated to remain closed. There is an allowance, that if a client has documentation from a healthcare provider or medical professional that they require physical therapy or exercise, that the gym may allow them to use their facilities. Gyms are required to verify that these clients have a signed letter from a doctor for this exception. Letters from personal trainers or health coaches are not sufficient, they must be signed letters from medical professionals.
  • While a majority of our local restaurants are complying with guidance, we have received reports of several restaurants who are not in compliance with State and Local orders and are essentially operating as bars at night, which are expressly closed per the Governor’s orders.
  • Restaurants, if they do not follow guidance, have the potential to become an ideal setting for the transmission of COVID-19. The guidance for restaurants requires parties to keep 6ft of distance.
  • While we are not putting further restrictions on the sale of alcohol at restaurants into our current order, starting this weekend we are forming a joint response team to spot check restaurants for compliance with the orders.
  • This team will consist of members of Public Health, the Sheriff’s Office,  Asheville Police Dept., County and City Fire Marshal’s, Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE), and Asheville Independent Restaurants (AIR).
  • Over the next week this team will spot-check area restaurants and gyms for compliance and will issue warnings and citations.
  • Based on the observations of this response team, we will make the determination by next Thursday whether or not to recommend that Buncombe County put increased restrictions on alcohol sales in the local orders. 
  • As a reminder, these are the current requirements for restaurants that this response team will be spot-checking. 
  • The requirements come from Executive Orders no. 141 and 153 as well as the NCDHHS Interim Guidance for Restaurants.
  • Restaurants are not in compliance if they are:
    • Exceeding the defined Emergency Maximum Capacity
    • The Maximum Capacity is not posted
    • Exceeding more than 10 customers at a table
    • Front of house staff failing to wear a face covering without a valid exception
    • Customers not wearing a mask when not seated at their table
    • Failure to designate six (6) feet spacing in high traffic areas
    • Sale of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption of alcohol after 11:00 p.m.
    • Failure to post signage regarding the Three “W’s” at the entrance
    • Failure to post signage regarding  COVID symptoms at the entrance
    • Failure to conduct daily symptom screening of staff
  • To everyone who continues to take the state and local guidance seriously, thank you.
  • To all the restaurant owners and staff who are working very hard to make their spaces a safe place for the community, thank you too. 
  • We have some big hurdles ahead of us as our schools are set to re-open, fall approaches, and we enter flu season.
  • Stay Smart, Stay Safe, and let’s take this step-by-step.

Key Takeaways July 30,2020

  • Buncombe County has continued to see a sustained increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported in county residents daily.
  • Over the last week, an average of 41 new cases have been reported daily to Buncombe County Public Health, down slightly from an average of 43 new cases reported to us daily the prior week.
  • As of noon today, there have been 1,560 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • Almost 58% in individuals between the ages of 18-49.
  • Sadly, 45 Buncombe County residents have died as a result of their COVID-19 infections; 38 of those individuals were residents of long-term care facilities.
  • One of the important trends we are following to understanding the level of spread in our community is the percent of tests that come back positive for COVID-19.
  • In NC as a whole at this time, 8% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive.
  • This percentage for the state has ranged from 7-10% over the past month.
  • In Buncombe County, during the month of July, 5% percent of tests have come back positive for COVID-19, up from 2-3% in June.
  • This indicates that we are seeing continued spread of the COVID-19 in our community.
  • The take-away from all the data and trends that we are monitoring is that there is widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the county, the region and the state.
  • Data is helpful if it informs decision-making and action.
  • And right now, based on this data, we should be acting as if everyone has COVID-19 in our community.
  • Our focus needs to be on stopping that spread, and preventing new infections. 
  • Please do everything you can to limit your exposure to others outside of your household and practice the 3Ws when you must be out in public around others. Wear a face covering, wait 6 feet apart from others and wash your hands often.
  • We encourage individuals to access the information at the NC DHHS dashboard in addition to our website.
  • If you meet any of the following criteria, we are recommending that you get tested for COVID-19:
    • If you have symptoms including fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, nasal congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    • If you are a close contact to someone with COVID-19, whether or not you have symptoms
    • If you are a member of a high-risk group and think you have been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not you have symptoms
    • This includes people who live or work in high-risk settings like long-term care facilities, homeless shelters or migrant farmworker camps
    • People over the age of 65 or people of any age with underlying health conditions
    • Persons from historically marginalized populations (meaning Black and Indigenous People and People of Color)
    • Health care workers or first responders
    • Front-line and essential workers in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain
  • Repeat testing is not recommended unless you are an employee in a long-term care facility or have been directed to be retested by a healthcare provider or public health nurse
  • We encourage you to use the COVID-19 Self-Checker found at buncombeready.org to assess your symptoms and get connected to testing.
  • Even with our community testing sites on pause, COVID-19 testing is widely available in our county through primary care providers, community health centers, urgent cares, hospital systems, and pharmacies.
  • If you do not have health insurance, we encourage you to contact your closest federally qualified Health Center or one of our local clinics that offers discounted fees or programs that cover the cost of testing and your visit. These would include Mercy Urgent Care, Range Urgent Care and MAHEC Family Health Center at Biltmore.
  • For more information about testing locations, please visit North Carolina’s COVID-19 Find My Testing Site webpage or call 828-250-5300.
  • Planning and logistics for the Buncombe County community testing sites are underway and moving forward rapidly. We have finalized our contract with a local lab and are hiring additional staff as we speak to fill out a variety of positions and needs associated with our COVID-19 response.
  • If we have uniform compliance with the public health guidance, we can reduce the spread of disease. 
  • If that compliance level is in the 90-95% range, we can potentially reduce transmission to negligible levels. 
  • If you want businesses to open more fully, if you want to get your kids back in school…this is the path forward.  We can do it.
  • The number one action that we can all take right now is to PREVENT COVID from spreading in the first place.
  • You can do this by wearing a face covering, staying at home as much as possible and not participating in activities that put you and your family at risk.
  • August is national immunization awareness month.
  • Now is the time to make sure children are up-to-date on their immunizations.
  • COVID is not the only infection we should be worried about.
  • Immunization rates have dropped across the country and we need to do all what we can to turn that around.
  • Please talk to your medical provider or call the Buncombe County Immunization Clinic at (828) 250-5096.

Key Takeaways July 23, 2020

  • Buncombe County continues to see a sustained increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported to us daily.
  • As of noon today, there have been 1,292 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. This is an increase of 300 new cases from the same time last week.
  • Sadly, 43 of those individuals have died as a result of their infection. 37 of those individuals were residents of long-term care facilities.
  • We continue to see that a majority of these new cases are in younger adults. Currently, 57% of those with lab-confirmed COVID-19 in our county have been between the ages of 18-49.
  • The way to tell whether a rise in cases is because of increased spread in the population, rather than a result of performing more tests, is by looking at the percent of tests that are positive.
  • In NC as a whole, 9% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive. This percentage for the state has ranged from 8-10% for the past several weeks.
  • At the end of June, 2% of COVID tests on county residents came back positive for COVID; 2 weeks ago, it increased to 4%, and for the past 2 weeks, it’s been at 5%. This indicates that we are seeing continued spread of the infection in our community.
  • Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been outbreaks at 12 long-term care facilities in Buncombe County. Currently there are 10 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities in the county.

Public health is navigating this complex terrain of COVID-19, where change is the only certainty. For many weeks now, Buncombe County and our clinical partner, Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS), have tested over 850 people per week for COVID-19 at community testing sites.

Testing was made possible as a result of a tremendous effort by many community partners and we are grateful to those agencies who have stepped up to assist during the community testing events. Due to challenges with staffing and capacity, WNC Community Health Services, is no longer able to be the clinical partner for community testing sites.


Additionally, with cases increasing and wait times for test results through the previous model coming in much higher than the recommended 48 hour or less time frame, adjustments need to be made to community testing for a more effective model to serve the residents of Buncombe County.


The County believes that testing is important and we are committed to making sure that everyone who needs testing in our communities has access to testing. Testing resources are dynamic, and we need to recalibrate our testing model to better serve our residents.
Community testing will be paused for a short period of time while we pull in resources to staff, streamline and improve processes. This is simply a readjustment period that is not unique to Buncombe County.
Moving forward, the county’s mass community testing efforts will be performed by Buncombe County Government. This means that the County will provide coordination and implementation of all community testing functions from site logistics and safety, screening and registration, specimen collection, lab contracting, and notification of results.

This new community testing model will be built on best practices and successes seen in other NC counties, who also have had to adjust and pivot to further refine their testing efforts. The goal is to have community testing back on line in early August. We are working hard to get these new and improved testing sites back up and running as soon as possible.
 

People who have been tested at previous community testing sites should refer to the guidance given to them at the testing site about how to receive their test results. More information on how to access these test results can be found at buncombeready.org.

We have heard concerns that this is some sort of attempt on our part to keep numbers low, to bring in more tourists. This is simply not true. We have to pause testing while we replace the services that our clinical partner was providing for our community and while we implement new actions to improve the screening and registration process and go online with a new lab partner to ensure a significantly shorter time for results.

For each of the past two weeks, over 4,600 COVID-19 tests were performed on Buncombe County residents. Less than 20% of those tests were collected at our community testing sites. Testing is widely available in our county through primary care providers, community health centers, urgent cares, hospital systems, and pharmacies.

Public health, healthcare providers, and school officials want everyone to focus on preventing COVID-19 from spreading in the first place. You can do this by staying at home as much as possible and not participating in activities that put you and your family at risk. If you feel you must leave your home or must attend a gathering with those outside your immediate household, please wear a face covering and keep 6 feet apart from others. This is the way that we will stop COVID and we need your commitment to do this.

Please assess your need for testing if you think you might have COVID-19 or have been in close contact to someone with COVID-19, regardless of your symptoms. The Buncombe Ready COVID-19 Self Checker is one resource you can use. The Self checker can be found at buncombeready.org. You may also contact your healthcare provider or use the State’s Find My Testing Location app to find a testing location.

And a reminder as we approach August -- Now is the time to make sure children are up-to-date on their immunizations. COVID is not the only infection we should be worried about. During this pandemic, immunization rates have dropped across the country and we need to do all we can to turn that around. Please talk to your medical provider or call the Buncombe County Immunization Clinic at (828) 250-5096.

Daily events may seem unpredictable, and yes, Coronavirus is new, but the challenge of protecting public health is not. We depend on YOU and your actions to help us get through this pandemic. Through collaboration with our community, we can increase the impact of everyone’s hard work.

Key Takeaways July 16, 2020

Dr. Mullendore, Interim Public Health Director/Medical Director Buncombe County

  • Lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County continued to rise dramatically over the last week
  • Based on the data on the state’s COVID dashboard, there have been 992 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents as of noon today
  • This is an increase of 215 cases from the same time last week
  • More than 55% of lab-confirmed cases in our county have been in people between the ages of 18-49
  • We are seeing many cases tied to household contacts, coworkers, vacations with family and friends, attendance at parties and other gatherings
  • Sadly, 42 county residents have died as a result of their infection, including 37 residents of 4 local long-term care facilities
  • However, with the long time it continues to take to get results, if you are tested because you have symptoms of COVID-19 or because you were a close contact to someone with COVID-19, you should stay at home, away from others, including those in your household, while you await your test results
  • Additionally, because this virus so easily spreads within households, if you were tested because you have symptoms of COVID-19, everyone in your household should stay home as much as possible until your results are known
  • Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been outbreaks at 12 long-term care facilities in Buncombe County, including 10 with active outbreaks
  • The increase in outbreaks in these facilities is a reflection of the increased spread we are seeing in our community
  • Over 20,000 COVID-19 tests have been performed on residents of Buncombe County and staff who work in LTCFs in Buncombe County since the start of this pandemic response
  • In NC as a whole, 9% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive
  • In Buncombe County, over the last couple of weeks, we have seen a greater percentage of tests come back positive for COVID-19
  • This indicates that we are seeing more spread of the infection in our community
  • Two weeks ago, 2% of COVID tests on county residents came back positive for COVID, last week it was 4%
  • Currently, 5% of tests on county residents are coming back positive.
  • We all must take actions to protect ourselves and prevent further spread. It is up to each one of us to keep ourselves, our families, our friends and coworkers and the most vulnerable in our community safe.
  • If you meet any of the following criteria, we are recommending that you get tested for COVID-19:
    • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19
    • Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    • Close contacts of known positive cases, whether or not you have symptoms
  • People in the following groups who believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not you have symptoms:
    • Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp)
    • Persons who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions)
    • Persons from historically marginalized populations (meaning Black and Indigenous People and People of Color)
    • Health care workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military)
    • Front-line and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, child care workers, construction workers, food processing plant workers, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain
    • People who attended mass gatherings of any type, particularly if they were in crowds or other situations where they couldn’t practice effective social distancing
  • If your healthcare provider does not offer testing, contact one of the local urgent cares or clinics offering testing.
  • The state website has a “Find My Testing Place” resource with up-to-date information about testing locations in NC
  • The next BC community testing event will be on Sunday, July 19 from 1:30-5:30pm at A-B Tech, off Genevieve Circle, in the Allied Health Building Parking lot
  • Click here for the community testing schedule
  • There is no out-of-pocket cost for the testing at these community testing sites, but we do ask that those with health insurance, including Medicaid or Medicare, bring their insurance card with them so that insurance can be billed to cover the cost of the test
  • Due to the recent increase in testing nationwide and supply chain issues at some labs, LabCorp and other large commercial labs have seen an increase in specimens being sent to them for testing
  • As a result, the time it is taking to get test results has increased to around 1 week
  • Anyone with a positive test result (meaning they have COVID-19) will be contacted by a Public Health nurse.
  • People who were seen at the community testing sites are able to get their results online through the LabCorp Patient portal. Per LabCorp’s website, test results will be delivered to the portal as soon as they are available. Individuals will need to register or sign into the portal at patient.labcorp.com. Registration requires entry of the last four digits of the person’s social security number or a valid Driver’s License number for identity verification via text message or email
  • Wearing a mask or face covering is a simple but powerful action -- one of the most important actions each of us can take to gain control over this virus
  • Wear a mask
  • Keep your physical distance from others
  • And wash your hands
  • We stand with our community, with our schools, our healthcare providers as we all strive to beat this and to come back stronger. And we ask that you stand with us, by making safer choices, to protect our community

Dr. William Hathaway, Chief Medical Director, Mission Health

  • Mission Health (MH) has seen an increase in the number of COVID hospitalizations with daily case counts in the low 30s
  • These numbers are within the hospital’s capacity to care for patients

Dr. Tony Baldwin, Superintendent, Buncombe County Schools

  • The governor's decision this week regarding the start of our school year allows us to narrow our focus to address the many details that come with plan B
  • Because we are offering a full remote option for instruction to all students and parents, the components of plan C are also being refined in order to provide a rigorous remote experience with accountability and consistent expectations
  • The Governor will also require facial coverings for all students, staff, and visitors. This was a decision that our school board also made a week ago.
  • BCS is currently in the process of obtaining detailed information from families which includes the number of students who will opt for a remote learning experience for a minimum of one semester. In addition, we are requesting that our families tell us if they need bus transportation in the morning and/or the afternoon.
  • If BCS families have not completed one of our questionnaires, we ask that they email their principal as soon as possible with these preferences.
  • BCS will hold town hall meetings to communicate with teachers and staff in each of our 44 schools. During those sessions, we will be providing updated information on plan B and plan C logistics and offering them an opportunity to ask questions.
  • BCS has created a landing page where you can find all of the latest information.
  • ReturnTolearn.BuncombeSchools.org.

Ashley-Michelle Thublin, Communications Director, Asheville City Schools

  • Pre-K classrooms will open on Aug. 17 across all sites with reduced capacity
  • Enrolled families will receive additional information in the coming weeks
  • For detailed information on the reopening plan for grades Asheville City Schools rising kindergarden-12 visit ashevillecityschools.net/ReturntoLearn or the ACS website/social media

Key Takeaways for July 9, 2020

Updated Case Count for July 9, 2020

777 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in BC residents

From Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller

  • COVID-19 is a serious public health issue
  • Wearing a mask is an essential part of keeping people safe from COVID-19
  • Wearing a mask is required to do business at any Buncombe County facility. 
  • Private businesses also have the right to require that patrons wear a face covering
  • If an individual fails to comply after being asked by the business to put on a mask they can be asked to leave and must comply or face being charged with trespassing by the Sheriff’s Office 
  • The goal of law enforcement is to educate and inform 
  • The Sheriff’s Office will engage in discussion with businesses prior to issuing citations
  • However, the Sheriff’s Office will issue citations if need be
  • We are hopeful that by taking this approach we can get voluntary compliance
  •  

From BC Interim Public Health Director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore

  • Lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County are rising at an alarming rate
  • Yesterday, we received nearly 50 new positive lab results and so far today, another 42
  • Almost all of these cases are in individuals who do not live or work in long-term care facilities
  • Our Communicable Disease nurses continue to work long and hard to reach out to each of those individuals to provide guidance on isolation and to determine their close contacts in an effort to prevent further spread of the virus
  • As a result of the significant influx of cases and the way data must be manually entered to populate our county COVID-19 dashboard, there will be a fairly big lag in the case count shown there
  • As of noon today, there have been 777 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 32 of these individuals have died as a result of their infection, including 27 residents of 4 local long-term care facilities
  • We continue to see a greater percentage of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in people between the ages of 18-49
  • Yesterday, the county was informed of a new COVID-19 outbreak in another long-term care facility in the county.
  • A COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility is defined as 2 or more laboratory-confirmed cases.
  • There have now been outbreaks at 9 long-term care facilities in Buncombe County
  • Public health considers a long-term care facility COVID-19 outbreak over when it has been 28 days with no evidence of continued spread of COVID-19 within the facility
  • Two facilities have had their outbreaks come to an end, so we are now at 7 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities in the county
  • More details on these outbreaks will be available on the state’s COVID website on Friday July 10, 2020 by 4 p.m.
  • Buncombe County Public Health is aware of over 18,400 COVID-19 tests that have been performed on BC residents and staff who work in BC LTCFs in Buncombe County
  • Looking at the percent of tests that are positive tells us whether lab-confirmed cases are increasing in comparison to the number of tests performed
  • In NC as a whole, 9% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive, this percentage has been stable for the past several weeks.
  • In Buncombe County, since last week, we have seen a greater percentage of tests come back positive for COVID-19,  indicating we are seeing more spread of the infection in our community
  • Last week, 2% of COVID tests on county residents came back positive for COVID, but now we are seeing 4% of tests come back positive
  • If you meet any of the following criteria, we are recommending that you get tested for COVID-19:
    • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19
    • Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    • Close contacts of known positive cases, whether or not you have symptoms
    • People in the following groups who believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not you have symptoms:
    • Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp)
    • Persons who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions)
    • Persons from historically marginalized populations (meaning Black and Indigenous People and People of Color)
    • Health care workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military)
    • Front-line and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, child care workers, construction workers, food processing plant workers, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain
    • People who attended mass gatherings of any type, particularly if they were in crowds or other situations where they couldn’t practice effective social distancing
  • If your healthcare provider does not offer testing, contact one of the local urgent cares or clinics offering testing.
  • The state website has a “Find My Testing Place” resource with up-to-date information about testing locations in NC
  • Buncombe County Government and Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS) will continue to offer COVID-19 testing at community-based sites throughout the County over the next 8 weeks.
  • The next testing event will be on Sunday, July 12 from 1:30-5:30pm at A-B Tech, off Genevieve Circle, in the Allied Health Building Parking Lot
  • Next week we will begin the 3rd round of testing at the permanent community test sites
  • Due to the recent increase in testing nationwide and supply chain issues at some labs, LabCorp and other large commercial labs have seen an increase in specimens being sent to them for testing
  • As a result, the time it is taking to get test results has increased to 5-8 days
  • Anyone with a positive test result (meaning they have COVID-19) will be contacted by a Public Health nurse
  • People who were seen at the community testing sites are able to get their results online through the LabCorp Patient portal
  • Per LabCorp’s website, test results will be delivered to the portal as soon as they are available
  • Individuals will need to register or sign into the portal at patient.labcorp.com
  • Registration requires entry of the last four digits of the person’s social security number or a valid Driver’s License number for identity verification via text message or email

Mission Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Hathaway

  • Mission Health (MH) has seen a rise in cases locally
  • All should continue to practice 3 Ws so that our healthcare system is not overwhelmed
  • 27 patients are currently hospitalized with the virus
  • 8 of those are in Intensive Care on ventilators
  • Previously we were averaging 15-20
  • Are seeing an increase in patients in the 18-49 age group
  • MH remains at Level 2 visitation
  • Continue to provide non-Covid care at this time
  • MH has created an insurance assistance program
  • Find information at missionhealth.org

Captain Joe Silberman with Asheville Police Department

  • Since March, APD has been strongly focused on education and advisement when it comes to enforcement of COVID-19 related orders
  • Only in cases where persistent non-compliant behavior persists, have we considered the use of citations to gain compliance
  • Since March, we have received more than 300 calls for service related to COVID-19 orders
  • Out of these calls, less than a handful resulted in citations, many resolved with communication
  • In regards to the mask mandate citations may be written only to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement to wear face coverings
  • Operators of businesses and organizations are entitled to rely on their customers or patrons' statements about whether or not they are exempted from the face covering requirements and businesses and organizations do not violate the Order if they rely on such statements
  • Voluntary compliance and education are specifically encouraged under the executive order, however, if a citation is necessary, just like the enforcement of past orders, it would be a Class 2 misdemeanor
  • If a business or organization does not allow entry to a worker, customer, or patron because that person refuses to wear a face covering, and if that worker, customer, or patron enters the premises or refuses to leave the premises, the individual may be cited for trespassing or violating any other laws
  • Non-compliance can be reported to APD’S non-emergency number at 828-252-1110

Key Takeaways July 2, 2020

  • As of noon today, there have been 598 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • 118 of these individuals are currently in isolation.
  • Over 52% of those with lab-confirmed COVID-19 in our county are between the ages of 18-49.
  • Across the country, there has been an increase in COVID-19 in young adults.
  • Over the last 2 weeks in Buncombe County, we've seen a 6% increase in cases in 18-49 year olds compared to the prior 2 week period.
  • While the illness often is less severe in younger people, some do get very sick and even die.
  • Younger individuals also may be more likely to show no symptoms yet still spread the virus.
  • Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been outbreaks at 8 long-term care facilities in Buncombe County.
  • A COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility is defined as 2 or more laboratory-confirmed cases. NCDHHS considers a long-term care facility COVID-19 outbreak over when it has been 28 days with no evidence of continued spread of COVID-19 within the facility. We are now at 7 active outbreaks in long-term care facilities in the county.
  • A long term care facility in our county that has been heavily affected by COVID-19 informed our communicable disease staff that the Medical Director of the facility conducted a review of the medical records of the residents of their facility who had died during their COVID-19 outbreak. As a result of that review, the facility administration reported to us that they had incorrectly reported the deaths of 10 residents of their facility as COVID-related deaths.
  • Our communicable disease staff is updating the numbers accordingly in both the county and state communicable disease data collection systems.
  • Therefore, there will be a noticeable decrease in the number of COVID-19-associated deaths in Buncombe County reported on the county and state websites in the next several days.
  • Based on this adjustment, the current # of COVID-19-associated deaths in Buncombe County residents is now at 30, 25 of whom were residents of long-term care facilities.
  • This change will not be reflected in today’s congregate care facility outbreak report from NC DHHS, but should appear on next Tuesday’s report.
  • Buncombe County Public Health is aware of over 17,000 COVID-19 tests that have been performed on residents of Buncombe County and staff who work in LTCFs in Buncombe County since the start of this pandemic response.
  • Who should get tested for COVID-19? Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19
    • Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    • Close contacts of known positive cases, whether or not they have symptoms
  • If your healthcare provider does not offer testing, contact one of the local urgent cares or clinics offering testing.
  • Please see the testing article for more details on testing and who should get tested. You can also use the symptom checker found at www.buncombeready.org.
  • At both the Swannanoa and Enka locations, testing will be offered to staff of our smaller congregate care facilities from 9:30- 10:30 am and then open to the general public from 10:30am until 1:30pm.
  • This is a holiday weekend when we celebrate our country’s birth.
  • In past years, that meant getting together at cookouts or to watch fireworks. This year is different and it must be different due to COVID-19.
  • Wearing a mask or face covering is a simple but powerful action -- one of the most important actions each of us can take to gain control over this virus. Every contact counts -- continue to reduce your contact with others outside of your household to keep your risk of exposure lower.
  • You have the ability to protect your friends, family, our community, our economy and our country by following these simple steps.

Community Update June 25, 2020

Key Takeaways June 25, 2020

  • As of noon today, there have been 523 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • 92 individuals currently in isolation.
  • 51% have been between the ages of 18-49.
  • While the illness often is less severe in younger people, some do get very sick and even die.
  • Younger individuals also may be more likely to show no symptoms yet still spread the virus.
  • There are now outbreaks at 7 long-term care facilities in the county. An outbreak is considered to be 2 or more cases in a facility.
  • Sadly, 37 Buncombe County residents have died from COVID-19, including 32 residents of 3 long-term care facilities experiencing outbreaks.

Testing

Buncombe County Public Health is aware of over 15,500 COVID-19 tests performed on residents of Buncombe County and staff who work in LTCFs in Buncombe County since the start of this pandemic response. 

Testing is available for those who have symptoms of COVID-19, as well as those who are without symptoms but have had close contact with someone known to have COVID-19, or those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 as a result of their occupation or activities.

If your healthcare provider does not offer testing, contact one of the local urgent cares or clinics offering testing. Click here to find testing site locations.

Designated times for staff of long term and congregate care facilities will be offered at the Swannanoa Ingles on Tuesdays and the Buncombe County Sports Park on Thursdays, from 9:30- 10:30 am.
East Buncombe at 2217 US 70 Hwy., Swannanoa (Ingles Parking Lot)  Every Tuesday, Beginning June 30

Testing for the general public will be from 10:30am until 1:30pm

  • South West Buncombe at 58 Apac Dr., Asheville (Buncombe County Sports Park) Every Thursday, Beginning July 2. Testing for general public will be from 10:30am until 1:30pm
  • Central Buncombe at AB Tech, Genevieve Circle, Asheville (Allied Health Parking Lot) Every Sunday, Beginning July 5 Testing will be from 1:30pm until 5:30pm

There is no out-of-pocket cost for the testing at the community testing sites, but we do ask that those with health insurance, including Medicaid or Medicare, bring their insurance card with them.

Face Coverings

The best thing we can all do to get our economy and schools back open is to wear a face covering when you are out and about. If you must go out, don’t go into large crowds. Keep distance of 6 feet or more between yourself and others.

Reopening

Executive Order No 147 will go into effect this Friday at 5 pm.  Buncombe County will be fully aligning with Executive order No 147.
This new order extends Phase 2 of Reopening for 3 more weeks (until July 17), this means, that for the most part, things for the next 3 weeks will look just as they have for the last 5 weeks under Executive Order No 141 (Phase 2).
One important change.  As part of Executive Order No 147, Governor Cooper has mandated the use of face coverings statewide.
This means that people are now required to wear face coverings in public spaces, whether inside or outside, when physical distancing of 6ft is not possible.  This requirement is applicable, but not limited to:

  • Retail business
  • Restaurants
  • Personal care, grooming, and tattoo businesses
  • Child care facilities
  • State government employees
  • Transportation
  • Manufacturing, construction, agricultural settings
  • Meat and poultry processing plants
  • Long term care facilities

If you are outside by yourself or with your immediate family you do not need a face covering, but if you will be passing within 6 ft of others when outside in public you are required to wear a face covering.

Exceptions for this face covering mandate:

A face covering does not need to be worn by a worker, customer, or patron who meets one of the following exceptions:

  • persons with any medical or behavioral condition or disability (including, but not limited to, any person who has trouble breathing, or is otherwise unable to put on or remove the face covering without assistance);
  • Is under eleven years of age;
  • Is actively eating or drinking;
  • Is strenuously exercising;
  • Is seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired in a way that requires the mouth to be visible;
  • Is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience;
  • Is working at home or is in a personal vehicle;
  • Is temporarily removing his or her face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;
  • Would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines;
  • Has found that their face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle; and/or
  • Is a child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the face covering safely on the child’s face.

If someone claims an exception, No proof nor documentation is required but the business or vendor can determine how to best manage service delivery for that client.

Citations related to this Order can be written to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement to wear face coverings.

Law enforcement personnel cannot criminally enforce the face covering requirements of this Order against individual workers, customers, or patrons. However, if a business or organization denies entry to a customer or client and they refuse to leave, Law Enforcement may enforce trespassing laws against that person.

 

Community Update, Monday June 22, 2020

As of 8 pm on June 22, 2020, there have been 504 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. 105 of these individuals are currently in isolation.

Community spread of COVID-19 is occurring in our county. Cases spread through our community and households after interactions with coworkers; gatherings with family, friends and others; and in many cases, without any certain source of exposure. A majority of cases are occurring in 25-49 year olds.

Over 1,050 people have been tested at the community testing sites so far. At these sites, 28 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Many people are either symptomatic or close contacts to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Please use the self-checker to assess your symptoms and to be connected to testing.

COVID-19 testing sites for next week will be announced soon.

Contact tracing is underway to notify close contacts of their exposure to someone with COVID-19. Individuals identified as close contacts will get a phone call from their local health department or NC OUTREACH (844-628-7223).

Interim Public Health Director, Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, urges the community to stay vigilant, saying, “Every contact counts and we must do the hard work now if we don’t want this situation to get worse. If you must go out in public, practice the 3 W’s. Wear a face covering when you are out in public. Wait 6 feet apart from others outside your immediate household. Wash your hands frequently.”

Key Takeaways June 18, 2020

  • As of noon today, there have been 470 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • 139 of these individuals are currently in isolation.
    • Community spread of COVID-19 is occurring in our county. Cases spread through our community and households after interactions with coworkers; trips with extended family and friends; attendance at church, funerals, and gatherings with friends; and in many cases, without any certain source of exposure.
  • A majority of cases are occurring in 25-49 year olds.
  • When you must go out in public or gather with others, practice the three Ws.
    • Wear a face covering.
    • Wait six feet apart from others when out in public.
    • Wash your hands.
  • Every contact counts and we must do the hard work now if we don’t want this situation to get worse

Long Term Care Facilities (LTCF):

  • There are now outbreaks at 6 nursing homes in the county.
  • An outbreak is considered to be 2 or more lab-confirmed cases in a facility within 28 days.
  • We are working with those facilities on ongoing testing to identify new cases in any residents or staff in an effort to prevent further spread of infection.
  • Sadly, 36 Buncombe County residents have died from COVID-19, including 31 residents of 2 nursing homes that are experiencing outbreaks.

Testing Results and Recommendations for Testing:

  • Over 12,250 COVID-19 tests have been performed in Buncombe County residents.
  • Today’s percent positive rate is 3.8%, meaning that 3.8% of tests performed on Buncombe County residents have come back showing infection with COVID-19. Our rates have been around 4% for the past several weeks.
  • The positivity rate for NC as a whole is 9% and other states in the southeast US are also seeing positivity rates higher than the rest of the US, which has a rate of 6%.
  • Over 900 people have been tested at the community testing sites.
  • Last week’s community testing identified 10 individuals with COVID-19; we are still waiting on results of 13 tests.
  • 25 total individuals have tested positive at these testing sites.
  • Earlier this week, 150 people were tested at AB Tech; results from those tests have not yet returned.
  • Testing is available for:
    • Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
    • Symptoms may include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    • Anyone (with or without symptoms) who is a close contact of a known positive case
  • Anyone (with or without symptoms) in the following groups who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19:
    • Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp)
    • Persons who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions)
    • Historically marginalized populations
    • Healthcare workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military)
    • Front-line and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, child care workers, construction workers, food processing plant workers, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain
    • People who attended mass gatherings (protests, marches, rallies, funerals, parties, cookouts, etc.), particularly if they were in crowds or other situations where they couldn’t practice effective social distancing
  • If you meet the above criteria, contact your healthcare provider to see if testing is available through them.
  • If not, check BuncombeReady.org for a list of local sites that are offering testing.
  • There is no out-of-pocket cost for the testing at the community testing sites, but we do ask that those with health insurance, including Medicaid or Medicare, bring their insurance card with them so that their insurance can be billed for the cost of the test.
  • Language services are available at the community testing sites.
  • Thank you to all who have volunteered, provided testing, and helped with coordination of the testing sites. Your care and compassion are what we need right now. There is no doubt that caring for others is what will get us successfully through this global pandemic.
  • Next week, our testing efforts will be focused on residential facilities that house older, at-risk adults.
  • Community testing will resume the following week at locations throughout the county. These sites will be more permanent in nature and will operate with expanded hours to serve the needs of everyone in our community.
  • Next week we will announce the locations of the testing sites for the week of June 29.
  • It is important that people answer the call when the Community Team reaches out.
  • Individuals being contacted will get an initial text from the number 45394 or email from dhhs.nc.gov with follow-up phone calls from their local health department or NC OUTREACH (844-628-7223).
  • We all need to assume that we could have it, even if we are without symptoms, and we need to assume that everyone around us could have it as well.
  • Use the self-checker found at buncombeready.org to assess your symptoms and the need for testing.
  • It takes each of us caring about not just ourselves, but others in our community to slow and stop the spread of this illness.

BCHHS Update June 15, 2020

Overview:

  • As of 5 p.m. today, there have been 452 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
  • 159 of these individuals are currently in isolation.
  • There remain outbreaks at 5 nursing homes in the county. An outbreak is considered to be 2 or more cases in a facility.
  • Sadly, 35 Buncombe County residents have died from COVID-19, including 30 residents of 2 nursing homes that are experiencing outbreaks.
  • Community spread of COVID-19 is occurring and public health officials urge caution when out in public to continue to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Testing Results and Recommendations for Testing:

  • Over 11,688 COVID-19 tests have been performed in Buncombe County residents.
  • A total of 751 people have been tested at the community testing sites held throughout the county over 4 weeks of testing.
  • Test results from last week’s community testing sites include 9 lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 results and 27 test results still pending.
  • COVID-19 symptoms may include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Testing is available for those who have symptoms of COVID-19, as well as those who are without symptoms but have had close contact with someone known to have COVID-19, or those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 as a result of their occupation or activities.
    • Anyone who has attended a mass gathering
    • Anyone who works as a front-line worker in a grocery store, gas station, restaurant, or child care center
    • Anyone who lives or works in a higher risk setting like a homeless shelter, food processing facility
  • We also are encouraging individuals in historically marginalized populations to get tested as these populations have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
  • If your healthcare provider does not offer testing, contact one of the local urgent cares or clinics offering testing, including Range Urgent Care, Mercy Urgent Care, MAHEC Family Health Center at Biltmore, Mission Virtual Health, FastMed and the CVS on Hendersonville Road.
  • Community testing is available this week at the following locations:
    • Tuesday, June 16 will be a drive-through testing site at the main AB tech campus behind the Allied Health Building from 1-4pm.
    • Thursday, June 18 testing will be at the Grant Center at 285 Livingston St from 1-4 pm. There is not a lot of room for parking at this location so we want people to know that it is intended for walk-up testing. The queue for cars will be on Livingston Street.
  • There is no out-of-pocket cost for the testing at the community testing sites, but we do ask that those with health insurance, including Medicaid or Medicare, bring their insurance card with them so that their insurance can be billed for the cost of the test.
  • Language services will be available at the community testing sites.

Key Takeaways For June 11, 2020

  • Case Count: 418 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 144 of these individuals are currently in isolation
  • Fatalities: 34 buncombe County residents have died from COVID-19
  • There are now outbreaks at 5 nursing homes within Buncombe County
    • An outbreak is considered 2 or more cases in a facility
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you are experiencing symptoms, are a member of front line staff, are a member of a high risk group, have attended a mass gathering, or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
    • If you have insurance, please bring your card with you to get tested
    • Language services are available at the Buncombe County community testing sites
    • Click here to learn more about testing in Buncombe County
  • Contact tracers contact people that may have been exposed to COVID-19
  • It is important that people answer the call when the contact tracers reach out. Individuals being contacted will get an initial text from the number 45394 or email from dhhs.nc.gov with follow-up phone calls from their local health department or NC OUTREACH (844-628-7223).

Key Takeaways for June 8, 2020

  • As of June 8, there have been a total of 393 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 143 of these have been in residents/staff of long-term care facilities
  • 34 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents including 29 residents of long-term care facilities
  • There are currently four outbreaks (two or more cases) in long-term care facilities
  • Communities of color continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 nationally and locally
  • The state reported the first COVID-19 associated death of a child in North Carolina
  • Almost 10,300 tests have been performed in Buncombe County residents
  • 440 of those at Buncombe's community test sites
  • Many have mild or no symptoms
  • If you have symptoms, or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive we want you to get tested
  • Click here for the schedule of next week’s community testing sites next week that are primarily for walk-up traffic
  • These test sites will rotate throughout Buncombe County in the coming weeks to meet the needs of people with limited access to a healthcare provider who is testing for COVID-19, people who face financial barriers to obtain a test, or who have no direct healthcare
  • There will be no out-of-pocket costs for anyone that receives testing through these sites
  • Visit the Buncombe Ready COVID-19 Self-Checker to check symptoms
  • You should get tested if you have attended a mass gathering, are a frontline worker (grocery store), or a nursing home worker
  • The most optimal time for testing after a potential exposure is six days
  • 2095 Buncombe residents have completed the self-checker tool
  • 7% have reported severe symptoms
  • Buncombe County now has 22 contact tracers on staff
  • Contact tracers will never ask for bank or social security information
  • Health information shared is confidential
  • You may receive a phone call from 844-628-7223, text from 45394, or email from state contact tracers at dhhs.nc.gov.
  • Please remember the 3 Ws when returning to public spaces to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19
    • Wait at least 6 feet apart when in line
    • Wear a face covering
    • Wash your hands regularly

Key Takeaways: June 4, 2020

  • Case Count: 374 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents.
    • ~22% of positive cases in Buncombe County are in black, indigenous, and people of color who make up only 8.4% of our total population.
    • ~25% of positive cases in Buncombe County identify as Hispanic or Latinx, who make up a total of 6.7% of our county’s population.
  • Racism continues to be a threat to public health and is a public health crisis, a threat that can be measured and seen in the percentages listed above.
  • Fatalities: 30 Buncombe County residents have died from COVID-19
    • 25 were residents of Long Term Care Facilities
  • Quarantine orders are mandated to individuals who might have been exposed to COVID-19 and could infect others. An order to quarantine mandates that you stay home for 14 days while you monitor your symptoms. If you develop symptoms and are found to be positive, you will be issued an isolation order.
  • Isolation orders are for individuals who are sick with COVID-19. An isolation order mandates that you should stay at home, in your own “sick room” or space until you have met the recovery criteria, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Buncombe County.
  • If you receive either of these orders, please take it seriously. COVID-19 is infecting and killing Buncombe residents and we need to work as a team to reduce the impact in our communities.
  • We continue working to provide testing and support to long term care facilities. Unfortunately insurance providers are not covering cost of testing employees
  • If you are sick or even have mild symptoms related to COVID-19, stay home.
  • Employers are encouraged to take COVID-19 seriously by implementing public health guidance including mandating physical distancing for employees and clients, requiring face coverings be worn by all employees and clients, and making it convenient for all employees and clients to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.
  • Community Testing is available to Buncombe County residents. Click here for more information on testing near you.
  • Remember to stay connected during this time. Check up on your friends and family but also remember to check in with yourself.
  • Census funds help support the COVID-19 response effort and much more. Please do your part to secure funding for vital programs and services in Buncombe County by participating in the 2020 Census.

Key Takeaways for June 1, 2020

  • Cases: 342 lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County
  • Buncombe County Fatalities: 29
  • Today we observe a day of grief for the 100,000 people in the United States that have lost their lives to COVID-19.
  • Public Health and partners continue to work with community and agency partners to provide testing services to facilities and their residents.
  • We are offering three Buncombe County Testing opportunities this week. Click here to see our schedule.
  • Thank you to Range Urgent Care for collaborating with our community to provide testing in Buncombe County.
  • Racism is a threat to public health whether it is in the form of COVID-19 infection and death, rates of diabetes, infant and maternal mortality, or police brutality.
  • It continues to be important to slow the spread of COVID-19. Here are some tips to reduce the spread:
    • If you choose to meet up with people outside your immediate household, do so outside.
    • Do not share food or drinks
    • Wear a face-covering and keep your hands clean
    • STAY HOME WHEN YOU ARE SICK
  • To date, only six staff at mission hospital tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The number of patients testing positive for COVID-19 has risen over the last 2 weeks from 6 to between 12 and 20 per day. Many of these patients are cared for in the ICU and several of them are on ventilators. While this is a significant increase, it is neither overwhelming nor unexpected. There are currently ample supports and resources to care for 3 times our current case load.
  • Our goal continues to be to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19. It is our shared responsibility to do everything we can save lives, including practicing the 3 Ws:
    • Wait 6 feet apart from other people
    • Wear a face covering in public spaces
    • Wash your hands frequently
  • The next community update will be held on 6/4 at 2:30p.

Key Takeaways for May 27, 2020

  • As of May 22, there have been a total of 279 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 119 of these have been in residents/staff of long-term care facilities
  • 20 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents including 15 residents of long-term care facilities
  • The majority of deaths have been in individuals over the age of 65
  • There are currently four outbreaks (two or more cases) in long-term care facilities
  • Communities of color continue to be  disproportionately affected by COVID-19 nationally and locally
  • Almost 7000 tests have been performed in Buncombe County residents
  • If you have symptoms, or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive we want you to get tested
  • Click here for the schedule of next week’s community testing sites next week that are primarily for walk-up traffic
  • These test sites will rotate throughout Buncombe County in the coming weeks to meet the needs of people with limited access to a healthcare provider who is testing for COVID-19, people who face financial barriers to obtain a test, or who have no direct healthcare
  • There will be no out-of-pocket costs for anyone that receives testing through these sites
  • Visit the Buncombe Ready COVID-19 Self-Checker to check symptoms
  • Please remember the 3 Ws when returning to public spaces to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19
    • Wait at least 6 feet apart when in line
    • Wear a face covering
    • Wash your hands regularly
  • The purpose of face coverings is to reduce your chance of transmitting the virus to others
  • Mission Health (MH) had close to one dozen people hospitalized last week related to skilled nursing facilities
  • MH became aware of a small group of staff who work closely together and identified 6 members of staff who tested positive
  • They found no evidence of risk with patients
  • MH has tested remainder of staff on that unit: 48 additional tests have been done with 4 still pending
  • MH will continue to restrict visitation, and continue their mask policy
  • MH is appreciative of the hard work of the employees of these facilities and their families
  • MH has ample supplies to monitor and provide for the care of patients and staff
  • Buncombe Courts are beginning to expand operations beginning June 1, and they will be following all necessary safety protocols
  • Many of the matters that were postponed including landlord/tenant matters will begin again
  • Courts will continue to utilize remote technologies for processing cases and for those cases that require court appearances we will be strongly recommending the usage of masks
  • There may be a substantial backlog of cases and they will prioritized in the order of seriousness, age, and readiness for court
  • The courts thank the public for their patience
  • Chief Justice Beasley reiterates we must continue to provide justice through our courts while balancing safety for the public and employees
  • Jury trials are suspended through the month of July. If you have been summoned for jury duty you will not have to serve in the months of June or July with the exception of the grand jury
  • Marc Shimberg has been appointed COVID-19 coordinator for Buncombe courts
  • Visit nccourts.gov and click on Buncombe County for more information
  • Click here to see the statement from Buncombe DA Todd Williams
  • The DA’s office will prioritize domestic violence, driving while impaired, and class A1 misdemeanors for prosecution
  • If you are charged with these crimes you must come to court, if you fail to come to court, they will ask judges to issue an order for your arrest
  • Visit buncombeda.org if you have a question about a court date or call 259-3410 for assistance

Key Takeaways for May 22, 2020

  • Thanks to all EMS workers during EMS appreciation week
  • As of May 22, there have been a total of 216 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents, click here for the dashboard of cases
  • 7 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • Communities of color continue to be  disproportionately affected by COVID-19 nationally and locally
  • Over 4300 tests have been performed in Buncombe County residents
  • If you have symptoms, or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive we want you to get tested
  • Click here for the schedule of next week’s community testing sites next week that are primarily for walk-up traffic
  • They test sites will rotate throughout Buncombe County in the coming weeks to meet the needs of people with limited access to a healthcare provider who is testing for COVID-19, people who face financial barriers to obtain a test, or who have no direct healthcare
  • There will be no out-of-pocket costs for anyone that receives testing through these sites
  • Visit the Buncombe Ready COVID-19 Self-Checker to check symptoms
  • Remember the 3 Ws when returning to public spaces to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 as we move into Phase 2
    • Wait at least 6 feet apart when in line
    • Wear a face covering
    • Wash your hands regularly
  • Please continue the practice of physical distancing
  • The purpose of face coverings is to reduce your chance of transmitting the virus to others
  • Wearing face coverings in public is a sign of caring and compassion
  • The Board of Commissioners on May 21, approved requiring the use of face coverings for indoor public facing businesses such as retail stores and restaurants, effective Tuesday, May 26 at 7 a.m.
  • This will be for Asheville and unincorporated Buncombe County only
  • Visit buncombeready.org for more information on the updated Safer at Home order
  • Buncombe County enters Phase 2 at 5 p.m. on May 22
  • We are adopting Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order 141 and FAQ document with certain restrictions
  • We can all work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community
  • Let's be safe, smart, and take this step by step
  • Let's Talk Justice takes place on Tuesday, May 26 from 1-2 p.m.
  • The next community update will take place on Wednesday, May 27 at 3 p.m. 

Key Takeaways for May 18, 2020

  • As of 1 p.m. May 18, there have been a total of 176 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents (buncombecounty.org dashboard is in the process of being updated)
  • 5 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • Over 3700 tests have been done in Buncombe County
  • We now have COVID-19 outbreaks in four long-term care facilities
  • Thanks to Range Urgent Care, Buncombe County Emergency Services, Blue Ridge Health and LabCorp who have answered the call and stepped up to assist with testing at these facilities.
  • Buncombe County has worked proactively with long-term care facilities when they identify one case in a resident or staff member
  • While state guidance recommends testing of all residents and staff, if possible, we are working with facilities and community partners to ensure all residents and staff in these facilities are tested
  • We are instructing those facilities to repeat testing within the following week and each week thereafter until no new cases are identified
  • As of the morning of May 18, about 1000 tests were conducted in long-term care facilities
  • By COB May 18, 2 facilities will have completed their second round of testing
  • Public Health, Emergency Services, and Asheville Fire Department are assisting facilities with testing, guidance, and to provide PPE if a need has been identified
  • The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued updated guidance on who should be tested for COVID-19
  • The new guidance recommends that clinicians test any patient in whom COVID-19 is suspected and ensures the following populations have access to testing, regardless of symptoms
    • Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
    • Close contacts of known positive cases, regardless of symptoms 
    • Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp)
    • Persons who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions)
    • Persons who come from historically marginalized populations
    • Health care workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military)
    • Front-line and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain- and they should repeat testing often if they get a negative test result
  • Last week at the 2 community-based testing events approximately 100 individuals were tested. Western North Carolina Community Health Services will be contacting these individuals with their results
  • Our community-based testing events are scheduled to continue this week and beyond. They are intended for walk-up testing and for people in these communities
  • We will notify the community of any postponements by 9 a.m. the day of the scheduled event
  • The details of the testing sites are available at buncombeready.org
    • Pisgah View Community, Tuesday, May 19, 1-4 p.m.
    • Sandy Mush Community Center, Wednesday, May 20, 1-4 p.m.
    • Deaverview Community Center, Thursday, May 21, 1-4 p.m.
  • Find more information on testing here
  • Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 138, the Phase I Order, remains in effect through this Friday May 22 at 5 p.m.
  • We expect, that later this week, the Governor’s office and the COVID-19 Task Force will start sharing details about the planned rollout of Phase 2
  • General framework may include:
    • Lifting the Statewide Stay at Home Order
    • Encouraging vulnerable populations to Stay Home
    • Allowing a limited opening of restaurants, bars and other businesses that can follow physical distancing protocol to operate at a reduced capacity.
    • Allow gatherings at houses of worship and entertainment venues at a reduced capacity
    • Increase the number of people allowed at mass gatherings
    • Open public playgrounds
    • Continuing rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and other congregate living settings.
  • Public Health will make recommendations to County leadership as more details emerge
  • Wearing face coverings in a public setting is one of the best tools currently in our toolbox for minimizing the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Studies consistently show that roughly 50% of new cases are infected by people who themselves are not showing symptoms. This means that healthy people are infecting others, probably without ever knowing they are even sick.
  • These non-fitted masks, bandanas, and head wraps are intended to protect others. They work as a barrier, to physically knock down droplets of saliva, and they are very effective.
  • Many studies show that if just 80% of people wore a face covering when in public the transmission of COVID-19 could be halted. 
  • Without a treatment, the combination of face coverings and physical distancing are the best tools we have to fight this pandemic.

Key Takeaways for May 14, 2020

  • Link to cases dashboard
  • Despite facilities’ robust efforts to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among staff and residents, outbreaks in long-term care facilities continue to occur throughout North Carolina and the United States.
  • Cases associated with long term care facilities make up half of the cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina.
  • To date, Buncombe County has been notified of lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 2 long-term care facilities within our county.
  • Buncombe County Public Health is actively conducting contact tracing and coordinating with the facilities.
  • Fire Marshals and Environmental Health Specialists jointly visited every long-term care facility in Buncombe County in early April to assess facilities prevention strategies and create a line of communication in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • There are plans underway for the creation of a strike team that will visit all congregate care facilities in Buncombe County to ensure that administrators have the support and guidance they need.
  • The strike team will consist of public health nurses and emergency services personnel, who will provide education on PPE protocols, review site plan layouts and plans for isolation and quarantine of suspected or positive cases in staff and residents.
  • This team will also provide facilities with a list of COVID-19 testing providers, support with supplies, and will provide technical assistance for testing in the event that a staff member or resident becomes symptomatic.
  • At this point, over 3,500 COVID-19 tests have been administered in Buncombe County.
  • 45.7 % of cases are in people between the ages of 25-49.
  • There are still 4 COVID-19 associated deaths in Buncombe County. The numbers reported earlier in the week from Mission included deaths in people who were not residents of Buncombe County.
  • In Buncombe County, 34.3 % of our cases are in the Hispanic population. This disproportionality is not to be taken lightly.
  • As COVID-19 has highlighted health and social inequalities across the country existing prior to this pandemic, we have and will continue to conduct outreach to our Hispanic, African-American and under resourced communities to ensure that we are offering testing sites that meet the needs of our community.  
  • The Buncombe County Emergency Operations Center’s Rapid Response & Recovery Equity Action Team has identified testing site locations based on an equity analysis reliant on relevant data and community input.
  • Testing is available to both the insured and uninsured, with no out of pocket cost. The community testing sites are designed as walk-up sites and for those who are unable to get to an urgent care or primary care provider.
  • If you have transportation, please reach out to MAHEC Family Health Center, Mercy Urgent Care, or Range Urgent Care to get tested for COVID-19.
  • 47 people were tested at the community testing site at Hillcrest on Tuesday.
  • Next week, Western North Carolina Community Health Services will run COVID-19 Community Testing sites in these locations:
    • Pisgah View Community on Tuesday, May 19th -1-4pm
    • Sandy Mush Community Center on Wednesday, May 20th - 1-4pm
    • Deaverview Community on Thursday, May 21st - 1-4pm
  • We will be hosting testing sites ongoing in the coming weeks.
  • There are enough testing supplies available for our community to be tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

Key Takeaways for May 11, 2020

  • As of 1 p.m. May 11, there have been a total of 102 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 4 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • Over 3100 tests have been done in Buncombe County
  • Communities of color have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 nationally and locally-34% of the positive cases in Buncombe County self-identify as Latinx
  • If you have symptoms, we want you to get tested
  • The community testing sites that start tomorrow are primarily for walk-up traffic
  • They test sites will rotate throughout Buncombe County in the coming weeks to meet the needs of people with limited access to a healthcare provider who is testing for COVID-19, people who face financial barriers to obtain a test, or who have no direct healthcare
  • Visit the Buncombe Ready COVID-19 Self-Checker to check symptoms
  • Remember the 3 Ws
    • Wait at least 6 feet apart when in line
    • Wear a face covering
    • Wash your hands regularly
  • There are now many more businesses open in the community, these businesses must comply with specific directions from the state as to how they are allowed to operate
  • People should still stay at home as much as possible, but the variety of reasons people are allowed to leave their homes has expanded
  • Visit buncombeready.org for more information on new Stay Safe-Stay Home
  • See the Phase 1 transition chart here
  • The purpose of face coverings is to reduce your chance of transmitting the virus to others
  • Wearing face coverings in public is a sign of caring and compassion
  • Individual stores and businesses that have opened up for Phase 1 of operations have the right to require patrons to wear face coverings to enter their business
  • Mission Health (MH) response remains robust
  • MH has resumed what is termed as elective procedures
  • MH is on Level 3 visitor restriction- no visitors on floor of hospital except for certain circumstances
  • Please seek emergency care if you experiencing a serious medical condition or need emergency care
  • MH has had 34 patients who have received care for COVID-19
  • 2 patients in care at this time

Key Takeaways for May 7, 2020

  • As of 1 p.m. May 7, there have been a total of 87 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 4 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • More information will be released tomorrow about additional community based testing sites
  • If you have symptoms, we want you to get tested
  • Call your healthcare provider, urgent care, or Buncombe County’s public health hotline at (828) 250-5300
  • Once certain restrictions are lifted we should still
    • Limit nonessential travel
    • Practice physical distancing
    • Wear face coverings
    • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman signed new declaration Stay Home Stay Safe Order- Phase 1 Reopening
  • Phase one of Buncombe’s reopening campaign is effective May 8, at 5 p.m.
  • This order aligns with Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 138 with the sole exception of a continued restriction on leisure travel booking
  • Asheville City Mayor Esther Manheimer emphasized the 3 Ws
    • Wait at least 6 feet apart when in line
    • Wear a face covering
    • Wash your hands regularly
  • Thank all to the first responders, nurses, and teachers in your lives. These essential public servants have been working around the clock to ensure the health and safety of our communities.
  • The amended Stay Home-Stay Safe order reduces restrictions on travel, retail and business.
  • Business that must remain closed:
    • Restaurants (open only for takeout)
    • Health Clubs
    • Beauty
    • Entertainment Facilities
  • Many retail businesses are allowed to open (at 50% capacity) as long as they:
    • Respect physical distancing guidelines by requiring patrons to shop and wait at least 6 feet apart.
    • Provide hand washing stations or hand sanitizer in store
    • Encourage patrons to wear face coverings
  • Today is Mental Health Awareness Day
  • Practice Awareness- what does stress feel like in your body?
  • Gratitude
  • Seek Resources
  • Hope4NC Helpline: 1-855-587-3463

Key Takeaways for May 4, 2020

  • As of 1 p.m. May 4, there have been a total of 79 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 4 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • We expect to see the count rise as testing increases and restrictions continue to relax
  • Buncombe County and NC State launched the COVID-19 Self Checker on April 30
  • 237 individuals have completed the self-checker since the launch
  • CDC has updated symptom guidance to include: People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Or at least two of these symptoms:
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • New loss of taste or smell
  • If you have symptoms, we want you to get tested
  • Call your healthcare provider, urgent care, or Buncombe County’s public health hotline at (828) 250-5300
  • For employers who want to make sure their work environments are safe:
    • Are people are in close contact to one another- 6 feet for a period of 10 minutes or more?
    • Are there adequate handwashing stations?
    • Are employees wearing face coverings and physical distancing to the greatest extent possible?
  • Since COVID-19 spreads through close contact with others, we must take all necessary steps to reduce the opportunity for spreading the virus as much as possible:
    • Physical distancing – limit contact with others outside of your household
    • Handwashing for 20 seconds or more
    • Monitoring your symptoms daily
    • Wearing a face covering in public
    • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces with approved sanitizers
  • NC Governor moving forward with plans to implement Phase 1 of reopening on May 9
  • Reopening will be slow and deliberate, if cases escalate quickly we stand ready to re-implement more restrictive measures

Key Takeaways for April 30, 2020

  • As of 1 p.m. April 30, there have been a total of 68 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 4 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • Buncombe County has launched a new COVID-19 data dashboard
  • Over 2600 tests have been conducted by providers and MH
  • Buncombe County and NC State have launched the COVID-19 Self Checker
  • Some providers and urgent cares have adapted their processes to allow safe testing
  • BC is working to draft plans to get testing to under resourced areas of our community
  • CDC has updated symptom guidance to include: People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Or at least two of these symptoms:
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • New loss of taste or smell
  • If you have symptoms, use the COVID-19 Self Checker or call your healthcare provider, urgent care, or Buncombe County’s public health hotline at (828) 250-5300
  • Board of Commissioners Chairman Newman announced changes to the Stay Home Stay Safe order effective 6 a.m., May 1, 2020
  • The most substantial change is to the mass gathering number. It has changed from 0 to 10
  • Mission Health has seen between 20-25 COVID-19 patients
  • Mission Health states they have adequate resources to care for patients and will be expanding and ramping up some imaging and surgery services
  • Mission Health still has Level 2 restrictions in place
  • Dr. Hathaway reassures the community that hospitals are a safe place to go

Key Takeaways for April 27, 2020

  • As of 1 p.m., April 27, there have been a total of 54 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 3 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • Over 2200 tests have been conducted by providers and Mission Health
  • The number of tests done last week was about 7% higher than the previous week
  • Some providers and urgent cares have adapted their processes to allow safe testing
  • BC is working to draft plans to get testing to under-resourced areas of our community
  • If you have symptoms, call your healthcare provider, urgent care, or Buncombe County’s public health hotline at (828) 250-5300
  • BC Public Health is currently contact tracing for every case of COVID-19 in our community
  • We have 7 current staff and are training additional staff
  • NCDHHS is also working to increase contact tracing capacity statewide
  • Please continue to follow guidance-stay home when you can, wear a cloth face mask when you go out, wash your hands
  • We are still finalizing details about self-checker tool and will push out soon
  • As we draft our framework for re-opening, it is our goal to align with the Governor’s plan
  • The county does not collect or interpret cell phone data
  • Please remember to fill out your census so our schools and emergency services can get the resources they need

Key Takeaways for April 23, 2020

  • As of 1 p.m. April 23, there have been a total of 51 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 3 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 2,170 tests have been conducted by providers and Mission Health
  • Range and Mercy Urgent Care are working to increase testing
  • We are working with our local federally qualified health centers to see how they can help us get testing out to under-resourced parts of our community
  • We have put out a request to our local hospital systems to see how they can increase testing in the community
  • Public health experts believe that we will still be dealing with COVID-19 in the Fall and into next year
  • We will have a successful response if we can test, trace contacts, and examine the trends
  • Public Health continues to develop a comprehensive strategy to slowly open our community and economy while keeping our community as safe as possible
  • We will have a draft proposal for leadership to review early next week
  • The process will be deliberately slow and gradual
  • Governor Cooper has outlined a roadmap to reopening
    • More testing
    • Increase capacity for contact tracing
    • Consistent downward trends
  • Locally a tool is in development to assist with identifying trends and connecting people to testing
  • More information and details will be released on Monday

Key Takeaways for April 20, 2020

  • As of 1 p.m. April 20, there have been a total of 48 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 3 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 1900 tests have been done by providers in Buncombe County-this does not include testing not reported to BC Public Health that came back negative or any rapid test results that were negative such as Mission Health’s lab
  • BC Public Health testing priority continues to be for high-risk groups such as those living in congregate living facilities, first responders, and healthcare providers
  • NCDHHS has revised guidance to providers to encourage testing of individuals who the provider suspects having COVID-19
  • BC Public Health will continue conversations with providers to explore options for providers to get more access to testing
  • Role of Public Health continues to be surveillance and contact tracing
  • City of Asheville and Skyland Fire Department in coordination with BC Emergency Services have established Quick Response Teams ( QRTs) that consist of firefighters that have advanced emergency medical training
  • QRTs can respond to non, life-threatening medical emergencies in our community
  • The goal of QRT program is to lower the burden on our healthcare system
  • The safety and health of our first responders is a top priority
  • BC Emergency Services received a large supply of PPE last week from NC Emergency Management and today from Dogwood Health Trust
  • These PPE additions mean a high level of confidence that our first responders will be protected and that the rate of use will not exceed supply
  • Buncombe County is working to develop an adaptive response to slowly ease restrictions and reopen our community based on data and lead indicators
  • The community must be prepared to close down quickly if there is a surge in cases
  • We will follow and assess NC Governor’s intentions and plans to evaluate what is right for our community

Key Takeaways for April 16, 2020

  • As of 1 p.m. April 16, there have been a total of 43 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 44% of these individuals have been 25-49 years of age
  • There has been 3 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • County is looking at testing, tracking, and trends
  • Moving to increasing the availability of testing for COVID-19 in our community
  • BCHHS has identified and will be training additional staff to support additional contact tracing as we expect to identify more cases when testing is increased
  • Data and trends that the state and our county will be following include the number of new positive cases, numbers of people in the hospital for COVID-19 illness, numbers of deaths, as well as available supply of personal protective equipment and hospital capacity
  • If you are sick with symptoms of COVID-19, please contact your primary care provider or a local urgent care. If you don’t have a primary care provider, you can call (828) 250-5300 to speak with a nurse who can assess your need to be tested
  • Please continue to wash your hands, do not touch your face, safely wear a face covering when you go out in public if physical distancing is not possible
  • The EOC has been activated for 34 days
  • Repurposed County employees have volunteered to attend 40 hours of EMS medical and operations training through A-B Tech’s EMS workforce training
  • Pandemic planning is in place for Detention Center and vulnerable population outbreaks
  • State Medical Assistance Team has helped to set up alternate care facility at A-B Tech Nursing Care simulation lab if needed
  • Work is being done with partner agencies to develop a rapid medical volunteer credentialing process if needed
  • For non-medical volunteers visit handsonasheville.org

Key Takeaways for April 13, 2020

  • As of 2 p.m. on April 13 there have been a total of 38 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • 34 of these individuals have recovered from their illness and been released from isolation
  • There now have been 3 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents
  • A survey tool is in development that can give us a better idea of the number of people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 in Buncombe County
  • The Governor’s most recent Executive Order means you might see some changes at essential retail establishments
  • City of Asheville Fire Marshals are visiting essential retailers today and over the next few days to assist them in determining and posting these new Emergency Maximum Occupancy numbers
  • Check websites or call ahead to ensure you aren’t encroaching on special hours for vulnerable populations
  • You may also see plastic shields at cash registers, or shopping lanes marked for one-way routing through the store.
  • We ask everyone to be patient with each other and staff as we navigate these challenging times together. Respect everyone’s space, try to understand and share the feelings of others, and be kind.

April 10, 2020 - Community Update Second COVID-19 Death in Buncombe County

A U.S. military Veteran in his 80’s who was admitted to the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville has become the hospital’s first inpatient to pass away from COVID-19 complications. The veteran passed away April 9, 2020.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the Veteran,” said Stephanie Young, Director of the Western North Carolina VA Health Care System. “The Western North Carolina VA Health Care System family is saddened to lose one of our nation’s heroes. We would like to extend our most heartfelt sympathy to the family and all whose lives have been touched by this Veteran.”

Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) reports this as the second Buncombe County resident to die from COVID-19 associated illness. To protect the privacy of the family, no further information about this patient will be released by BCHHS nor the Charles George VA Medical Center.

“COVID-19 continues to take a toll on our community. We are sad to announce this second COVID-19 related death and our thoughts are with the family at this time. Unfortunately, we believe that this will not be the last time that we are confronted with this kind of information.” said Interim Public Health Director, Dr. Jennifer Mullendore.

It remains important for people in Buncombe County to take the guidance from public health professionals seriously. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) people at high risk for severe medical consequences, including death are:

  • People 65 years of age or older 
  • People of any age who have a high-risk condition that includes: 
  • chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • heart disease with complications 
  • weakened immune system 
  • severe obesity - body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher 
  • other underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as diabetes, kidney failure or liver disease
  • pregnancy - pregnant women should be followed closely by their healthcare providers since they are known to be at risk for severe viral illness.

Buncombe County and all of its municipalities continue to be under a Stay Home, Stay Safe order for all people in Buncombe County. It is imperative that we all comply with the directives of the order, which include no gatherings of any number of people outside of a single household or living unit for any reason and strict guidance to eliminate all non-essential travel, services, or exposure to people outside of your immediate family unit.

At this time, there are a total of 37 lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, including two deaths, in Buncombe County.

10 de abril de 2020. Actualización para la comunidad

Watch the latest briefings from Buncombe County Public Health on the Coronavirus and preparedness efforts in Buncombe County. The community briefing takes place on Monday and Thursday.

April 9, 2020, Community Update-Key Takeaways

  • Updated Case Count as of noon, 37 lab confirmed positive cases in Buncombe County residents
  • One Buncombe Fund has reached nearly $950K, funds are still needed
  • For Stay Home, Stay Safe questions contact the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095ready@buncombecounty.org, or call 211
  • Harrah’s Cherokee Center is now serving as a shelter for vulnerable populations
  • Stay Home-Stay Safe FAQs-
    • Greenways and Parks: Outdoor activity is considered essential and is encouraged, both for exercise and mental health purposes. But you still have to abide by physical distancing and mass gathering orders. That means no group activities, no carpooling with people outside your immediate household, and keeping 6ft distannce from others. Please observe and adhere to any and all park closures.  Some parks across the city and county are closed due to specific health and safety concerns.
    • Drive-in Services: Religious groups may now conduct drive-in or parking lot services, this previous restriction was relaxed as of this morning when the new order went into effect, however the leaders of these services are responsible for ensuring that their congregants stay inside of their vehicles for the duration of the time spent on the premises and observe the following guidance:
    • Have only individuals from a single household in each vehicle (i.e., no carpooling, use of church buses, no children going from car to car, etc.)
    • Vehicles should be parked 6 feet or more from each other
    • Do not pass anything between vehicles (e.g., communion, offering plates, money, notes, etc.)
    • No physical contact- including handshakes, hugs, or kissing
  • Second Homes, Summer Homes, Vacation Lodging: All Visitors traveling to Buncombe County from outside the state of North Carolina, upon arrival, must quarantine for 14 days at their place of residence BEFORE entering the community. This means you come into Buncombe County and you go straight to your residence. You don’t go to the grocery store, you don’t go to essential retail.  So, you need to have support in place before you arrive to facilitate this quarantine. You need to have a plan for how you will get food and essentials without entering the community.
  • This mandate is posted at the Airport and being announced as flights come in, It has also been passed to our local hotels and homestay networks via Explore Asheville.
  • One point of clarification, this visitor mandate DOES NOT apply to travelers coming to the County on essential business.

April 8, 2020, Community Update-Key Takeaways

April 6, 2020, Community Update-Key Takeaways

  • Updated case count as of noon, 33 Buncombe County residents test positive
  • County's current Stay Safe, Stay Home declaration will expire on April 9 at 6 a.m. Work is being done to draft a new order that will align more closely with Governor Cooper’s Executive Order, however there will still be some differences. An update will take place on Wednesday, April 8, at 4 p.m.
  • Justice Calvin Hill stated Buncombe County courts will follow extended guidance from Chief Justice Beasley. Learn more at nccourts.gov
  • Visit buncombeready.org and click on the Community Connect link to share information about your home with first responders

April 2, 2020, Community Update-Key Takeaways

  • Updated Case Count as of noon, 31 Buncombe County  residents test positive
  • No new cases in visitors to Buncombe County
  • FAQs on Buncombe County's Stay Safe-Stay Home declaration:
    • Is there a curfew? There is no curfew. The Stay Home-Stay Safe declaration is a standing declaration effective until Thursday April 9. Buncombe County is not taking any actions to disrupt transit or roads- we are only asking people to limit their travel to essential travel only. At this time essential personnel and businesses do not need any credential or pass to be on the roads. 
    • What about in person auto sales? What can be done about enforcing this? This is an area is which our local orders are more restrictive than the Governor’s. In-person auto sales are nonessential until April 9. Auto dealerships can show and sell vehicles virtually, and they may close and complete paperwork in process as long as they are adhering to physical distancing and hygiene guidance. Auto repair and maintenance are essential services. If a dealership has a maintenance and service line on site, that line of operations may continue to operate.
    • How are we enforcing? Law enforcement response to violations of the statute are complaint driven. We do ask that anyone reporting a violation of the local statue do so on NON emergency lines. Please don't call  911 for these purposes. Law enforcement will enforce the order through education, dialogue, and seeking voluntary cooperation from all residents and businesses. If voluntary cooperation is not achieved, Buncombe County Law Enforcement is equipped to enforce these restrictions through citations or misdemeanor charges.
    • What about grocery stores that are not taking measures to ensure social distancing? Grocery stores and any form of food and nutrition delivery are considered essential. We are continuing to reach out to grocery stores with our latest guidance and recommendations. We have encouraged them to consider limiting the amount of people allowed in their stores at once as well as to mark out 6 foot intervals when people are waiting to check out.
    • How are we enforcing Airbnb stays? Over the last few weeks we have had many calls with local business groups, to include AIR, Land of Sky, the Chamber of Commerce, and Explore Asheville to push guidance and answer questions. Among those groups that we’ve been in communication with is the Asheville Homestay Network, which represents a large number of Airbnb and VRBOs in the area. We are currently working with them to clarify and ensure our guidance on short-term rentals under our local Stay Home-Stay Safe declaration.
    • Despite lock-down measures, cases elsewhere have been surging through assisted-care or nursing homes. What more is being done to check in with these facilities and prevent spread? We are  aware of the increased risk for these types of care facilities where the entire population falls into our high-risk category. For months we have been reaching out to them to pass the latest guidance and instruction from the CDC and Public Health. We have dispatched County Fire Marshals to all of these facilities to personally deliver documents and provide guidance. We constantly update our planning efforts for the quickest possible response to any indication of cases at one of these facilities.
    • What about my weekend plans? We know that the weather will be nice over the weekend, but please do not use this as a reason for close contact with anyone outside of your household. Do not go on a raft with 6 people who are not in your household, or load up in a truck and go mountain biking with several of your friends. Get some fresh air but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Please continue to maintain a distance of 6 feet between yourself and others, wash your hands, and try to reduce your exposure as much as possible.

March 30, 2020, Community Update-Key Takeaways

  • Updated Case Count as of noon, 21 Buncombe County  residents test positive
  • No new cases in visitors to Buncombe County
  • 16 residents have recovered from COVID-19 and have been released from isolation
  • First fatality on March 28
  • BC Public Health continues to work proactively with facilities where a potential for positive cases is considered more worrisome due to potential to spread quickly, like long term care facilities, shelters for persons experiencing homelessness, and detention facilities
  • Further clarification on  differences between Gov. Cooper’s Mandate and BC Stay Safe-Stay Home mandate
    • Are auto sales essential? In person auto sales are nonessential until April 9. Auto dealerships can show and sell vehicles virtually, and they may close and complete paperwork in processing as long as they are adhering to physical distancing and hygiene guidance. Auto repair and maintenance are essential services. If an auto dealership has a maintenance and service line on site, that line of operations may continue to operate.
    • Is Realty essential? In person house showing is nonessential until April 9. Realtors can show and sell homes virtually.  They can also continue and complete any vital paperwork or legal processes to continue sales. In general, under the Minimum Business Operations clause, they can also send staff and contractors to houses to maintain and update their virtual inventory.
    • Is Lawn Care essential? Lawn Care may operate under the minimum business operations clause, this means minimal staffing and as long as they are adhering to physical distancing and hygienic requirements. These social distancing requirement include travel to and from a jobsite, on the jobsite, and to lunch and breaks on jobsites. We want to ensure that all Buncombe County residents, whether on essential business or not, maintain their distance at 6ft.
    • Is moving an essential function? Yes, moving is an essential function. If you haven’t yet scheduled your move, and you can delay it, that is recommended, but if not please ensure you are doing your very best to avoid close contact and sanitizing common-touch surfaces. If you are moving to another county or state, or you are moving to Buncombe from another jurisdiction- you need to quarantine yourselves for 2 weeks upon arrival at your new location.
  • Buncombe County, United Way, and Asheville Chamber have formed a partnership to match in-kind donations with community organization needs. Learn more at www.handsonasheville.org

March 27, 2020, Community Update-Key Takeaways

  • Updated Case Count as of noon, 17 Buncombe County  residents test positive
  • No new cases in visitors to Buncombe County
  • 12 residents and all 5 visitors have recovered from COVID-19 and have been released from isolation
  • Further clarification on Stay Safe-Stay Home mandate
  • Emergency Services looking at a regional effort
  • Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools helping students with social and emotional skills
  • Update from MissionHealth
  • One Buncome Relief Fund is launched 

March 26, 2020 Community Update-Key Takeaways

  • Updated Case Count as of noon, 14 Buncombe County  residents test positive
  • 5 cases in visitors to Buncombe County
  • 11 residents and all 5 visitors have recovered from COVID-19 and have been released from isolation
  • Please see the Supplemental Declaration titled Stay Safe-Stay Home to find out if your business is deemed essential or non-essential.
  • Understand the intent of Stay Home-Stay Safe. The point is encourage social distancing to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19. 

March 25, 2020 Community Update-Key Takeaways

  • Updated case count at 2:30 p.m., 13 Buncombe County residents test positive
  • 5 cases in visitors to the County
  • Board of Commissioners Chairman Newman signs second Supplemental Declaration to Local State of Emergency. This declaration directs all Buncombe County residents to “Stay Home – Stay Safe” and to limit movements outside of their homes that are not deemed essential
  • One Buncombe COVID-19 Rapid Relief Fund set to launch Friday, more information to come.

March 24, 2020 Key Takeaways

  • Updated case count at 2:30 p.m., 12 Buncombe County residents test positive.
  • 4 cases in visitors to the County.
  • Confirmed evidence of community spread. Now is the time to stay home.
  • Public Health continues to investigate models from around the globe and will move forward to add an additional supplement declaration with a Stay Home, Stay Safe Mandate to reduce opportunity for close contact during these next few weeks. Further information will be available Wednesday, March 25.
  • Telemedicine options are available at missionhealth.org
  • Innovation and dynamic responses are also happening in our community, such as virtual town hall and special hours at some grocery stores for vulnerable populations.
  • Further guidance for restaurants providing takeout will be posted by 5 p.m.