Press release from Buncombe County Health & Human Services:
As of today, October 14, 2020, there have been 3,587 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. We, as a community, have experienced 94 COVID-related deaths. We have seen our new cases per day on average increase since the end of September. We are currently seeing about 30-32 new cases per day on average. Additionally, our local percent positivity has experienced an upward trend in the last few weeks. Our current percent positivity is about 3.6%. While this is still below 5%, it is an increase since mid-September and may be indicative of increased viral spread in the community. Our community has administered 80,374 COVID-19 tests. All of this information is a sobering reminder that COVID-19 is still present and is a force to reckon with.
Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director, states, “We are seeing an increase in positive COVID cases as people are moving around more. We are concerned about the direction of these numbers and it’s important to be vigilant in wearing our face coverings and keeping our distance so we can see these numbers come back down. This is a discouraging trend but we know that folks in Buncombe County will do what is right for each other. Right now, the absolute best protection is reducing contact with others outside of your household as much as possible and practicing the 3Ws. 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 towards 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 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 an d click on the COVID-19 Self Checker link to get registered for testing at one of these sites. You also can complete the registration process by calling (828) 419-0095from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm., 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.
Don’t slip on getting a flu shot this year! Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older and now is the time to get a flu shot. Free flu shots are available on Friday, October 16, 2020 at Stephens Lee Center from 2-6 PM.
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 causes 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 in 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. https://covid19. ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/cases
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 11pm 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.