Press release from Buncombe County:
The COVID-19 case rate in Buncombe County has remained low and stable for about three weeks. Since our last update on March 16, the case rate has dropped from 54 cases per 100,000 to 40 cases per 100,000. While this is an improvement, there has been no significant change over the last three weeks and a low level plateau is emerging. Sadly, three COVID-19 deaths were recorded between March 25 and April 1, bringing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths of Buncombe County residents up to 552.
Buncombe County uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Community Level tool to help monitor COVID-19 by County and inform safety guidelines and prevention. The Buncombe County COVID-19 Community Level status remains low (green), meaning that the community recommendations at this time are to stay up to date on vaccines and get tested if symptoms or exposed.
While there has not been much change in the overall proportion vaccinated amongst the different age groups, each week we do continue to see total number of vaccinations administered increase. Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director, reminds the community to take action to protect against getting and spreading COVID-19 and says, “Be aware of symptoms or exposure to those with COVID-19 and get tested if you have been exposed or feel ill. If you are high risk for severe illness, talk to your provider about COVID treatment options.”
All COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, and second boosters (for eligible populations) are available at the Buncombe County Health Department Immunization Clinic at 40 Coxe Ave. This clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and COVID-19 vaccines are available on a walk-in basis. Visit yourspotyourshot.nc.gov for additional vaccine providers near you. While case rates are declining, it is important continue to stay home and away from others if you are symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19 to keep from spreading it to others. Testing is available in many locations. If you need to be tested for COVID-19, click here to find testing near you. Please visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/treatment for more information on available treatments and providers in our area.
Last week, Buncombe County hosted “Let’s Talk COVID Treatment Options” facilitated by Buncombe County Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore and featuring local medical providers. View that town hall in English here and in Spanish here.
The federal government Test to Treat program has expanded to include urgent cares and local pharmacies. Through this program, people are able to get tested and if they are positive and treatments are appropriate for them, receive a prescription from a health care provider, and have their prescription filled all at one location. To find local Test to Treat locations, go to https://aspr.hhs.gov/TestToTreat/Pages/default.aspx.
Progress is being made in equitable distribution of vaccine. Equity efforts and relationships with groups like the Mexican Consulate and Healthier Together have helped to close the disparity among the Hispanic population, and now there is a greater proportion of the Buncombe County Hispanic population receiving at least one dose than Non-Hispanic. “We hope to continue to make strides in our equity-focused approach going forward as we establish our mobile team to ensure that we are able to continue our equitable outreach by taking vaccine and many other services out into communities, particularly rural communities and those who have been historically underserved by the healthcare system,” said Saunders.
NC DHHS has begun to transition their data dashboard to reflect this phase of the response with more of a focus on surveillance and monitoring systems, while maintaining original components such as the case rate, hospitalization data and vaccination rates. For more information, please visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard to view the changes.
Due to low call volume, the Ready Team line at (828) 419-0095 will be phased out, which means that the community can call (828) 250-5000 with questions about COVID or to access other HHS supports. COVID-19 updates to the Board of Commissioners have transitioned to a monthly basis, and the COVID-19 newsletter will follow that schedule. The next COVID-19 newsletter will be released on May 3.
Saunders finished the update to Commissioners with a celebration: “Lastly, this is National Public Health Week and we want to express our gratitude and respect to those working in public health, including our staff at BC HHS. This work often times happens behind the scenes and yet it is a vital part of keeping our families and community safe and healthy.” Click here to view the Public Health Week proclamation.