Buncombe Omicron surge slows, hospitalizations and deaths remain high

Press release from Buncombe County:

The Omicron surge has been rapid in its climb and intense in the burden of cases. About 12,700 new cases were added to our total number of cases in the last month, averaging out to around 410 cases per day and almost 3,000 cases per week. With this recent surge, Buncombe County has now reached 46,000 total cases of COVID-19 identified since March 2020.

However, we are beginning to see a decline in new cases and percent positivity. As of yesterday, we have seen the case rate decrease from 907 new cases to 875 new cases per 100,000. This decline appears to be continuing today. Additionally, the percent positivity has declined for the first time since mid-December. For the last week or so, we have been experiencing percent positivity well over 25% and now, we find the percent positivity at around 24%.

Western North Carolina regional hospital data shows continued increase in inpatient beds occupied with COVID-19 and a steady increase in ICU utilization. For the Mission Hospital system, inpatient beds with COVID-19 have experienced a high stabilization. Sadly, 13 new deaths have been reported for the dashboard and this brings our death rate from 4.2 deaths per 100,000 per week to 5 deaths per 100,000 in this last week. There have been a total of 488 COVID-19 related deaths in Buncombe County.

Public health officials are hopeful that these trends will show a more prominent decline. Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director says, “We expect cases to continue to decrease, it is likely that the hospitalizations and deaths may also begin to see a decrease in the next several days to weeks. That being said, we are clearly still a community with high transmission and it’s important to continue to take the basic steps to protect yourself with the tools that we have to fight COVID-19.”

Over the last few weeks, Public Health and Emergency Management have been working to obtain and allocate at-home test kits to the community to create a temporary bridge for the community to access at-home testing while testing demand was high. Through parallel paths of distribution dedicated to equity and general population distribution, 34 unique organizations were allocated about 5,100 test kits and 15000 masks and 18 fixed sites distributed over 6,600 test kits and 12,000 masks.

If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, stay home and contact your provider or visit a testing provider to get tested. Many community partners are providing testing, and home kit options are available. These locations and resources are listed at ncdhhs.gov/GetTested.

Our county saw slower uptake of vaccines with holidays and winter breaks from school. At this point, 72% of the eligible population has received at least one dose and 69% of our eligible population has received their full primary series. Over 94,000 individuals have received their 3rd or booster dose, which is about 55% of the of the fully vaccinated eligible population. Vaccination is encouraged for those who still need it and it is not too late. Saunders says, “With the holiday behind us and still high transmission, now is a good time to start your series if you haven’t or to give your new year a boost.”

Buncombe County Health and Human Services will partner with Buncombe County Schools to host school-based vaccination clinics. All vaccines will be available and are free. Please check www.buncombeready.org for confirmation of these events as the weather forecast in the coming weeks may necessitate rescheduling clinics.  This Saturday, the vaccination clinic will be located at TC Roberson High School on February 5, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The Vaccination Clinic at 40 Coxe Avenue is in operation Tuesday – Friday from 9 am – 4 pm. You can also visit www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov for a vaccine provider near you.

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Mountain Xpress posts selected news and information of local interest as a public service for our readers. To submit press releases and other community material for possible publication, email news@mountainx.com.

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