June 22 Buncombe County COVID-19 Community Update

Press release from Buncombe County Health and Human Services: 

As of 8 pm today, 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.”

Join us tomorrow to hear from a panel of local experts as they share the latest on testing, contact tracing, and environmental health in the COVID-19 response efforts. The panel includes staff from Buncombe County Environmental Health, Communicable Disease Nurses, Community Health Partners- Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement (ABIPA), and the Asheville Fire Department.  Register HERE. Simultaneous Spanish interpretation will be available via Facebook @bchhs

Questions and Answers from Media Partners: 

“It’s possible NC will enter Phase 3 of the reopening process on Friday. If that happens, do Buncombe health officials support a full reopening of all local businesses as well?”

  • Buncombe County Public Health will assess the governor’s newest orders as they are released and make recommendations to county leadership based on our local trends and what we believe is best for the residents of Buncombe County. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners ultimately decides whether the county follows the Governor’s order as it is written or institutes additional local restrictions.

“Tons of people are still going out without face coverings. Should Buncombe begin enforcing the mandate?”

  • The Board of Commissioners made it clear that not complying with the order would not be criminalized and there would be no enforcement of the order.

“Has Buncombe hit its peak in COVID-19 cases already or do you still expect a bigger surge?”

  • No, we do not believe that Buncombe has hits its peak in cases. Cases are climbing across the Southeast US, including in NC. As people continue to engage in activities outside their homes, especially when they do so without following the 3W’s, we will continue to see new cases. If a majority of members and visitors to our county followed this public health guidance, we believe that we could prevent a significant number of cases.

“How many LTCFs are now regularly conducting baseline testing? Are there still some that struggle to do so due to lack of resources?”

  • At this time, out of the 35 licensed nursing homes and adult care homes in the county, we know of 16 that have performed at least one round of facility-wide testing (meaning all residents and staff). We know of others that actively are working through the logistics required to accomplish this testing. Staff will continue to reach out to those facilities who have yet to do testing to see what barriers continue to exist and to encourage baseline testing.

“I’ve spoken to several people who have been tested for COVID-19 (and was tested myself) and it seems that there is a great deal of variance in how the test is conducted. For example: One person I know had a standard size Q-tip swabbed around the inside of their nose, toward the front; another person had a long Q-tip swabbed very quickly at the back of one nasal passage and I had the back of each nasal passage swabbed with a long Q-tip for 10 seconds each with a long Q-tip. Are all of these methods equally effective or should we be concerned that some of these tests are not being performed correctly?”

  • To help ensure an accurate result of any test, it is important that specimens are collected and stored appropriately. The method of specimen collection varies based on what specimen collection supplies are available and the lab used to run the test.

Per the CDC, for diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), the following are acceptable specimens:

  • A nasopharyngeal (NP) specimen collected by a healthcare provider; or
  • An oropharyngeal (OP) specimen collected by a healthcare provider; or
  • A nasal mid-turbinate swab collected by a healthcare provider or by a supervised onsite self-collection (using a flocked tapered swab); or
  • An anterior nares (nasal swab) specimen collected by a healthcare provider or by onsite or home self-collection (using a flocked or spun polyester swab); or
  • Nasopharyngeal wash/aspirate or nasal wash/aspirate (NW) specimen collected by a healthcare provider.

The most common specimens collected in our area are NP and nasal specimens.

  • NP specimens are the ones with a long swab that goes back deep in your nose.
  • OP specimens are throat swabs.
  • Anterior nares (nasal) specimens are swabs just inside the nostrils.

That same CDC webpage linked above describes the general procedure of collecting the various specimens. The person performing the test should follow the instructions included with the testing supplies to ensure that a good specimen is obtained.

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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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