At a March 27 press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a stay-at-home order, effective throughout North Carolina at 5 p.m. Monday, March 30, that will stay in effect until Wednesday, April 29 — nearly three weeks longer than the duration of Buncombe County’s recently enacted mandate.
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“Yes, ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control] stores are considered essential retail. You’re welcome,” deadpanned Fletcher Tove, Buncombe County’s emergency preparedness coordinator, during a March 26 press briefing on the county’s COVID-19 response.
The new order, which will take effect at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, orders “all individuals anywhere in Buncombe County to stay at home,” with limited exceptions for essential activities, through 6 a.m. Thursday, April 9.
At a March 24 press conference, Fletcher Tove, Buncombe County’s emergency preparedness coordinator, said public health staff were finalizing a new supplemental state of emergency declaration that would mandate a “stay home, stay safe” approach to fighting the spread of the disease.
Area hospitals have taken somewhat differing approaches to the question of whether to stop performing elective surgeries and other medical procedures. There are worries nationally about whether there will be enough personal protective gear like masks and gloves for health care workers, but hospitals in the Asheville area say they have good supplies for now.
Unlike other local instances of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, explained Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, county health workers had been unable to trace at least two cases to a specific source — suggesting that the infection is spreading within the county at large.
Although a case of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus had previously been reported in a visitor to Buncombe County on March 16, the two newly announced cases are the first to be confirmed in residents of Buncombe and its surrounding counties.
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Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, the county’s interim health director, said during a March 20 press conference that the decision was made primarily to conserve resources for “the long haul” in Buncombe’s management of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Buncombe County’s revised emergency declaration restricts gatherings to 10 people or less, a stronger mandate than the current statewide prohibition of gatherings of over 100 people. The mandate also requires gyms, fitness centers and exercise facilities, indoor pools, spas, movie theaters, live performance venues and arcades to close until further notice.
Fletcher Tove, Buncombe County’s emergency preparedness coordinator said that a local mandate to shutter businesses and facilities that bring people into close, sustained contact — including gyms, pools, spas, hair salons and barber shops — is being developed and could be announced soon.
The budget allocation approved during the meeting was double the $250,000 request listed on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners agenda, which was published on March 11. Of the new amount, $350,000 will go to public safety, with an additional $75,000 spent on both human services and general government.
The effects of the public school closure and a mandatory statewide ban on gatherings of 100 or more people are rippling through the community. And the county health department confirmed that an individual with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, visited Buncombe County March 10-13.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will hear an update on the local status of COVID-19, then consider a $250,000 appropriation to provide funding for the county’s emergency response. Of that money, $200,000 would be available to the county’s public safety efforts, while $50,000 would be allocated to human services.
Three draft design concepts for the city-owned Haywood-Page properties were presented during a public work session on the issue Feb. 17, and residents can comment on those designs via online survey through Sunday, March 14.
Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman declared a local state of emergency due to the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. The move followed a statewide emergency declaration from Gov. Roy Cooper just two days earlier. Mayor Esther Manheimer subsequently declared a state of emergency for the city of Asheville.
On Feb. 14, the U.S. Forest Service kicked off a 90-day comment period on the long-awaited draft of a new plan for the forests, set to take effect in 2021 and guide the service’s management approach over the next 10-15 years. Comment online, by mail and at public meetings throughout WNC ends on Thursday, May 14.