Buncombe officials respond to #ReopenNC

Fletcher Tove at Buncombe County press conference on April 20, 2020
SLOW AND STEADY: Fletcher Tove, Buncombe County's emergency preparedness coordinator, compared the premature lifting of COVID-19 restrictions to taking off a parachute in midair during an April 20 press conference. Screen capture courtesy of Buncombe County

Protesters from across the state are preparing to gather in Raleigh on Tuesday, April 21, to demand that Gov. Roy Cooper lift restrictions on business and public life implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19. At a press conference on April 20, Buncombe County officials said they’ve been hearing similar requests regarding the county’s own stay-home order — but that easing restrictions too quickly could be dangerous to public health.

“Consider the consequences if we move to open things up too early or too fast: We risk losing all the gains and advantages our proactive and aggressive measures have afforded us,” said Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator. “If we get rid of our parachute too early, we’ll go into another free fall.”

Tove said that Buncombe would adopt an “adaptive response” to lifting restrictions based on constant monitoring of COVID-19 cases and health system capacity. A surge in cases, he said, would be met by bringing back previous restrictions; during an April 16 media availability, he noted that this “long-term dance” could last well into 2021 and that mass gatherings above 50-100 people would likely not be permitted until a vaccine had been developed, a process that could take up to 18 months.

In response to residents that continued to compare COVID-19 to the seasonal flu, Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, the county’s interim public health director, emphasized that the illness caused by the coronavirus was both more contagious and more deadly. While the death rate from flu is roughly a tenth of a percent, she said, COVID-19 patients die at a rate of about 1%, making the new disease 10 times as likely to kill.

State extends food aid for 800K children

The families of more than 800,000 children throughout North Carolina will now receive additional support to keep those kids fed, Dr. Mandy Cohen announced at an April 20 press briefing. The state’s secretary of health and human services said the new Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program would provide $250 per child currently eligible for free and reduced school lunch.

Cohen noted that families would not have to apply for the extra aid, which will be funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Instead, the money will be loaded onto existing EBT cards for families already receiving Food and Nutrition Services benefits; eligible families without a card will be mailed one within the next few weeks.

While the benefit is limited for now to $250 per child, Cohen said additional money may be available if schools remain closed beyond Friday, May 15. North Carolina is among the first four states to be approved for the program.

In other news

  • Asheville’s Sanitation Division has restarted small brush and bagged leaf collection on a modified schedule. Workers will collect from all residents on the Week A schedule before moving on to residents on Week B.
  • A new study by ecommerce company Volusion found Asheville to be among the top 10 midsize U.S. metropolitan areas in workforce vulnerability to the coronavirus. The report noted that 28.4% of the area’s workers — 56,400 — are employed in the retail, leisure and hospitality industries, well above the national average of 21.3%.
  • Sen. Thom Tillis is hosting a series of telephone town halls for constituents to learn more about the federal coronavirus response. Events will take place on both Tuesday, April 21, and Wednesday, April 22, at 10:20 a.m., and can be livestreamed here.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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20 thoughts on “Buncombe officials respond to #ReopenNC

  1. bsummers

    “…compared the premature lifting of COVID-19 restrictions to taking off a parachute in midair”

    What’s yer point? I have the right to do that if I wanna. And if I wind up flattening a bus full of children, well, God must not have wanted them too much.

    Whatever it takes to #MAGA, #KAG, and #ownthelibtards.

    • Boomer

      It’s the mentality of the “bsummers” in this world that only care about themselves. To heck with everyone else! They don’t care who gets in the way or who gets hurt. The rest of us have the same right to remain safe and healthy. Let’s lock all the “right to work” protesters in a room and see who comes out healthy! If they don’t, don’t waste the time and effort of front-line medical and related personnel to take care of those sick individuals. The front-line personnel are taking, and risking their lives, care of people who want to survive. To live another day! The irony of this issue is that the protesters who defy logic will be yelling the loudest to get assistance if they do get sick. One should waste time on the “stupids” of the world.

      • Big Al

        Re-read “bsummers” comment carefully and you will see that he was being sarcastic and pointing out the stupidity of the protestors, not supporting their stupidity.

  2. Jason Williams

    One of the magic tricks the internet can perform is making people think they’re in the majority because it makes it easy to find people who think like them. Only 22% of Americans support these protests. Far from a majority. These protests are drawing somewhere around 100 people each. Quite short of a groundswell. They seem to be large scale because of the internet and media coverage of them.
    The truth is that a majority of people are still reluctant to go out, or congregate in public.
    We shouldn’t let this minority segment of our population shame or bully the state or the nation into bad decisions. These “protests” are far from grassroots. They are organized by the likes of: The DeVos family, the Koch brothers, and the notorious internet scammers, the Dorr brothers. The organizers are using, and the people who attend them, to further they’re own political ends and divert attention from the real problem which is the pathetic response to this pandemic by our current administration. They are spreading the false narrative that these isolation measures are not working, and that everybody is against them. It’s all a ploy to revive Trumps base, who have been slipping away from him as this crisis worsens, and solidify them around that mouth watering Republican tactic that says Democrats are unpopular and they’re “ruining America.”
    Let’s listen to science and not Super-PACs.

    • Backlash

      Haha! Your once beautiful town… is now a desolate and crime ridden mess.
      Asheville is broke, impoverished, and will Never Ever come back!

      Good riddance.

  3. bsummers

    Hey, the Second Amendment doesn’t spell out what “arms” are. If I want to “arm” myself with this virus doohickie, the Constitution says I can.

    But seriously, right on cue, Trump’s Attorney General went on rightwing radio today & announced that he is considering joining lawsuits to force states to open up.

    “We, you know, we’re looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place. And if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them. And if they’re not and people bring lawsuits, we file statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs.”

    Yeah, it’s all about “states rights” isn’t it, ya yahoos? Until we don’t like the political party that your elected Governor belongs to, then it’s “Meet the New Boss”…

  4. indy499

    Silly parachute analogies from a guy “working” at 100% of his salary paid by the public.

    And the good doctor should pipe down on morbidity rates because she has no earthly idea how many cases there are, nor does anyone else. Early studies from the military, from a town in New England and a town in Germany SUGGEST that 60-75% of folks testing positive are asymptomatic. If those figures hold up, the mortality rate will be more like .3%.

    • bsummers

      So the best that you can say is that it MIGHT be only three times more deadly than the flu? But we can’t even be sure of that since the Trump admin is incompetent and can’t produce the level of testing necessary.

      If it’s all the same to you, I’ll listen to the experts, who BTW aren’t afraid to share their real names when giving advice.

    • Big Al

      Those 60-75% of asymptomatic people who are infected with COVID-19 are now vectors of the disease who can and will expose their neighbors and loved ones with a possibly fatal disease if SELFISH “Re-Openers” get their way. Then 0.3%grows to more sick than hospitals can manage.

      As a health care provider, I frankly don’t care how INCONVENIENCED you are by our efforts to limit the number of sick and dying we have to deal with.

      • bsummers

        Plus, Indy – how many of those “asymptomatic” positives later go on to develop the disease?

        “The WHO sent a team to China and visited community centers, clinics and hospitals, and transportation hubs. Through their data collection, the team found that about 75% of people who were initially classified as “asymptomatic” went on to develop symptoms, she said. This matches up with the CDC’s findings at the nursing facility in Washington. Of the 13 positive patients who initially reported no symptoms during testing,10 later developed symptoms.”

        But sure, let’s listen to third-hand rumors on why not to take the virus seriously via Facebook. They wouldn’t lie to us, right? Anyway, not again, right?

  5. Bright

    Aville, a dependent little wanna be…for once learn to stand on your own without begging off of tourists, or whoever. Grow up.

  6. Gregg

    I think its funny and sad at the same time that some people around Asheville and the surrounding area think they are immune to the economic fallout that is going to happen from this virus. You can live in Buncombe, Madison, Avery, Henderson, Mitchell, etc, it doesn’t matter it will affect you. We need to protect the people of WNC from this virus by keeping the stay at home order/ social distancing in place, BUT we also need to think about how keeping the economy closed can be equally devastating to the families, there livelihoods and the businesses both small and big. This is definitely not a time to be divided, we need to come together and find solutions to how to deal with this very tricky situation. Tourists account for a large part of the revenue that comes into Asheville whether its renting and air B & B, going on a rafting trip, going to local farmers markets, going to see live music, breweries, rodeos, county fairs, etc, we literally are all in this together. So with that being said please don’t say good riddance to Asheville or I’m glad Asheville is going bye bye, because if you are one of those people then you are greatly underestimating how it WILL affect your life also whether you want to face that reality or not. When a large part of our WNC community works for the service industry that serves those “evil” tourists they get payed, then that money gets used in the local community buy hiring plumbers, electricians, septic tank service men, carpenters, lawn crews, graders, harborists, etc, ya know the good ol’ boys. So be careful what you wish for………….

    • Lulz

      LOL considering I’m banned from Airbnb, can’t make money off of tourism, am taxed to the hilt to pay for it, TO HELL WITH ASHEVLLE.

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