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.