Buncombe County is in “the acceleration phase” of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, the county’s interim director of public health, at a July 23 press conference. The county reported 101 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, bringing Buncombe’s total to 1,473, according to data released July 27 by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
NCDHHS has reported 608 new COVID-19 cases in Buncombe over the last two weeks, a figure equivalent to 41% of all cases recorded since the county’s first encounter with the disease in March. July 25 marked Buncombe’s second-highest daily case increase at 56 new cases, falling only beneath the 64 cases recorded on July 18, according to NCDHHS.
The numbers don’t reflect individuals who live in another county but travel to Buncombe for work or leisure. Unless a visitor gets tested in Buncombe County and the lab results are reported back to the testing provider, or an outside health department notifies county health staff about a case for contact tracing purposes, the county typically doesn’t learn of outside cases, Mullendore said.
Some of Buncombe’s first COVID-19 encounters involved infected individuals coming from out of state, Mullendore noted. Now, county health officials are seeing more cases linked to Buncombe residents traveling out of state and testing positive upon their return.
“It’s sometimes really hard to pinpoint the exact place where people can get exposed,” Mullendore said. “If they engage in behavior that leads them to go somewhere out of state and maybe not wear their face covering or keep their distance, they’re engaging in the same behavior here. So it’s really hard to know if it was that trip to South Carolina where they got it or if it was here.”
Statewide numbers may be stabilizing
Statewide, North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics may indicate some relief: The seven-day rolling average for new COVID-19 cases has decreased since July 18, according to NCDHHS data. And according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, North Carolina is one of 14 states with a two-week downward trend of new cases.
The seven-day rolling average of the COVID-19 test positivity rate, a metric used to assess the coronavirus’ prevalence in a community, has slowly decreased since July 13, according to NCDHHS data. On July 27, 8% of tests came back positive; the average percentage of positive tests has hovered close to this number since July 16.
Although North Carolina’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have remained above 1,150 since July 20, the rolling average remains stable. Ventilator supplies and intensive care unit beds have remained stable over the last month, averaging below 1,000 and 2,000 in use at any given time, respectively.
In other news
- The Buncombe County Board of Education will meet for a special session on Tuesday, July 28, at 10 a.m. to discuss reentry plans and personnel. The meeting will be broadcast live on the Buncombe County Schools Facebook page.
- The United Way of North Carolina has launched a statewide survey to assess the economic impact of COVID-19 for families across the state. The online questionnaire will remain open through Friday, Aug. 21.
- The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority will meet remotely on Wednesday, July 29, from 9-11 a.m. Public comment will be accepted by email at Reply@ExploreAsheville.com; all comments must be received by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28.
- Mars Hill University and the rest of the South Atlantic Conference will delay the start of fall sports until Wednesday, Sept. 26. The move will affect men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’ soccer, football and volleyball. Winter and spring sport schedules remain unchanged.