Buncombe reported 41% of COVID-19 cases in last two weeks

GOING UP: Buncombe County has recorded 608 new COVID-19 cases since July 13. Graphic courtesy of NCDHHS

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.

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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