Buncombe reports fifth care facility COVID-19 outbreak

WRONG DIRECTION: COVID-19 hospitalizations have been steadily increasing for the last month. Screen capture courtesy of NCDHHS

Brian Center Health and Rehabilitation/Weaverville is Buncombe County’s fifth long-term care facility to report an active outbreak of COVID-19, according to data released June 9 by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. One staff member and one resident at the facility have tested positive for the coronavirus. 

An outbreak is defined by NCDHHS as two or more lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in staff or residents at a single facility. Four other long-term care facilities in the county are currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks: 51 staff, 81 residents and 28 resident deaths at Aston Park Health Care Center; four staff at Carolina Pines at Asheville; six staff, three residents and one resident death at Deerfield Retirement Community’s Simonds Health Care Center; and four staff and five residents at Stonecreek Health and Rehabilitation.

More deaths have been reported at Aston Park Health Care Center than at any other congregate living facility in the state. According to the latest numbers, the center is also tied for the state’s largest outbreak since data collection began in mid-March. 

Buncombe County only reports COVID-19 cases and deaths of county residents, explained Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, the county’s interim health director, during a June 11 press conference. Nursing home staff who live outside the county, she said, are not included in the county’s data. 

State COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb

North Carolina saw 812 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on June 11 — a new state record — with 86% of hospitals reporting. The jump comes just a day after the state’s previous record of 780 hospitalizations on June 10. 

The state still has an adequate supply of ventilators, with 2,281 (72% of the total) available. However, only 20% of inpatient hospital beds and 13% of intensive care beds remain vacant. 

Officials have seen a significant improvement in the availability of personal protective equipment for health care workers to care for these patients, noted Mike Sprayberry, the state’s director of emergency management, during a June 10 press conference.The state’s PPE stockpile currently holds adequate supplies of face shields, gloves, gowns, N95 respirators and procedure masks for at least 30 days. 

In other news

  • The Blue Ridge Humane Society, in partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, will host a free pet food giveaway on Thursday, June 18, from 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. Food is first come, first served at the Blue Ridge Humane Society’s storage facility in Hendersonville while supplies last. 
  • Venture Asheville announced six recipients of the 2020 Asheville Impact micro grant, including Helios Sanitizer Company, which offers “plant-based hand sanitizer using solar-powered mobile distribution stations.” The six entrepreneurs behind the businesses will split $25,000 to help launch their startups. 
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway will reopen access to several picnic areas — including restroom facilities — at the Linville Falls Picnic Area (milepost 316.4), Craggy Gardens Picnic Area (milepost 367.6) and Mt. Pisgah Picnic Area (milepost 407.8) beginning Saturday, June 13. Restrooms or portable toilets are currently available at the Linville Falls Visitor Center (milepost  316.4), Craggy Garden Visitor Center (milepost 364.5), Folk Art Center (milepost 382) and Graveyard Fields Trailhead (milepost 418.8). 
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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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