As of 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, Buncombe County is officially placing safety first. A new supplemental state of emergency declaration, signed into effect by county Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman during a March 25 press conference, orders “all individuals anywhere in Buncombe County to stay at home,” with limited exceptions for essential activities, through 6 a.m. Thursday, April 9.
“We are implementing a proven and effective strategy for slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Newman said about the new order. “Communities around the country and around the world that have taken steps to implement effective social distancing have seen slower rates of transmission, especially when these steps were taken while overall levels of COVID-19 were still relatively low.”
The declaration’s new restrictions include a ban on all public and private gatherings outside of a single living unit, a prohibition of all elective medical procedures and an end to hotel and short-term rental bookings for leisure travel. Lodging related to essential business will still be permitted, but all visitors arriving from New York, Washington, California and other areas with confirmed community transmission of COVID-19 must self-quarantine for 14 days on their arrival to Buncombe County.
Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator, said people in the county would still be allowed to visit groceries and pharmacies, get takeout from restaurants, care for friends and family, get veterinary care for pets, recreate outside at appropriate social distance and receive deliveries. He emphasized that full details were available in the order itself and in supplemental guidance available on the Buncombe County website.
Essential businesses, including health care providers, residential and commercial construction, food service, gas stations and news media, can also continue operations. Business owners that believe their work should be considered essential, Tove said, should email firstname.lastname@example.org to petition the county for an exemption to the order.
N.C. confirms first resident death from COVID-19
Gov. Roy Cooper announced the first death of a state resident, a man in his late 70s from Cabarrus County, of complications from COVID-19. The governor’s March 25 press release also noted that a Virginia resident had died from the disease while traveling through North Carolina.
“This is a stark warning that for some people, COVID-19 is a serious illness,” Cooper said. “All of us must do our part to stop the spread by staying at home as much as possible and practicing social distancing.”
During a press conference later in the day, Cooper said he would not immediately be taking further executive action in response to the deaths. However, he added, “We will be issuing additional orders soon.”
In other news
- State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced in a March 25 press release that he had tested positive for COVID-19 late on March 24. He said that he was self-quarantining until cleared by his physician and that “only those absolutely necessary for continuing business services” would be working at his department’s office.
- Hendersonville-based nonprofit Conserving Carolina announced the closure of four trails it administers in the Hickory Nut Gorge due to “highly unsafe levels of crowding.” Bearwallow Mountain Trail, Trombatore Trail, the Florence Nature Preserve trail system and Wildcat Rock Trail will all be shuttered until further notice.
- The Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality announced it would open $25,000 in grant funding for LGBTQ individuals impacted by COVID-19 and community organizations working to lessen that impact. Applications for the rapid response grants are available online.