The strongest level of emergency response to COVID-19 yet is soon set to go into place throughout Buncombe County. At a March 24 press conference, Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator, said public health staff were finalizing a new supplemental state of emergency declaration that would mandate a “stay home, stay safe” approach to fighting the spread of the disease.
Although Tove said exact details were still being worked out, he noted that the declaration would further limit mass gatherings, expand business closures and restrict nonessential travel. He said the measures were needed in part because there were still “businesses, venues and individuals who are not taking this pandemic seriously.”
Tove said that further information would be available Wednesday, March 25, but Brownie Newman, chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, indicated in a Facebook post that he expected to enact the order on that date as well. “The basic message is simple,” Newman said. “Except for people who work in certain essential sectors, everyone should stay home.”
State receives medical supplies from national stockpile
Earlier on March 24, Mike Sprayberry, North Carolina’s director of emergency management, said the state had received its second shipment of personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile. He said five large trucks with masks, gloves, gowns and other items had been processed by members of the N.C. National Guard and distributed to medical facilities throughout the state.
In response to a reporter’s question, Sprayberry acknowledged that the state still didn’t have enough personal protective equipment to outfit health care workers in the face of global shortages due to COVID-19. “We know we don’t have as much as we need, but we are working to get as much as we can,” he said.
Sprayberry said his team was working to secure more supplies on the private market and that Gov. Roy Cooper had personally appealed to both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to make more supplies available. He added that private citizens could also donate supplies and should email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
In other news
- State Reps. Susan Fisher and Brian Turner, whose Districts 114 and 116 represent northwest and southwest Buncombe County, respectively, were named to the N.C. House Select Committee on COVID-19. Fisher was additionally appointed to the committee’s Education Work Group, while Turner will be part of the Economic Support Work Group. Both legislators encouraged their constituents to submit comments online about what actions the state should take.
- Several nonprofit and governmental entities announced emergency relief funding opportunities for small businesses. The federal Small Business Administration is making available low-interest working capital loans, while Asheville-based Mountain BizWorks joined the statewide Golden LEAF Foundation in administering a $15 million rapid recovery loan program. And the Buncombe County Service Fund will operate a “One Buncombe Fund” offering business loans of up to $10,000.
- The Asheville Rides Transit system announced a 10-person per bus maximum, to go into effect Wednesday, March 25, and will eliminate the 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. runs of Route 170 to provide extra capacity for Route S6. Additionally, the Asheville Police Department noted that all nonemergency calls for service, including reports of stolen property less than $1,000 and property damage, would be handled via phone.
- DuPont State Recreational Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the southernmost portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway all closed to the public. In a press release, Friends of DuPont Forest said park officials had observed “too many people unwilling to follow the social distancing guidelines, putting the health of our community at risk.”