First Buncombe, Henderson residents test positive for COVID-19

Buncombe County seal

At a March 21 press conference, public health officials from Buncombe and Henderson counties announced that one person in each of those jurisdictions had tested positive for COVID-19 as of that morning. Although a case of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus had previously been reported in a visitor to Buncombe County on March 16, the two newly announced cases are the first to be confirmed in residents of Buncombe and its surrounding counties.

Dr. William Hathaway, chief medical officer at Mission Health, said that both patients had come through Mission facilities for testing but would not comment further regarding their health status. The health directors of Buncombe and Henderson counties — Dr. Jennifer Mullendore and Steve Smith, respectively — said the patients are in isolation and that health workers are identifying and notifying their close contacts.

No further details were provided about the whereabouts, activities or timelines of the cases under investigation. The press conference was streamed via Facebook, with no members of the media permitted to attend in person, and officials did not take questions via phone or internet comment during the event.

Neither Buncombe nor Henderson officials announced new measures to slow the transmission of COVID-19. However, Smith emphasized that the confirmation of a case in a local resident gave new urgency to existing measures such as business closures, limits on mass gatherings and social distancing.

“I want to be blunt and frank about this point,” Smith said. “I’ve been asking you about this and I’ve been recommending this. But today, I am telling you to stay home if you are sick.”

Van Taylor Jones, Buncombe County’s emergency services director, noted that the community would “see changes in our first responders and how they answer 911 calls.” He said that county staff would make increased use of telemedicine to maintain capacity in emergency rooms and health clinics; ambulances, he added, will “only transport the most critical and acute patients,” but did not provide further details about those criteria.

And Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator, urged Buncombe residents to remain calm and comply with public health directives over the next several weeks. He reiterated the need for regular handwashing, cleaning of high-contact surfaces and maintaining social distance to slow the spread of the virus.

“We often speak about how the threat of COVID-19 is unprecedented. But what’s also unprecedented is the way in which we are uniting as a local and global community,” Tove said. “This affects all of us, and this is the time to come together as One Buncombe.”

SHARE

Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Green Scene editor and a reporter for Mountain Xpress. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “First Buncombe, Henderson residents test positive for COVID-19

  1. Beverly Wright

    What’s the big secret about the new cases of the virus???????? Secretive, why???

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.