Although multiple trucks of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile have been delivered to other parts of North Carolina by the National Guard over the past week, according to state Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry, county officials say they aren’t aware of any such deliveries to local health care workers.
On March 17, the county announced that it would combine its Soil and Water Conservation District with N.C. Cooperative Extension to form the Agriculture and Land Resources Department. Meanwhile, the managers of numerous area parks and trails have opted to restrict access in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Buncombe County is going to take actions that best safeguard the public health for Buncombe County residents,” said Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator. He confirmed that the county’s more stringent rules would remain in place through at least the morning of Thursday, April 9.
At a March 27 press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a stay-at-home order, effective throughout North Carolina at 5 p.m. Monday, March 30, that will stay in effect until Wednesday, April 29 — nearly three weeks longer than the duration of Buncombe County’s recently enacted mandate.
“Anybody that follows the economy or follows the news will tell you that there’s a big elephant in the room that we can’t measure, and we’re all thinking about it, and it’s going to affect your planning,” Tom Tveidt, president of SYNEVA Economics, told Council members at their March 13 annual retreat. “That being said, I think there will be a pre-coronavirus economy and a post-coronavirus economy.”
“Yes, ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control] stores are considered essential retail. You’re welcome,” deadpanned Fletcher Tove, Buncombe County’s emergency preparedness coordinator, during a March 26 press briefing on the county’s COVID-19 response.
The new order, which will take effect at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, orders “all individuals anywhere in Buncombe County to stay at home,” with limited exceptions for essential activities, through 6 a.m. Thursday, April 9.
With nine people present in the echoing City Hall chamber, Council members on March 24 unanimously approved a consent agenda that granted Mayor Esther Manheimer broad emergency powers.
For individuals who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, the fund could pay for “life-essential needs” such as utilities and mortgages. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees could receive low-interest loans of up to $10,000 to sustain operations until they could reopen or get additional support from the federal government.
At a March 24 press conference, Fletcher Tove, Buncombe 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.
Unlike other local instances of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, explained Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, county health workers had been unable to trace at least two cases to a specific source — suggesting that the infection is spreading within the county at large.
One ordinance to be approved by Asheville City Council would grant Mayor Esther Manheimer the authority to proclaim any new regulations deemed “reasonably necessary to maintain order and protect lives or property during a state of emergency.”
Over the 30-day period that began Feb. 27 and runs through March 26, the city and county are planning to issue a total of nearly $233 million in debt. With so much funding set to flow into local coffers, Xpress looked at what goes into a local government credit ratings and their influence on money management.
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. Jennifer Mullendore, the county’s interim health director, said during a March 20 press conference that the decision was made primarily to conserve resources for “the long haul” in Buncombe’s management of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Buncombe County’s revised emergency declaration restricts gatherings to 10 people or less, a stronger mandate than the current statewide prohibition of gatherings of over 100 people. The mandate also requires gyms, fitness centers and exercise facilities, indoor pools, spas, movie theaters, live performance venues and arcades to close until further notice.
Fletcher Tove, Buncombe County’s emergency preparedness coordinator said that a local mandate to shutter businesses and facilities that bring people into close, sustained contact — including gyms, pools, spas, hair salons and barber shops — is being developed and could be announced soon.
The budget allocation approved during the meeting was double the $250,000 request listed on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners agenda, which was published on March 11. Of the new amount, $350,000 will go to public safety, with an additional $75,000 spent on both human services and general government.
Buncombe County has opened two drive-through testing sites, which will be open Wednesday, March 18, from 2-6 p.m. The first site is Biltmore Church at 35 Clayton Road in Arden, and the second is UNC Asheville at One University Heights.
The effects of the public school closure and a mandatory statewide ban on gatherings of 100 or more people are rippling through the community. And the county health department confirmed that an individual with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, visited Buncombe County March 10-13.
Asheville City Council member Vijay Kapoor announced that he will resign his post to move to Pennsylvania this summer. Kapoor’s term was to have run through 2022.