After announcing a plan to crack down on restaurants violating COVID-19 safety guidelines last week, city and county officials have yet to issue any citations to area businesses. Stacey Wood, Buncombe County Health and Human Services spokesperson, confirmed the lack of penalties in an Aug. 10 email to Xpress.
Over the weekend, a task force consisting of public health officials, Asheville Police officers, members of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department, city and county fire marshals, N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement agents and members of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association observed and visited local restaurants based on prior reports of non-compliance with COVID-19 public health guidelines, Wood said in an email to Xpress.
Task force members observed some incidents of restaurant patrons socializing without face coverings, said Wood, as well as some signage “discrepancies.” She did not specify which restaurants the task force had visited.
“Most of these situations were addressed with establishments, and the task force members were able to provide resources on the spot, which brought them into compliance,” she said. “Overall, we are seeing a high level of compliance and a willingness to quickly come into compliance when there is a requirement not being met.”
The task force will present its findings later this week in a memorandum to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, Wood said.
NC sees lowest new daily COVID-19 cases since early June
North Carolina reported just 626 new cases of the coronavirus on Aug. 10 — the lowest daily total since June 2, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The number represents roughly a quarter of the 2,481 new cases reported as the state’s highest one-day increase to date on July 18.
State health officials have made a direct correlation between the drop and the institution of a statewide face covering requirement on June 26, said Gov. Roy Cooper, at an Aug. 5 press conference. Roughly three weeks after masks became mandatory, the number of new COVID-19 cases began to stabilize, he explained.
The state’s overall COVID-19 testing numbers have also dropped: Over the last month, the three days on which the fewest tests took place occurred within the last week. However, the positivity rate of those tests has also declined steadily over the past month, reaching a low point of 5% on Aug. 9. The World Health Organization recommends that states should remain at a 5% positivity rate or lower for 14 days before reopening.
The trends are moving in the right direction, Cooper said, but there’s still much to be done to contain the virus. “Stable is good, but decreasing is better,” he noted. “While we’re seeing stabilization, it doesn’t mean we can let up.”
In other news
- Buncombe County and Asheville City School teachers and staff went back to work on Aug. 10, ahead of the first day of school for students on Monday, Aug. 17. All staff were expected to return to their physical classrooms; students attending Asheville City Schools will begin the academic year fully remote, while Buncombe County students will attend some in-person classes for up to two weeks before returning to entirely virtual classes until Monday, Sept. 28.
- The NCDHHS will now require all nursing home staff to be tested for COVID-19 every two weeks, as announced Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s secretary of health and human services, at an Aug. 7 press conference. All testing will be paid for using federal coronavirus relief funding, she said.
- Earth Fare will now open all stores at 7 a.m. on Mondays for an “at-risk shopping hour” to accommodate individuals at a higher risk for contracting severe COVID-19. All seniors age 65 or older will also receive a 5% discount on Mondays with a valid form of identification.
- MANNA Food Bank is seeking community volunteers to meet increased need due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Low-risk individuals who feel comfortable working in person as MANNA’s facility are encouraged to sign up online for a volunteer shift.
- Buncombe County will host a virtual conversation on Tuesday, Aug. 11, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. to discuss the 2020-21 school year. Panelists will include Gene Freeman, Asheville City Schools superintendent; Tony Baldwin, Buncombe County Schools superintendent; and each district’s director of student services.