With farmers losing access to customers and many people facing food insecurity during pandemic, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project offers a solution.
As “congregate living settings,” migrant farmworker camps have been listed as high-risk locations for virus transmission — not just by counties throughout Western North Carolina, but by state health officials and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During a June 24 meeting, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board heard a presentation from marketing firm 360i about a new advertising campaign, scheduled to start in July, designed to attract a “responsible tourist audience” to the region. Ads will target visitors whose behaviors agree with “psychographic statements” about “willingness to conform.”
Mike Diethelm, president and founder of Asheville-based SolFarm Solar Co., says a $10 million construction bond requirement for would-be bidders on the solar projects “knocks out so many local medium and small solar businesses, which we have a lot of in this town, and only opens it up to the big guys.”
Camps have already suffered layoffs and revenue loss without the spring season, says Sandi Boyer, executive director of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association. But if they can’t operate this summer, they will face nearly 22 months without earned income. “It would be devastating for the camp industry to not open at all,” she says.
With social distancing practices and limited crowd sizes likely the new normal for the foreseeable future, local nonprofits are reconsidering how they go about connecting with their supporters.
Funds supported with tax money from Buncombe County, the city of Asheville and the Tourism Development Authority are being managed by the nonprofit Mountain BizWorks. Because of this arrangement, government and TDA officials say they will play no direct role in determining what area businesses and nonprofits receive public dollars.
Homeward Bound and city of Asheville coordinate to place homeless residents during pandemic at motel, as innovative stopgap at civic center winds down.
At an April 21 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners lent their unanimous support to designating 16,000 acres of the Pisgah National Forest in the county’s northeast as the Craggy Mountain Wilderness and National Scenic Area. And on April 28, Duke Energy unveiled the most detailed public explanation to date of how company leaders are thinking about the longer-term future.
Even as people resume small gatherings, they will be expected to maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet and follow public health guidance on sanitation and masks. The county’s cap on wedding and funeral attendance remains at 10 people, less than the state limit of 50.
Cancer therapies, joint replacements and other elective procedures that had been postponed due to the initial COVID-19 response will be the first to return. Since North Carolina’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was announced on March 3, the Mission system has treated just over 20 inpatients for the disease.
“This COVID-19 crisis is a crisis for many of us and for us as a society, but it’s also an opportunity because it gives us a chance, a very rare chance, to step back from our busy lives and reflect on where we want to be going as a society,” says Rose Jenkins Lane, spokesperson for Hendersonville-based nonprofit Conserving Carolina.
The commission’s Democratic members passed direction for expanded community testing and contact tracing over the objections of its Republican contingent. Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley stressed their commitment to ensuring the county’s safety but expressed concern over the process by which the resolution was introduced and some of its terms.
As coordinator of Bountiful Cities’ Asheville Buncombe Community Garden Network, Whitaker manages communication, educational programming and resources such as free seed and tool libraries for more than two dozen local gardening efforts. And after COVID-19 began impacting life in Western North Carolina, he’s seen an increase in the number of local residents interested in starting new community gardens.
The new executive order, effective 5 p.m. on Monday, April 13, limits shoppers to 20% of a store’s permitted fire capacity or five customers per 1,000 square feet. High-volume locations such as checkouts must mark six-foot spaces to ensure social distancing in customer lines, and all stores must conduct “frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas.”
Dogwood Health Trust expects to spend $10 million — 20 times the amount Buncombe County’s government has allocated so far — on efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impacts. Dogwood CEO shares his perspective on steps his organization and others are taking to protect Western North Carolina.
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.
“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.