Although Buncombe County’s recently enacted stay-at-home order is set to expire Thursday, April 9, residents shouldn’t expect to resume business as usual once that date arrives. At a March 27 press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a similar 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’s mandate, an effort to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
“The sounds of our lives, the school bell or the halftime buzzer: They’re gone. But we have to act now, in the safest, smartest way, when we have the chance to save lives.” Cooper said about his decision and its goal of slowing COVID-19 transmission. “Even with the uncertainty of these times and the new pace of our lifestyles, we know that the good parts of our lives as North Carolinians will return. We fight this disease now so that we are better able to defeat it in the future.”
As with Buncombe County’s order, violation of the state order is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Cooper clarified that in instances where the state’s language differs from that of local governments, the more restrictive guidance would apply.
While the 763 confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina currently make up a significantly smaller load than those facing states such as New York and California, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the state cannot wait to put restrictions in place. “We don’t have the luxury of time,” she said. “We must act quickly based on what we do know to slow the spread of the virus.”
One Buncombe Fund opens for contributions, grant applications
The rapid relief fund approved on March 24 by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is now open for business. Tim Love, the county’s director of intergovernmental relations, announced during a March 27 press conference that OneBuncombe.org was available online to accept community donations to and requests for assistance from the One Buncombe Fund.
Love said the fund, overseen by a seven-member board of directors with representatives from the government, business, banking and philanthropic communities, would begin disbursing money next week. Individuals can apply for direct assistance grants to cover needs such as rent and utilities, while businesses can apply for low-interest loans of up to $10,000 to serve as “bridge” financing until federal and state resources become available.
Kit Cramer, president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and chair of the new fund, said its balance currently sat at just over $500,000. That money includes a $200,000 challenge grant from residents of Biltmore Lake and The Ramble in South Asheville, as well as a $50,000 contribution from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. Community members, businesses and private foundations, she said, were all being asked to chip in.
“Get those kids who are out of school outside with some chalk and busy chalking their driveways and other areas with the #OneBuncombe hashtag,” Cramer asked those watching the press conference. “Let’s bring it to everybody’s attention.”
In other news
- Pardee UNC Health in Hendersonville announced its first case of COVID-19 as of March 27. In addition to its current visitor restrictions, the facility closed its day surgery entrance on Fleming Street as of 5 p.m.
- According to the N.C. Justice Center, more than 195,000 state residents filed for unemployment March 16-26. The surge in claims represented the largest of any two-week period in the state’s history.
- Warren Wilson College closed its trails and campus to all visitors, effective immediately, until further notice. “We so look forward to seeing you again once our beautiful home in the valley reopens to the community,” the college said in a March 27 press release. “Until then know that the animals are well tended, the trees will continue to grow, and our students will continue to make it a better world.”