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.
Writer Kiesa Kay provides an update on how people in Yancey County are managing to stay connected and well during the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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.
Myriad nonprofit and community groups are springing into action to help locals persevere through the crisis. As existing organizations adjust their work to focus on COVID-19 needs and new efforts begin to knit neighbors together, community resilience is blooming throughout WNC.
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.
Area hospitals have taken somewhat differing approaches to the question of whether to stop performing elective surgeries and other medical procedures. There are worries nationally about whether there will be enough personal protective gear like masks and gloves for health care workers, but hospitals in the Asheville area say they have good supplies for now.
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.”
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.
Xpress announces staff reductions in response to business impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic.
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.
All meetings on the U.S. Forest Service schedule of open house sessions planned for March across Western North Carolina have been cancelled, with the 90-day comment period underway.
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.
As our community considers the impact of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Xpress will track event cancellations and postponements throughout Western North Carolina.