“I feel that they have failed our children and their families, in keeping the children virtual for almost a year now.”
“Hospitality and culinary professionals are being mandated and regulated out of business for the sake of optics and at the senseless sacrifice of hardworking people and their families.”
While county relief has heretofore been available only in the form of low-interest loans, businesses will now be able to seek grants of $5,000 to hire or rehire employees at a living wage. Staff had previously believed such a grant program to be illegal but had since received updated guidance from the UNC School of Government.
Market managers and vendors at the markets participating in the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Double SNAP initiative, which matches Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits dollar-for-dollar on edible items, saw SNAP transactions nearly triple from 2019 to 2020, and 80% of responding vendors said they’d experienced sales growth due to the program.
As of Jan. 21, more than half a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been distributed throughout the state, although supplies remain far lower than demand.
Retired Rear Adm. Richard Houck of Transylvania County, attorney Fred Jones of Macon County and Bishop José McLoughlin of Henderson County will join the board of Western North Carolina’s largest nonprofit as Buncombe County’s Dr. John Ball departs. The change fulfills requirements stipulated in N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein’s approval of Mission Health’s sale to HCA Healthcare.
COVID-19 vaccination initiatives announced by the county include a drive-thru site for second doses at A. C. Reynolds High School and a waitlist for first-dose vaccination appointments. The waitlist will replace a system that requires residents to schedule appointments directly as vaccines became available.
The state grant for Buncombe’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, funded as part of the first federal COVID-19 relief package, will be considered at the Tuesday, Jan. 19, meeting of the county Board of Commissioners.
The $600 checks represent the first federal assistance many in WNC have received to cope with the economic fallout of the pandemic since the first coronavirus relief package was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27.
“We recognize that it’s not a perfect system and the demand is quite high,” said Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County’s public health director, at a Jan. 12 special meeting called to address local vaccination efforts. “We just want to reiterate that we will not have sufficient supply of vaccine for a very long time, so it is likely that we will still hear frustration and concerns about being able to get an appointment.”
Neal Harris — one of only 10 members of the N.C. Chess Hall of Fame — discusses the game’s recent rise in popularity and the challenges of teaching local chess players amid COVID-19.
“Dating is hard in general. Dating during pandemic? Even harder. Dating during a pandemic in Asheville? Wut?”
Of the 1,675 doses of COVID-19 vaccine Buncombe County had been allotted by North Carolina state officials through Dec. 28, the county had given just over 1,000 doses through Jan. 4. Only health care workers, first responders and long-term care facility residents will be able to receive the shot until Monday, Jan. 11.
County health officials will move into phase 1b of the COVID-19 vaccination process the week of Monday, Jan. 11. But as the vaccine rollout gets underway, residents should prepare for limited availability.
North Carolina food assistance programs struggle under economic stress of continuing pandemic.
Nearly $118,000 from the Dogwood Health Trust will hire a program manager as part of a previously funded community paramedic team. And $900,000 in federal funds will support housing and utility payments for county residents who have lost income due to COVID-19.
Anyone under the age of 40 who gathered with someone outside of their household over the Christmas holiday should act as if they became infected with COVID-19, members of the national task force said. Anyone over the age of 65 or with underlying health conditions should not enter any indoor setting with people who are not wearing masks.
In a year marked by a constant churn of updating numbers — COVID-19 dashboards, economic forecasts, political polls — Assistant Editor Daniel Walton took comfort in stories that were able to report more deeply on some of the issues facing Western North Carolina.
Writer Molly Horak reflects on her 2020 reporting.