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.
“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.”
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.
Local restaurant owners face increasing challenges and difficult decisions as Buncombe County lowers dining room capacity to 30%.
It’s time to celebrate the creativity of our community’s response to the pandemic, even as we acknowledge the pain, uncertainty and loss that surely still lie ahead. Community members weigh in on the successes that fill them with pride as they look back on 2020.
Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman and Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer updated their own executive orders on Nov. 25, outlining local plans to enforce the face covering mandate and commercial capacity limits.
The organization has been forced to cancel it’s two biggest annual fundraisers, but it continues to support the city’s local restaurant industry.
Many Republican candidates have continued to build voter support through traditional in-person campaign events such as rallies and fundraising concerts. In contrast, Democrats have largely relied on virtual efforts such as phone banking or Zoom calls, eschewing big events out of concern they might encourage spread of the coronavirus.
A week into the start of the academic year for Asheville and Buncombe County K-12 schools, local officials remain in open, weekly conversations with district administrators to help manage the spread of COVID-19.
Starting this weekend, a task force of public health and law enforcement officials will begin issuing citations for restaurants and breweries in violation of COVID-19 safety guidelines.
A new statewide face covering mandate will go into effect on Friday, June 26, at 5 p.m., a month after Buncombe County began requiring face coverings in all public indoor facilities. Under the new executive order, people are required to wear a face covering in all indoor or outdoor public spaces when physical distancing is not possible.
“Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chairman Brownie Newman and Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer have failed miserably with their response to the virus among us.”
“It’s important to get our economy moving forward. We’re helping with unemployment payments, stimulus money and the businesses that continue to be open,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at an April 23 press conference. “But I won’t risk the health of our people or our hospitals. And easing these restrictions now would do that.”
“Consider the consequences if we move to open things up too early or too fast: We risk losing all the gains and advantages our proactive and aggressive measures have afforded us,” said Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator. “If we get rid of our parachute too early, we’ll go into another free fall.”
While specific conditions would be decided “on a case-by-case basis,” said N.C. Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks, prisoners could be tracked using home confinement or electronic monitors to ensure they were adhering to their sentences. He noted that juvenile offenders were also being diverted from detention facilities to community-based programs whenever possible.
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.”
At a press conference on April 8, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman signed a new stay-at-home order, set to take effect when the previous order expires at 6 a.m. on Thursday, April 9, that will only expire when it is “repealed, replaced or rescinded.”
“Our current best estimate is that if, after April 29, we immediately return to the rates of viral transmission occurring prior to widespread social distancing, stress on hospitals to cope with rising demand from COVID-19 patients could begin as soon as Memorial Day,” says the report, prepared by a team of North Carolina scientists.
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.
“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.