Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who chairs the county board’s Early Childhood and Development Committee, outlined a plan for $7.5 million in additional spending on pre-K expansion over the next two years. Funding would come from the county’s roughly $27 million in remaining federal American Rescue Plan Act money.
Buncombe County’s current indoor mask mandate has been extended three times after going into effect Aug. 18. Robert Pressley, the only Republican on the Board of Commissioners, has thus far been the only member opposed in any of those votes.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners members unanimously voted Jan. 4 to extend the county’s indoor mask mandate through Wednesday, Feb. 16. The extended mask requirement does not contain any language regarding enforcement, nor does it specify the type of face covering that residents should wear, despite health experts saying cloth masks are insufficient against the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The funding supports three different economic development projects.
“I was surprised when I attended the concert that the vast majority of 6,500 people in attendance were not wearing face masks, and the city-owned venue is unable to enforce a face-mask requirement indoors.”
“What good is a mandate if no one enforces it? Or do they?”
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved nearly $97,000 in new spending from the county’s fund balance to cover nine months of services that had previously been supported by the Governor’s Crime Commission.
While the initial round of One Buncombe money was split between emergency assistance for individuals and low-interest loans to small businesses, the new $500,000 would go entirely toward grants of up to $5,000 for business owners.
“It is such a small thing to do to protect ourselves and others.”
“Nothing about this has anything to do with politics. It has to do with common sense and courtesy.”
“I also hope the county and city government will require masks in all public indoor spaces.”
The requirement covers all “business establishments, offices and workplaces, public transportation facilities and vehicles, and any indoor place the public is invited or allowed to enter and gather,” with the exception of weddings, funerals, religious gatherings and “other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights.”
Currently, Buncombe recommends indoor masking as a response to COVID-19 but has instituted no legal mandate. The city of Asheville also plans to reinstate a similar requirement, while rules in other county municipalities would be left to their governing bodies.
The recommendation aligns with the guidance of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which called for universal indoor masking “in areas of substantial or high transmission” on July 27.
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.
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.