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%.
While there’s light at the end of the proverbial COVID-19 tunnel, Western North Carolina residents cannot let down their guard. Over the last week, the percent of positive COVID-19 tests has risen to 7.8% in Buncombe County; the county’s daily COVID-19 case counts now average 100 or higher.
“I think we are all looking forward to a time that we can be with families and friends again without worry of possibly getting them sick. That day is not today, but it will be a day in our future.”
“People are out and about, sometimes with symptoms, putting people at risk,” said Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County’s public health director, during an Oct. 20 update to the county Board of Commissioners. “Folks are not adhering to the precautions like keeping 6 feet apart.”
Stacie Saunders joined the Buncombe County Health Department in August to lead the county’s COVID-19 response. Nearly two months into her role as public health director, she reflects on the pandemic and her plans for the department.
The free SlowCOVIDNC app uses Bluetooth technology to let users know if they’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, speeding up notifications of potential exposure.
Beginning Monday, Oct. 5, elementary schools will have the option to return to the classroom at full capacity. According to the state’s Plan A guidelines, classrooms will have no restrictions on the number of K-5 students allowed, but safety measures including mandatory face coverings, COVID-19 symptom screening and social distancing will still be required.
Despite the state reporting some of the lowest COVID-19 case counts in the Southeast, the White House Coronavirus Task Force continues to place North Carolina in the “red zone.” The designation means state health officials reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week.
The N.C. Medicaid Optional COVID-19 Testing program will fully reimburse Medicaid providers for the costs incurred by testing people without insurance for COVID-19.
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.
The Asheville and Buncombe County school districts, in partnership with the county health department, have decided how students, parents and staff will be informed of positive COVID-19 cases, should they arise. Both districts will resume instruction on Monday, Aug. 17.
Saunders, who has served as the health director for Alamance County since 2014, will replace Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, Buncombe’s interim public health director since March 9. Mullendore will continue her duties as the county’s medical director.