Author: Selena Coffey

Community Notice: COVID-19 Buncombe County Update

June 29, 2020

COVID-19 Buncombe County Update

 As of 5 pm today, there have been 572 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. 109 of these individuals are currently in isolation. Sadly, two more residents of long term facilities have passed away due to COVID-19. This brings the total number of COVID-19-associated deaths in Buncombe County residents to 39.

A total of 1,086 people were tested during the initial round of community testing. At these testing events, 29 cases of COVID-19 were identified. Buncombe County would like to thank all of the volunteers and agencies involved in the initial weeks of community testing.

Contact tracing is underway to notify close contacts of their exposure to someone with COVID-19. Individuals identified as close contacts will get a phone call from their local health department or NC OUTREACH (844-628-7223).

Community spread of COVID-19 has increased in our county as our community has started reopening and people have been increasing their close contact with others outside of their household. Interim Public Health Director, Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, urges the community to mask up and stay out of large gatherings. She says, “The cases are rising. As the July 4th holiday is upon us, we are concerned that cases will increase as a result. We all really need to make plans to be low-key over the holiday weekend. If you must be around others, wear a face covering and ask that those around you wear a face covering. Try to be outside as much as possible and try to stay six feet away from others. Don’t share food, hugs, or dances this holiday weekend. We have to remember that this is a global pandemic with no clear no end in sight and these small sacrifices can make the difference in our community’s ability to weather the storm.  While there are many unknowns facing our community right now, we know that there is a better chance that we can succeed if the majority of people reduce contact with others and wear face coverings as much as possible.”

Tomorrow marks the first day of the permanent testing sites offered over the next 10 weeks in partnership between Buncombe County and Western North Carolina Community Health Center. People with an insurance card should bring it for billing purposes. There will be language services on-site.

The COVID-19 Community Testing schedule is as follows:

  • East Buncombe
    2217 US 70 Hwy., Swannanoa (Ingles Parking Lot)
    Every Tuesday, Beginning June 30th
    Testing will be from 10:30 am until 1:30 pm

    • Early testing hours for staff of long term and congregate care facilities will be offered at the Swannanoa Ingles from 9:30- 10:30 am.
  • South West Buncombe
    58 Apac Dr., Asheville (Buncombe County Sports Park)
    Every Thursday, beginning July 2nd
    Testing will be from 10:30 am until 1:30 pm

    • Early testing hours for staff of long term and congregate care facilities will be offered at the Sports Park from 9:30- 10:30 am.
  • Central Buncombe
    AB Tech, Genevieve Circle, Asheville (Allied Health Parking Lot)
    Every Sunday, Beginning July 5th
    Testing will be from 1:30 pm until 5:30 pm

There will be a Community Update on Thursday, July 2nd at 2pm. We continue to urge the public to monitor symptoms and to get tested if they have symptoms or fall into the risk groups. Visit www.buncombready.org for information on testing and for the symptom checker. The Ready Team stands ready to answer questions about testing sites, the self-checker, and Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 147. The Ready Team can be reached at (828) 419-0095, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Questions and Answers for Media Partners: 

  • First weekend with state mask order – thoughts about compliance, what you’ve observed, etc.
    • Only anecdotal observations, but seeing more people outside wearing masks.  Masks are how we get through this. Wearing a mask helps to stop the spread of COVID-19 which is what is needed to save lives and further reopen our economy. As the impact of COVID-19 continues to worsen in the nation and the state every day, there remains the potential that cases will overwhelm our healthcare system in July and our state may have to revert to a Phase 1 type order to control more effectively the spread of infection. Everyone needs to work together and follow public health guidance to prevent this from happening.
  • Details about new health director. Help the public understand the difference between health director and medical director – especially as it pertains to handling of coronavirus issues.
    • Each type of local public health agency in NC must have a director, who serves as the administrative head of the agency and exercises legal powers and duties prescribed by law. In Buncombe County, where there is a consolidated health and human services agency, the health director reports to the BCHHS Department Director. The director of a county health department, a district health department, or a public health authority must meet minimum education and experience requirements that are set out in state law. In general, the director must have education and experience in medicine, public health, or public administration related to health. This website lists some of the powers and duties of a local health director:  https://www.sog.unc.edu/resources/faqs/what-are-powers-and-duties-local-health-director
    • Medical directors are physicians designated in public health agencies in NC to have oversight of clinical operations, review and sign clinic policies and standing orders, and provide medical consultation to the health director or others within their agency and local government. They also are often the conduit through which information passes from national, state and local public health agencies to local healthcare providers.
    • As it relates to COVID-19, the local health director has legal authority to issue isolation and quarantine orders and is instrumental in the COVID-19 response, serving as the incident commander in the Incident Command Structure (ICS). This position is critical from a relational perspective and is able to leverage key resources throughout the community to assist with contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, testing, and other healthcare and public health preparedness response mechanisms.
  • What information has Buncombe County received from the Red Cross regarding recent COVID-19 antibody testing of blood donors? How many samples have been tested, what is the prevalence of antibodies in those tested, and have there been any notable demographic trends in that data?
    • Antibody testing is not reportable. You will need to speak with the Red Cross about these results.
  • What is the current COVID-19 caseload at Mission Hospital? What percentage of Mission’s ICU beds is currently occupied?
    • Questions for Mission should be directed to that organization.
  • What conversations have Buncombe officials had with Mission Hospital about accepting overflow COVID-19 cases from other parts of the state?
    • Please check with Mission on the possibility of this as we are not aware of these details.

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Stacey Wood

Communications Team | Public Information Officer

Buncombe County Health & Human Services

Media Line:   (828) 775-1321

Media Email: [email protected]

Governor Cooper Order regarding Extension of Phase 2 and Mandatory Requirement for Face Coverings

June 24, 2020

Governor Cooper announced today that there will be a mandatory requirement for face coverings and that the State will remain in Phase 2 until July 17, 2020.  Please see below links for Executive Order 147 and the FAQs for EO 147.


COVID-19 Business Re-Opening Resources

The Town of Weaverville has prepared the following signage that may be used by businesses in re-opening:

For businesses that are requiring face coverings:


For businesses encouraging 3 Ws (Wear-Wait-Wash):


Explore Asheville and the Chamber of Commerce have provided the following signage and materials for any Buncombe County businesses:



Re-Opening Resources: 


The following section provides Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 141 and FAQs for Phase 2 Re-Opening:


 

May 22, 2020

The Town of Weaverville withdrew from Buncombe County’s May 1 “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, opting to follow Governor Cooper’s Executive Order instead. For this reason, today’s Buncombe County order mandating masks is not applicable in the Town of Weaverville. In keeping with the Governor’s Orders, the Town strongly encourages the use of face coverings, but is not mandating them.

 

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Selena D. Coffey, Town Manager
Phone (828) 645-7116

Buncombe County Release: Local Groups Urge Continued COVID-19 Crisis Outreach to Older Adults

Media Inquiries: [email protected]

May 21, 2020


LOCAL GROUPS URGE CONTINUED COVID-19 CRISIS OUTREACH TO OLDER ADULTS

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – With older people accounting for nearly 90 percent of COVID-19 related deaths in North Carolina, and thousands of individuals over the age of 65 socially isolated for almost two months due to the State’s stay-at-home order, a team of Buncombe-area community organizers, agencies, and providers are collaborating to identify and address the aging population’s increased needs during the COVID-19 crisis.

Buncombe County Government, in collaboration with Buncombe Aging Services Alliance (BASA), is working to distribute information about available community resources promoting safety and social connection for seniors. Collaborators are calling on our community to keep a watchful eye on family, friends, and neighbors and share the following resources with those who need them.

“We fear that older adults who were already experiencing isolation or having a difficult time with aging are at an even greater risk for depression, neglect, or decline as a result of prolonged social distancing,” said Elizabeth Williams, Executive Director of MountainCare, a local agency offering adult care services. “Providers within the aging community have been working hard to serve existing clients in innovative ways. We are now turning our focus towards outreach for folks who are not on our radar.”

Compared with April 2019, there was a 28.4% decrease in reports to the Buncombe County Adult Protective Services (APS) registry last month, raising concerns about underreporting in the area. APS is available 24 hours a day to respond to the needs of adults during COVID-19 and can be reached at (828) 250-5800.

According to the National Institute on Aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.

As of May 8th, older adults comprised 86% of COVID-19 related deaths in North Carolina. Currently more than 16% of COVID-19 cases in the county and 1 in 5 cases statewide belong to individuals over the age of 65, with concerns that number may increase as more seniors begin to venture out in public during the first phase of reopening. Even with restrictions slowly lifting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend avoiding exposure by limiting close contact, washing hands frequently, wearing cloth face coverings, and disinfecting touched surfaces.

Heather Bauer, Executive Director of The Council on Aging of Buncombe County (CoA), notes that this high-risk group may not be aware of the services and assistance available to them. “We wish to ensure that basic needs are met, that unnecessary exposure is avoided, such as going to the grocery store, and that those who lack adequate resources are connected to available help,” Bauer said. For instance, CoA offers nutrition services to low- and middle-income older adults through food delivery programs. Staff and volunteers deliver a food bag of shelf-stable items to your door, serving approximately 4 meals per bag. Call (828) 277-8288 for details and a brief eligibility screening (must be 60 or older). You can also connect with a resource coordinator for assistance with SNAP applications, Affordable Care Act help, Medicare counseling, and care management. For a full list of services, visit www.coabc.org.

To address social needs, UNC Asheville, UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC, and Healthy Aging North Carolina teamed to develop the Social Bridging Project, a service pairing older adults with trained student volunteers who provide conversation, check-ins, and technology training to help seniors connect socially with friends and loved ones. Volunteers are also able to provide referrals for additional resources if desired. Please leave a message at 828-771-3445 or send an email to [email protected] to sign-up or for more information.

The Area Agency on Aging (AAA) at Land of Sky Regional Council is encouraging older adults to continue focusing on their general health and disease prevention.

“With so much outside of our control right now, and increased concern for older adults’ health, it’s important to stay vigilant in managing chronic conditions,” said Stephanie Stewart, Land of Sky Regional Council Aging Program Specialist. “By keeping healthy and active at home, older adults can reduce unnecessary medical appointments and feel more in control of their lives and well-being.”

A program through AAA provides tool kits for a self-led chronic disease education program and offers weekly coaching calls with a group of up to four other participants. The tool kit includes a resource book, an exercise CD, and a stress reduction and relaxation CD. If you are interested in learning more about this free program, please call or email Stephanie Stewart at (828) 251-7438 or [email protected]

It is also important for those over the age of 65 to enroll their household in Community Connect to help first responders in the event that they are called to your home. Community Connect is a free, secure, and easy to use platform that allows you to share critical information about your household that will aid first responders and emergency response personnel when responding to your residence. By providing information about your household that you feel is important for us to know about at the time of an emergency, we can ensure you and everything you care about is protected to the best of our ability. Visit www.buncombeready.org to sign up for Community Connect or contact your local fire department to get signed up.

If you or someone you know is struggling and unsure of where to begin, one recommended starting point is to call 2-1-1, a community information and social services referral line. NC 2-1-1 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and provides multilingual assistance and TDD/TTY access for those with a hearing impairment. More information and additional resources to support our aging community can be found here. This document will be updated periodically to

 ADDITIONAL AREA SERVICES FOR OLDER ADULTS:

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Stacey Wood
Communications Team | Public Information Officer
Buncombe County Health & Human Services
Media Line:   (828) 775-1321\
Media Email: [email protected]

 

Governor Cooper Announces Move into Phase 2 of Lifting COVID-19 Restrictions Beginning Friday, May 22

May 20, 2020

Governor Cooper announced that North Carolina will move into Phase 2 of lifting COVID-19 restrictions beginning on Friday, May 22nd at 5:00pm.  Below is the Executive Order 141 as well as Phase 2 FAQs.

 

 

Media Notice: Community Testing Sites and Expanded Guidance

May 16, 2020

Buncombe County Government and Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS) will partner to offer community-based COVID-19 testing in the coming weeks for people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. This is an important and necessary step in understanding and addressing the spread of COVID-19 in Buncombe County.

Due to historic and present-day inequities, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 both locally and nationally. Buncombe County Emergency Operations Center’s Rapid Response & Recovery Equity Action Team is identifying the testing site locations based on an equity analysis reliant on relevant data and community input.

WNCCHS medical clinic staff will collect specimens from those who are tested, send the specimens for testing through a commercial lab, and communicate with everyone tested when results return. Buncombe County Communicable Disease nurses will contact those individuals with lab-confirmed COVID-19 to provide guidance and perform contact tracing. The Buncombe County Emergency Operations Center has made arrangements for safe isolation and quarantine lodging for residents who may need additional resources to limit the spread of coronavirus to others in their household.

Residents of Buncombe County are encouraged to use the COVID-19 Self-Checker to assess whether or not they should be tested for COVID-19.

Pisgah View Community:
1 Granada St. Asheville NC 28806
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
1 – 4pm
Sandy Mush Community Center
19 School Rd. Leicester, NC 28748
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
1 – 4pm
Deaverview Community
275 Deaverview Rd. Asheville, NC 28806
Thursday, May 21
1 – 4pm

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued updated guidance on who should be tested for COVID-19. The new guidance recommends that clinicians test any patient in whom COVID-19 is suspected.

The new guidance recommends that clinicians ensure the following populations have access to testing, regardless of symptoms:

  • Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
  • Close contacts of known positive cases, regardless of symptoms
  • Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp)
  • Persons who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions)
  • Persons who come from historically marginalized populations
  • Health care workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military)
  • Front-line and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain

What Are the Costs?

Testing is available to both the insured and uninsured, with no out of pocket cost. Those with health insurance should bring their insurance information with them to the testing site. Language access services will be available at all sites during hours of operation.

In addition to these community-based testing sites, for those who are unable to obtain COVID-19 testing through their primary care provider, MAHEC Family Health Center at Biltmore, Mercy Urgent Care, Mission Virtual Clinic and Range Urgent Care have all expanded testing access. Please see a map here of COVID-19 testing locations and call before you arrive for testing.

If you have questions about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County, please visit www.buncombeready.org or call the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. We stand ready to serve our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Language access services will be available at all sites during hours of operation.

To respect the privacy of individuals at the testing sites, there is a strict no media policy while the testing site is active. Plans are underway to provide media access and interviews regarding community testing. More information will be provided once details are finalized.

 

Community COVID-19 Testing Sites Opening

Buncombe County Government and Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS) will partner to offer community-based COVID-19 testing in the coming weeks for people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. This is an important and necessary step in understanding and addressing the spread of COVID-19 in Buncombe County.

Buncombe County Emergency Operations Center’s Rapid Response & Recovery Equity Action Team is identifying the testing site locations based on relevant data and community input. WNCCHS medical clinic staff will collect specimens from those with symptoms of COVID-19, send the specimens for testing through a commercial lab, and communicate with everyone tested when results return. Buncombe County Communicable Disease nurses will contact those individuals with lab-confirmed COVID-19 to provide guidance and perform contact tracing. The Buncombe County Emergency Operations Center has made arrangements for safe isolation and quarantine lodging for residents who may need additional resources to limit the spread of coronavirus to others in their household.


Who Should Get Tested and What are the Costs?

People who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested for COVID-19.

COVID-19 symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell

Residents of Buncombe County are encouraged to use the COVID-19 Self-Checker to assess whether or not they should be tested for COVID-19.

Testing at these community-based testing sites is available to Buncombe County residents regardless of race, income, gender, ethnicity, immigration status, religion, or ability to pay. Testing is available to both the insured and uninsured, with no out of pocket cost. Those with health insurance should bring their insurance information with them to the testing site. WNCCHS and Buncombe County will not share an individual’s immigration status with other agencies and will not report if an individual is undocumented. Additionally, obtaining testing at the community-based testing sites will not affect an individual’s ability to receive future public assistance benefits. Language access services will be available at all sites during hours of operation.

Testing Sites, Dates, and Details:

The first phase of COVID-19 community-based testing will be held outdoors at the following locations on the dates listed:

Hillcrest Community Center: 100 Atkinson St, Asheville, NC 28801 Tuesday, May 12, 2020
1pm-4pm
Asheville Middle School: 211 South French Broad Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 Wednesday, May 13, 2020
1pm-4pm
Emma Elementary School

37 Brickyard Road, Asheville, NC 28806

Thursday, May 14, 2020
1pm-4pm

Kim Wagenaar, WNCCHS Chief Executive Officer, says, “People with limited access to a healthcare provider who is testing for COVID-19, financial barriers to obtaining a test, or those who have no direct healthcare access are encouraged to use the community testing sites. These sites are part of a continuation of our long collaboration with the County and we are pleased to offer these community-based testing opportunities.”

In addition to these community-based testing sites, for those who are unable to obtain COVID-19 testing through their primary care provider, MAHEC Family Health Center at Biltmore, Mercy Urgent Care, and Range Urgent Care have all expanded testing access. Please see a map here of COVID-19 testing locations and call before you arrive for testing.

If you have questions about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County, please visit www.buncombeready.org or call the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. We stand ready to serve our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To respect the privacy of individuals at the testing sites, there is a strict no media policy while the testing site is active. Photos and video footage of the testing site will be made available to media via the buncombecounty.org website.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Governor Cooper’s Statewide COVID-19 Regulations

While the Town is working on a better summary of the statewide regulations, we are providing the most relevant Frequently Asked Question documents that were generated by the Governor’s Office that corresponds to the Executive Orders combined into one document.

View and download here: