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]