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]