Throughout the wake of COVID-19 and practicing social distancing, information and resources will be posted here under “What You Need to Know: COVID-19 in Buncombe County”
On March 29, Buncombe County Health and Human Services reported the first COVID-19 associated death in a Buncombe County resident.
According to a state posted on the county’s website, on March 28 at Mission Hospital an elderly individual died from complications associated with the virus. To protect the privacy of the family, no further information about this patient will be released by BCHHS.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) people at high risk for severe medical consequences, including death, include anyone who:
- Is 65 years of age or older
- Has a high-risk condition that includes:
- Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- Heart disease with complications
- Weakened immune system
- Severe obesity – body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
- Other underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as diabetes, kidney failure or liver disease
- Pregnant women should be followed closely by their healthcare providers since they are known to be at risk for severe viral illness.
Governor Roy Cooper issued a statement on March 29, saying that the first coronavirus-related unemployment payments will be paid starting this week.
According to officials, the state has received approximately 270,000 claims in the past two weeks, most of them related to COVID-19 as businesses close or scale back. By comparison, the state received about 7,500 claims in the first two weeks of March.
In order to receive unemployment insurance payments workers must complete their weekly certifications. The weekly certification is a series of ‘yes or no’ questions that helps to determine a person’s eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits each week. If a person does not complete a weekly certification, they will not receive a payment for that week.
The weekly certification must be completed through the individual’s online account at https://des.nc.gov/.
As of March 29, North Carolina health officials have reported that there were around 1,000 positive cases statewide as of Sunday morning, including five deaths and about 90 hospitalizations.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Due to large crowds of hikers continuing to congregate on the Appalachian Trail, the U.S. Forest Service has temporarily shut down trailhead facilities and other access points in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina, and the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee to protect public health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
The following popular access sites are affected by these changes:
- Max Patch – Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests
- Roan Mountain/Carvers Gap – Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests
- Lovers Leap – Pisgah National Forest
- Wayah Bald – Nantahala National Forest
- Cheoah Bald – Nantahala National Forest
- Hampton and Dennis Cove Trailheads (Laurel Falls) – Cherokee National Forest
- Osborne Farm – Cherokee National Forest
Forest Service managers remind visitors to recreate responsibly by maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others, avoiding gathering in groups of more than 10 people and not engaging in high-risk activities, like rock climbing, that increase the chance of injury or distress.
Law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19.
As COVID-19 cases rise, local health care experts anticipate a surge of patients to Western North Carolina hospitals. Antony Chiang, CEO at Dogwood Health Trust, estimated that more than 1,000 confirmed positive cases in Western North Carolina would “push our health system into stress.”
Mission, Pardee, AdventHealth and Charles George VA Medical Center are each developing contingency plans to increase capacity if and when cases spike.
Among other hospitals Mission Hospital shared their plans on bed space, personnel and ventilators with the Citizen-Times:
- Current Capacity: 1,091 beds across campuses, 84 ventilators.
- Plans to meet demand:
- Bed space: Should the need arise, Mission will also open access to unused space in its St. Joseph building in Asheville, which includes a 14-bed intensive care unit and an old Emergency Department. Mission will also convert general hospital beds into ICU beds as needed.
- Mission spokeswoman Nancy Lindell said Mission Health would consider directing less ill patients to its five secondary hospitals across Western North Carolina, leaving Mission Hospital in Asheville with more space to treat any critically ill patients.
- Personnel: According to Lindell, hospitals will consider “emergency credentialing” of nurses and physicians who are not currently employed by Mission. The hospital will continue to hire traveling staff as well.
- Ventilators: Mission anticipates increased demand for ventilators, and Lindell says the company will continue to try to secure more to meet this potential demand.
Other hospitals plans can be found at:
North Carolina will be under a “stay-at-home” order beginning 5 p.m. March 30. Gov. Roy Cooper made the announcement days before in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The order will be in place for 30 days. There are at least 20 other states that have similar orders in place, affecting millions of Americans.
The executive order instructs residents to stay at home and travel outside their residence only for a handful of reasons. They include going out to obtain medical supplies or services, picking up groceries or other necessary products, and going out to public spaces to engage in activities.
What you can do:
- Seeking emergency services
- Obtaining medical supplies or medication
- Visiting health care professional or veterinarians
- To assist others
- Going to weddings and funerals
- Going to pick up groceries or food
- Buy auto supplies or other products to maintain safety, sanitation and essential operations of homes or businesses
- Going out to walk, hike, run, golf or bike
- Going to parks or other outdoor recreation areas (some playgrounds remain closed)
- Going to places of worship
- Volunteering with organizations that provide charitable or social services
- Going to work that is authorized to remain open
- Non-profits working in CISA sectors
- Health care operations
- Human services operations (nursing home, child care centers, etc)
- Food and beverage production and distribution, farmers
- Construction and public transportation sectors
- Building and ground management and maintenance
- Utility operations
- Cybersecurity operations
- Grocery stores and pharmacies
- Trash and recycling collection
- Telecommunication systems
- First responders, emergency management, law enforcement and courts and judges
- Gas stations
- Religious facilities
- Banks and other financial instructions
- Hardware supply stores
- Post offices, other shipping, delivery services
- Liquor stores
- Pet stores
- Schools (for the purposes of providing remote learning)
- Laundry services
- Restaurants that provide delivery or takeout options
- Office supply stores
- Transportation services
- Legal, accounting and insurance services
If you disregard the order, law enforcement has the right to prosecute those who violate the order. Such a violation could result in a Class 2 misdemeanor which could lead to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Several community organizations are reaching out to help those in need during the pandemic.
- Food Connection is redirecting surplus food from area restaurants to local distribution sites.
- Haywood Street Congregation, First Baptist Church, ABCCM, WNC Rescue Mission and Church of the Advocate continue to offer bagged lunches and hot to-go meals on alternating days.
- The Humane Society is offering dog and cat food and flea treatments.
- Dale Fell Community Health Center staff are at AHOPE each week to perform wellness checks and to provide continuing support for individuals who have chronic health conditions
- Homeward Bound’s greatest supply needs continue to be: masks, hand sanitizer, sleeping bags, blankets, tents, socks, underwear (men and women sizes M-XL) and heavy duty waterproof tarps that are at least 8 feet.
It is encouraging and heartwarming to see our community come together to help our neighbors in need.
Here is an interactive coronavirus map created by Citizen Times – https://data.citizen-times.com/coronavirus/