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COVID-19 cases surge in Buncombe
Sunday, 19 July 2020 19:42

From Staff Reports

As of 11:30 a.m. July 14, there have been 928 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents resulting in 40 deaths, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

“The total is 30 more than Buncombe reported the day before and a significant increase from the week prior,” the Asheville Citizen Times reported July 14.

“Reports of new cases surged in the previous week (July 5-11), rising at a rate that interim health director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore called ‘alarming’ in a July 9 briefing.”

Meanwhile, in adjoining Henderson County, the number of postive COVID-19 cases increased to 951 as of July 13, according to the Hendersonville Times-News.

“The Henderson County Department of Public Health is also reporting 51 coronavirus-related deaths,” the HT-N noted. “All but three of the deaths and 294 cases are associated with long-term care facilities, according to the county.”

Also, Henderson officials reported that 33 percent of the county’s cases and 96 percent of its deaths were in patients ages 60 and older, as of July 13. In addition, the officials reported 52 percent of Henderson cases are in ages 20 to 59 — and 15 percent of cases have been found in the range of infants to 19-year-olds.

“The health department reports that 421 individuals have recovered from coronavirus, and 12,152 tests have been administered,” the HT-N reported. “The majority of the cases — 473 — have been identified in the 28792 zip code for Hendersonville.”

Elsewhere in the area, the HT-N reported that, as of July 13, Polk County had 101 cases and four deaths; and Transylvania County had 58 cases and one death.

Statewide, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 89,484 cases identified in the state as of July 14, resulting in 1,552 deaths and 1,109 hospitalizations, with 91 percent of hospitals reporting.

A total of 1,254,846 tests have been administered so far in the state, as of July 14.

In Buncombe, health officials issued a news release July 13 as a COVID-19 update, including the following highlights: 

• 10 long-term care facilities have had outbreaks.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, outbreaks have occurred at 10 long-term care facilities in Buncombe. Eight of the outbreaks are ongoing, while two have ended.

Outbreaks are defined as two or more cases within 28 days of each other. Public Health officials consider a long-term care facility COVID-19 outbreak over when it has been 28 days with no evidence of continued spread of the virus within the facility.

• It’s taking longer — sometimes more than a week — to get results from COVID tests 

Due to high demand for testing nationwide (and supply chain issues at some labs), commercial labs, including the one used by Buncombe’s community testing sites, have experienced an increase in the number of tests processed. Therefore, there is a lengthier processing time for test results. In some cases, it is taking more than a week.

• Buncombe officials do not encourage repeated 

asymptomatic testing.

“Public Health officials do not recommend anyone without symptoms to get tested repeatedly unless they are a resident or staff of a long-term care facility in the midst of an outbreak or have been directed to get re-tested by a public health nurse or health care provider,” the ACT noted.

The county release said, “Getting a COVID-19 test because you are curious is not advised and further diminishes our needed resources for Buncombe County residents. It is more important to focus on preventing your exposure to COVID by following the 3 W’s – wear a face covering, wait 6 feet apart and wash your hands. Overwhelming the system with unnecessary tests helps no one.”

“Information on who is eligible for testing, where it is offered and when the county’s free testing occurs can be found at,” the ACT reported.

• About 54 percent of Buncombe’s cases are in the 18-49 age group

As is the situation in other parts of the state and country, Buncombe continues to experience a greater percentage of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in people between the ages of 18-49 with 54 percent of people with lab-confirmed COVID-19 in this age range.

On July 2, Buncombe’s emergency preparedness director Fletcher Tove said the increase with the 18-49 age group “may be because people who have not been directly impacted from the illness are relaxing their precautions due to lockdown fatigue,” the ACT reported.

To that end, Mullendore added that the 18-49 age group often includes “our front-line and essential workers... That age group is most of our workforce and so, they’ve been out there working in those positions, putting themselves at risk of exposure to people coming in to the businesses where they work, so there’s some of that as well.”

In the release, officials reiterated that, “while the illness often is less severe in younger people, some do get very sick and even die.”



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