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Buncombe COVID-19? Cases plateau, no deaths in a week, but ‘not at the finish line yet,’ county health director warns
Wednesday, 31 March 2021 22:08

From Staff Reports


The metrics for COVID-19 in Buncombe County generally are stable — or improving — and there have been no deaths reported in the past seven days, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders said during a COVID-19 community update on March 23.

“And right now testing continues to be very important. The virus continues to spread and with the variant circulating, we are not at the finish line yet,” Saunders said during her weekly presentation at a meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.

Saunders made her presentation, which is available for viewing by video, but the Daily Planet made a transcript of her comments on the COVID-19 update, which follows:

“Over the last year, we’ve identified 16,194 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County.

“Two hundred ninety-four COVID-related deaths have occurred in our community.

“While we have not experienced a new COVID-19-related death in about a week, it saddens me greatly that we’ve suffered about 300 deaths in the past year due to the pandemic.

“We are seeing about 30 new cases per day enter our public health work flow. This is a decline from four weeks ago of about 54 percent.

“Our new cases per 100,000 per week, today, is 86. After over a week of stability and what appears to be a plateau, we’ve experienced in the last couple of days our new cases per 100,000 rate being in the 80s. Additionally, our percent positivity has plateaued.

“For three weeks now, our percent positivity has been between 2.8 and 3.4 percent, with it averaging around 3.0 percent, with slight fluctuations — plus or minus — daily. Today, the percent positivity is 3.4 percent.

“It is welcome news that we have not experienced a COVID-19-related death in about a week, and our hospital indicators remain stable and favorable.

“But the uptick in new cases, and the percent positivity — while well below 5 percent — is not increasing any further, concerns me.

“I want to see us to reduce our new cases rate and our percent positivity.

“COVID-19 testing numbers continue to fall from winter surge levels and are approaching levels that we saw in the summer months.

“While we expected testing to decline after exponential increases during the winter surge, it is still important to get tested if you’ve been exposed or have symptoms.

“And right now testing continues to be very important. The virus continues to spread and with the variant circulating, we are not at the finish line yet.

“Until more of the population is vaccinated, testing remains a vital tool to help identify new cases quickly and reduce transmission through isolation and contact tracing.

“So much progress has been made with decreasing cases and getting more and more vaccine into arms. But we still do not have enough of the population vaccinated to stop doing the things that matter, like wearing your masks, especially in public places and with people outside your household, and keeping your distance, and washing your hands.

“I am urging you not to let your guard down now.

“We are most effective in reducing the spread of disease when we layer our approaches, versus just relying on one intervention. Utilitizing community testing, and continuing tracing efforts, plus mask-wearing and other precautions, on top of our continued vaccine distribution, will prove to be force-multipliers.”

Saunders finished her COVID-19 update by noting that “testing is critical, and anyone experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms or believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should seek out testing at the North Carolina Find My Testing Place website.”

In the vaccine portion of her community update, the health director noted the following:

• Vaccines administered by BCHHS since Dec. 22, 2020: 49,830

• Total doses of vaccine administered in Buncombe County: 94,345

• Total doses administered in N.C. as of yesterday: 3.6 million

• Percentage of the Buncombe County population fully vaccinated: 13.5 percent.

• Buncombe County baseline weekly vaccine allocation: 3,510

• Additional vaccine doses received for equity purposes: 300

• Additional vaccine doses received via transfer: 400 from hospital partner for outreach and vaccination of detention center clients and individuals experiencing homelessness

Further, Saunders said, “BCHHS is currently administering vaccines to healthcare workers, people 65 and older, front-line essential employees, people with high-risk medical conditions, people experiencing homelessness, and incarcerated individuals.

“To sign up for the vaccine, go to or call 828-419-0095. BCHHS is currently calling individuals between 62,000 and 65,000 on the waitlist, with about 15,000 active individuals remaining on the waitlist. To be removed from the waitlist, please call (828) 419-0095.

To get more information on vaccine distribution in Buncombe County, Saunders recommended texting “covid” to 99411.

As for testing for COVID-19, she urged those with concerns to visit the Find my Testing Place website, or visit to register for COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County. “Individuals who are showing symptoms or believe they have had close contact to COVID-19 should get tested,” the health director noted.

In concluding her presentation, as usual, Saunders reiterated, “Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19, even if you’ve received a vaccine. 

“It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. 

“For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to,” Saunders recommended.



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