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Buncombe COVID rates jump by almost 50%: Hospitalizations also continue to rise, county public health chief warns
Saturday, 01 January 2022 14:08

From Staff Reports


After a short period of leveling, cases are on the rise again in Buncombe County, according to Stacie Saunders, the county’s public health director.

“The local case rate grew to 232 new cases per 100,000 per week from 155 only a week prior,” Saunders said during her increasingly regular COVID-19 briefing to the Buncombe Board of Commissioners on Dec. 21.

“This indicates an almost 50 percent increase in cases in one week. The percent positivity is currently 5.6 percent and has remained fairly stable for over a week,” she said.

“New cases are quickly increasing for our community. This is a time when many are taking part in holiday events and parties and each one of those events increases the chances of being exposed to the virus

“This increased holiday activity coupled with a new more contagious variant means we will likely see many more people infected before and after the holiday.”

What’s more, Saunders asserted, “hospitalizations are continuing to increase with over 6 percent of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19, up from 4.7 percent last week. Intensive care unit utilization also increased in the last week.”

She noted that “public health officials are reminding the community that there are ways to reduce your risk during the holidays,” including the following:

• “Vaccinate: Before gathering, attending events, or traveling, get a COVID-19 vaccine.

• “Test: Get a COVID-19 test before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household and before and after traveling, regardless of your vaccine status.

• “Mask: Wear a mask indoors in public, even if you are vaccinated.”

Continuing, Saunders said, “People who are eligible for a booster are recommended to get their booster as soon as possible. Even with the new variant, boosters are showing to provide a significant level of protection.

“It’s been one year since Buncombe County Health and Human Services received our first shipment of vaccine. In this last year, we have successfully administered about 107,500 total doses of vaccine.

“And out of all those doses given, the vaccine dose that matters most today, is the one you haven’t gotten yet. If you have not started your vaccine series, now is the time. If you are eligible for your booster, now is the time.”

Saunders added, “If you are traveling this holiday, please consider these recommendations to protect yourself during your travels:

• “Wear a mask while traveling. If possible, wear a medical-grade mask.

• “Get tested 1-2 days before and 3-5 days after traveling, and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including boosters, and against flu.

• “Do not travel if you are not fully vaccinated and boosted. If you do travel and are not fully vaccinated and boosted, in addition to testing, stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if you test negative.

• “Follow CDC’s guidance for travel during COVID-19 and NCDHHS’s guidance for public transportation.”

Also, she said, “For people who are gathering with others during the holidays, please consider the following recommendations:

• “Require guests and family members to be vaccinated and boosted if eligible before the event.

• “Get tested 1-2 days before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household.

• “Guests who are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain physical distance from others, especially when they are indoors. If possible, wear a medical grade mask.

• “Keep gatherings small and host gatherings outdoors, when possible.

• “If gathering indoors, use a space that is large enough to allow for physical distancing. Increase circulation of outdoor air by opening windows and doors. Follow CDC guidance on ‘Improving Ventilation in Your Home.’

• “If you are sick or have symptoms, do not host or attend a gathering. Get tested and seek treatment. More information on treatment is available at

“If you are having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, get tested. Testing locations can be found at Find My Testing Site NC. Individuals can also order free at-home tests using the Find My Testing Site NC website.

“To find a vaccine provider near you, visit to search by ZIP code,” Saunders said in concluding her briefing.



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