The State of North Carolina has transitioned to Phase 3 of reopening and Buncombe County will align with Executive Order 169 with no additional local requirements.
Phase 3 will last three weeks, and is currently scheduled to end on Oct. 23. Local leaders and public health officials will continue to monitor trends in Buncombe County to ensure that the move to phase 3 does not push local trends in a negative direction.
Under Executive Order 169, current mask mandates and other precautions will remain in place, but new provisions will include:
- Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7% occupancy for spectators.
- Smaller outdoor entertainment venues, like arenas or amphitheaters, may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
- Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30% of capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
- Bars may operate outdoors at 30% of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less.
- Amusement parks may open at 30% occupancy, outdoor attractions only.
- The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
- The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will be extended to October 23.
As of last week, there have been 3,154 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. We, as a community, have experienced 85 COVID-related deaths. Any death resulting from COVID-19 is a loss for our community and our sympathies are with those who have lost loved ones to this global pandemic.
Our community has administered over 75,500 COVID-19 tests and our current percent positivity in Buncombe County is 3.0%. This is slightly up from the previous week. We are currently seeing about 21-22 new cases per day. This is a slight increase from last week but still an overall decrease in new cases per day on average since July.
Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director, said, “As more restrictions are lifted, there are more opportunities for exposure and this makes it extremely important for continued commitment to the 3Ws. This is our best defense to fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Remember to wear a face covering, wash your hands and stay 6 feet apart.”
As Buncombe County Government continues to adapt to the evolving needs of our community during COVID-19, we have adjusted our community testing model to ensure a scalable and sustainable testing approach. Testing efforts will transition to a hybrid model that combines the fixed testing sites with community-based mobile sites. This is a positive step that puts our response in line with the changing needs of our community.
The number of COVID tests performed in Buncombe County remains high, as tests are available through local urgent care clinics, federally qualified health centers, and many other primary care provider offices. Over the past month, there consistently has been lower utilization of our Tuesday testing site at the Swannanoa Ingles compared to the other two testing sites. The county has decided to discontinue the Tuesday Swannanoa Ingles testing site starting in October.
These “pop-up” testing sites will not require pre-registration and will be geared specifically towards people who live, learn, work, play and pray in those areas. COVID-19 requires a whole community approach and it is critical that community-based organizations are a part of spreading important health and safety information deep into our communities. Testing site selection is based on Census data and the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index and is coordinated with organizations embedded in communities. Testing efforts will be promoted through community-based organizations.
Buncombe County will continue to offer COVID-19 testing for the general public on Sundays at AB Tech in Asheville and on Thursdays at the Buncombe County Sports Park.
Remember, there is no out-of-pocket cost at any county COVID-19 testing site. If you have insurance, it will be billed to cover the cost of the test. Spanish medical interpreters are at each testing site location to assist as needed. More information about COVID-19 testing in Buncombe County can be found at www.buncombeready.org.