Buncombe County COVID-19 Community Update: July 13, 2020

As of noon on July 13, 2020, there have been 898 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County residents. Sadly, 32 residents of Buncombe County have died as a result of COVID-19. Currently, 188 of these individuals are in isolation. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been outbreaks at 10 long-term care facilities in Buncombe County. Eight of these outbreaks are ongoing while two have ended.

As we have mentioned previously, just like other parts of the state and country, Buncombe County continues to see a greater percentage of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in people between the ages of 18-49 with 54% of people with lab-confirmed COVID-19 in this age range. While the illness often is less severe in younger people, some do get very sick and even die. Younger individuals also may be more likely to show no symptoms yet still spread the virus.

The way to tell whether a rise in cases is because of increased spread in the population, rather than a result of performing more tests, is by looking at the percent of tests that are positive. In NC as a whole, 10% of COVID-19 tests performed are coming back positive at this time. This percentage has been 9-10% for the past several weeks. In Buncombe County, currently 4% of tests are coming back positive.

Due to high demand for testing nationwide and supply chain issues at some labs, large commercial labs, including the lab used by our community testing sites, have seen an increase in the number of tests they are being asked to run. This is causing a longer processing time for test results to come back and, in some cases, even over a week. Unless you are a resident or staff of a long-term care facility in the midst of an outbreak or you have been directed to get tested again by a public health nurse or healthcare provider, at this time, there is no recommendation from public health for anyone without symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested repetitively. 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.

People with symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea should get tested for COVID-19. Close contacts of known positive cases, whether or not they have symptoms, should also be tested. It is important to get tested if you fall into the one of the higher-risk populations or if your provider directs you to be tested.

If your healthcare provider does not offer testing, contact one of the local urgent cares or clinics offering testing. The state website has a “Find My Testing Place” resource with up-to-date information about testing locations in NC. Buncombe County Government and Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS) continue to offer COVID-19 testing at community-based sites throughout the County. There is no out-of-pocket cost for the testing at these community testing sites, but we do ask that those with health insurance, including Medicaid or Medicare, bring their insurance card with them so that insurance can be billed to cover the cost of the test. Please check out this article for information on the testing sites and how to access your results if you are tested at the community testing sites in Buncombe County.

Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, Buncombe County Medical Director and Interim Health Director, acknowledges the concerns about personal health and safety and notes that we all have a right to be safe when out in public during a global pandemic. “Our percentage of positive cases is increasing. If we are going to blunt the impact of COVID-19 on our community and on our loved ones, we have to take action every single day. Simply put, wearing a mask or face covering, reducing your contact with people outside of your household, giving people space when waiting in public areas, and handwashing are powerful tools in protection against a very contagious virus. The intent is to try to keep a large majority of people from getting and spreading COVID-19. When you have community spread like we do, the best way to do this is by following these very simple steps.”

Please tune in tomorrow from 1-2pm to the next Let’s Talk series: Prevention, Perspectives and Realities: COVID-19 and our Latinx Communities. Join the conversation as we discuss prevention, local resources, and the impact of COVID-19 amongst our Latinx communities. We’ll be hearing about our migrant farm worker community here in WNC and will also be talking to those who have gone through the COVID-19 testing process and their experiences. This conversation will be completely in Spanish and will be offered in English interpretation for listeners. Tune in to @buncombegov Facebook page to listen in English and to @BCHHS Facebook page for Spanish.

Additional Question from Media Partner:

Q: With the uptick in cases and community spread in Buncombe, is the addition of visitors and tourists from other states with increasing numbers a concern from a public health standpoint?

A: Yes, anything that increases the potential for exposure to someone with COVID-19 is concerning. We strongly encourage everyone to follow the 3Ws and to avoid contact with others outside their immediate household as much as possible.