Major Local Announcements
○ NC’s Department of Health and Human Services reported a total of 66,513 cases of coronavirus in North Carolina as of Wednesday afternoon. 603 cases and 38 deaths have been reported in Buncombe County. Check stats for other counties, total tests, and more in NC here.
○ The state set a record yesterday for a one-day increase of positive COVID-19 cases — an increase of 1,843 cases from the previous day. The number of hospitalizations are among the highest since the pandemic began, and 30 additional statewide deaths were recorded. Nearly 1400 people statewide have died from coronavirus. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Labs that process COVID-19 tests are backed up and taking longer to provide results. Secretary of the NCDHHS, Dr. Mandy Cohen, says federal action is needed to help. At the same time that labs are slowing down, officials — including Dr. Anthony Fauci + Mission Health’s chief medical officer Dr. William Hathaway — are concerned about the rising number of people testing positive. Hathaway says on average 10% of the state’s tests have been coming back positive since April. (WLOS)
○ If high school football is cancelled due to COVID-19, it could have major financial repercussions for schools. Based on the gate stubs from 28 local high schools, football generates $1,129,486.71 of athletic funds solely from attendance. If Governor Roy Cooper picks an exclusively remote learning plan, it likely means no extracurricular activities like athletics during the 2020-21 school year. NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said that they are considering playing games with limited fans. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ OnTrack WNC Financial Education and Counseling is hosting online classes for adults that will address hardships families are facing during the pandemic. The classes will include info on topics like preventing home foreclosure + picking the right debt management program, as well as what resources + assistance are available to people. (WLOS)
○ Wanna see something truly uplifting? Check out this video from Buncombe Partnership for Children, showing what they’ve been up to since the pandemic began. This includes distributing 600 cloth face masks + 60 touchless thermometers for kids + teachers across each of the county’s 55 child care centers, plus gift cards for gas + groceries for teachers and staff.
○ The City of Asheville’s Parks and Recreation Department announced Fri. that it will keep all city pools + Splasheville closed for the remainder of the summer due to ongoing concerns about the pandemic. Splasheville, located in Pack Square Park, and the city’s three pools — located at Malvern Hills Park, Walton Street Park + Recreation Park – will remain closed until public health officials deem reopening safe.
○ The Waynesville Recreation Center pool reopened on Mon. after closing in March. Before entering, guests will have to fill out a brief questionnaire + have their temperature taken. Outdoor equipment + bags are not allowed and safety gear like goggles will be inspected and sanitized by lifeguards. Social distancing will also be enforced. (WLOS)
- Gradual reopening
- Libraries + Parks are gradually reopening.
○ Local events (WLOS)
- Grounds have reopened
- Downton Abbey: The Exhibition reopened on June 2
- Reopened on June 1 after implementing new health + safety procedures as a part of the Omni Safe & Clean program
○ The deadline to get a Real ID has been postponed because of coronavirus concerns and the danger of overcrowding at DMVs. The ID will eventually be required to board domestic flights. Oct. 1 was the original deadline; there’s no official word on the new date. (Washington Post)
- Closed until further notice
○ Asheville Tattoo Arts Convention has been postponed until September 18-20 of this year.
- Closed until further notice
- Resumed curbside pickup and are offering limited in-person shopping by appointment.
- Closed until further notice.
- Closed Permanently
- Closed until further notice.
○ Flat Rock Playhouse is postponing the rest of their 2020 season. The state theatre of NC had originally planned to reopen in mid-July, but will now move all of their 2020 shows to the 2021 season. Because 80% of their income come from ticket sales, they are accepting donations here.
- Closed until further notice
○ LEAF Festival organizers announced that they are postponing the spring festival, scheduled for May 14-17, and combining it with the fall LEAF Fest, Oct. 22-25 at Lake Eden in Black Mountain. The combined festivals will be in celebration of LEAF’s 50th anniversary.
- All K-12 schools are closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
- All classes virtual
- All classes virtual.
- All classes virtual.
- All classes virtual.
- All classes virtual
○ AB Tech
- All classes virtual
○ All N.C. public schools are closed for the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year.
○ After closing some of its most popular areas in earlier this year due to the pandemic, more recreation areas are now open in Pisgah National Forest. These include Looking Glass Falls + Picnic Area. Visitors are encouraged to adhere to the CDC’s safety guidelines, and not to climb on or around waterfalls or barriers. See the full list of openings here. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ The Blue Ridge Parkway will reopen to drivers on May 15. Large portions have been closed due to the coronavirus, as well as seasonal mowing + road work. The southernmost 14 miles of the parkway from Milepost 454-469 reopened on May 9. Hiking is permitted on all parkway trails. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Several state parks – including Chimney Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Lake James + Mt. Mitchell – have partially reopened. Gorges State Park and Pisgah National Forest will reopen on May 13. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Despite other state lands reopening to the public, Big Bradley Falls — located on the Green River Game Lands in Polk County — will remain closed until further notice. According to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, eight fatalities have occurred at the falls trail since 2000, and it will remain closed because there is no safe view of the falls from the trail. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ DuPont State Recreational Forest has not reopened yet. Officials are still working on essential safety issues, like how to clean the bathrooms. The forest has been closed since Mar. 24, and officials plan to reopen it soon. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Riverside Cemetery in the Montford Area Historic District has reopened. It shut down the same time as other Asheville parks, making this the longest the cemetery has been closed in its 135-year lifespan. All visitors must adhere to social distance guidelines, and funeral attendance is limited to 50 people. (WLOS)
○ The N.C. Arboretum has reopened trail access as of May 9.
○ Great Smoky Mountains National Park has cancelled this year’s synchronous firefly viewing event, which happens annually in late May through early June. Park officials say there’s not enough space in the viewing area or on the shuttles to ensure social distancing guidelines can be met.
○ Beginning Mon., June 15, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) will lift its dead period. The dead period — a time that prohibits coaches from face-to-face contact with student athletes — has been extended three times since it began in March. To help schools reopen safely + gradually, the org has created its own phased guidelines. Each school system will be allowed to determine when to begin summer activities. (WLOS)
○ The 89th Asheville Open Tennis Championships, slated to take place in July, have been cancelled.
○ The Rutherford County Farmers Market received a $10,000 grant from Facebook to help feed families affected by COVID-19. Funds allow low-income families who qualify for federal programs to double the amount of produce they purchase. (WLOS)
○ Henderson County residents will be treated to a 4th of July fireworks display if they can see a giant red balloon from their homes or preferred viewing areas. The balloon will be launched the morning of the 4th from the fireworks site (off S. Grove St.). Tune into WTZQ AM-1600 or Q-95.3 FM for a synchronized patriotic soundtrack to accompany the light show. Music on Main and the annual military celebration will not take place due to COVID-19. (Blue Ridge Now)
○ Mandy Frazier, a Hendersonville wedding designer, has launched a line of wedding-appropriate face masks. The creations include styles for brides + grooms, as well as the bridal party and guests. The bridal masks can be ordered to match the dress or tuxedo, and the bride + groom masks come in a special keepsake box. (WLOS)
○ Nonprofit BeLoved Asheville is working on a solution to the housing crisis: BeLoved Asheville Village is a community of 12 tiny homes on donated church property in East Asheville. The homes cost 30% of area median income and are designed to help address past injustices that have been amplified by the pandemic, including poverty + racial inequality. The org is working with Warren Wilson College and the Furniture Society of North America to supply the homes with handcrafted dishes + furniture. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Outdoor gear companies in WNC are still making personal protective equipment (PPE) – and they’re hiring. Kitsbow and other members of the WNC-based Outdoor Gear Builders started making PPE two months ago. Kitsbow is currently running two shifts a day (besides Sat.) to make masks, and is hiring sewers. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ The Carolina Climbers Coalition recently launched the Carolina Climbing Conservation Corp, or C4, a new crew of people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. The crew is working to build + maintain trails for the coalition, a nonprofit that helps preserve and enhance opportunities for rock climbing in NC + SC. Trail work has been funded by donations. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Businesses in Waynesville are beginning to recover from the state’s shut down. Frog Level Brewing, the town’s first brewery, says that they’re beginning to get back on track financially since the state’s Phase 2 re-opening, but acknowledges it will likely be until fall that they are able to break even. In accordance with Phase 2 guidelines, they’re operating at 50 percent capacity + keeping tables six feet apart. (WLOS)
○ Mills River dairy farmer Mike Corn donated over 19,000 pounds of raw milk to the MANNA Food Bank – a full day’s worth of milk production. MANNA has seen a 65% increase in demand of individuals seeking emergency food help since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Milkco, a subsidiary of Ingles, will process, package + prepare the donation in three large shipments for MANNA.
○ On May 30, Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 142, which extended the prohibition of utility shut-offs. It also implements a moratorium on evictions and requires landlords to give tenants a minimum of six months to pay outstanding rent. Cooper signed the order in an effort to prevent homelessness + ensure access to essential utilities. (WLOS)
○ Shopping looks different in a pandemic. Area malls + stores have implemented new methods, including online and/or remote appointments that allow folks to shop in advance. Some stores have plexiglass dividers + social distancing markers, and others have closed their fitting rooms. Those with open fitting rooms have a limited number of rooms so employees can clean them between every use. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ The Transylvania Economic Alliance has created an emergency bridge loan program with $150,000 to assist small businesses in Transylvania County as they move towards re-opening. Bizzes can apply for a maximum amount of $10,000 and a minimum $2,500. Small businesses that haven’t been able to get access to federal loans can apply. (WLOS)
○ There’s a new source of help for families impacted by school closings due to COVID-19. The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program provides additional food benefits to NC families whose children have access to free + reduced school lunch. Families will receive roughly $370 in benefits on an EBT card per child. Funds can be used to buy food at EBT authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores. (WLOS)
○ Rise ‘n Shine Cafe (640 Merrimon Ave.) opened for dine-in service before Phase Two and was issued a citation by the Asheville Police Department. The decision to open did not comply with Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay home order. Unlike the health department, the police department does not have jurisdiction to shut down a restaurant. (Ashvegas)
○ Even though businesses have been able to start reopening under Gov. Cooper’s Phase One plan to reopen the state, many small bizzes are choosing to continue to stay closed. Small business owners cite their fear of exposing themselves + their employees to the coronavirus. (AVL Watchdog)
○ UNC Asheville’s History of Animation class made school history on April 8 as the first class session offered over Zoom webinar. Moving the rest of the Spring semester online is causing educators evaluate their teaching styles – including Associate Professor and Chair of New Media Christopher Oakley. See what he’s learned after a few weeks as an online educator. Ⓟ
○ The ABCCM is asking for immediate help because the pandemic has doubled the need for food + assistance in Buncombe County, but volunteers have dropped by 70%. They’re looking for volunteers and donations to serve in or support their food kitchen and distribution, transitional housing, medical ministry + more. Sign up or donate here.
○ Transylvania County’s Sharing House Ministry is getting a $1500 donation from Brevard High School‘s senior class, which decided to donate the funds, originally slated for their senior class field trip. The ministry has seen a 30% increase in demand for food, clothing + other financial assistance. The money will provide roughly three weeks’ worth of free produce to 500 people. (WLOS)
○ Even though the pandemic has shuttered Asheville’s restaurants, there are still new eateries on the horizon. AVLtoday’s very own Ali McGhee spoke with industry veterans like Meherwan Irani + Jacob Sessoms on their views regarding the industry’s prospects for recovery, as well as presents a roundup of new spots to be on the lookout for. (AVL Watchdog)
○ County commissioners voted Tuesday night to allow up to 50 people to attend funerals in Buncombe County, effective immediately. The vote to relax restrictions was in response to the state’s new Phase I order, which goes into effect Fri., May 8. (WLOS)
○ Area first responders are participating in the First Responder Reading Challenge. Launched by Macon County emergency workers, the challenge consists of videos of emergency workers reading children’s books for restless kids at home, who then challenge other workers to make additional videos using the hashtag #firstresponderreadingchallenge. (WLOS)
○ Specialty farms have been hit hard by coronavirus shutdowns. Ridgefield Farm, which supplies Brasstown Beef, has seen demand for steaks from clients — mostly top-level steakhouses and restaurants — drop by 70% compared to pre-COVID sales. They’ve opened sales online to help make up for the lost revenue, but are mostly selling ground beef. Sunburst Trout Farms’ sales have dropped to 75% below what’s usual for springtime. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Coronavirus has caused the number of crimes + arrests to go down, and the number of inmate releases to go up. Low-level, non-violent crimes no longer result in arrest but instead a citation to appear in court, and the daily inmate population has dropped, with inmates awaiting trial who couldn’t afford to post bail seeing the biggest reduction. Jury trials + traffic court have been suspended through June 1. (AVL Watchdog)
○ PachaMama5, a new Latin tapas bar from Chef Santiago Vargas and Chef Ricardo Carrasco, is asking for support to continue to feed out-of-work community members during the pandemic. The chefs are using donations to offer meals for folks in need, and covering the cost of food is between $1,800-$2,000 each week. The restaurant plans to open as soon as restrictions are lifted.
○ A relief package that will send money to schools, hospitals, local governments + researchers was approved by the NC General Assembly on Saturday. will allow $1.6 billion in federal COVID-19 funds to be distributed to universities, rural + teaching hospitals. The money will also support the purchase of personal protective equipment, small businesses and the expansion of testing. (WLOS)
○ WNC-based manufacturers, including Industrial Opportunities Inc. (in Andrews) are now making face masks. As of last week, they had made over 50,000 masks. Normally, they manufacture military + medical products and also work with disabled + disadvantaged adults. Foothills Industries in Marion is also making face shields in collaboration with local company Kitsbow + Dogwood Health Trust. (BPR)
○ Asheville Strong is launching a new digital cookbook to raise funds for restaurant worker relief. Over 35 recipes from area chefs will be included in the collection, titled Asheville at Home: Iconic Recipes From Your Favorite Local Restaurants. It’s available for pre-order ($19.95) now and will be delivered via .pdf in May. Net proceeds will go to NC Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Restaurant Workers Relief Fund.
○ On Thurs., April 30, NC Superintendent Mark Johnson announced the creation of a Schools Reopening Task Force (SRTF). Designed to address pandemic-related education challenges, part of the task force’s goal is to get as many students + teachers back into state school buildings as safely possible this fall, as well as to review and recommend ways to improve remote learning. (WLOS)
○ The City of Asheville plans to request funding from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to help with costs related to the pandemic. The plan was unanimously approved in a special session this week. City Manager Debra Campbell will now begin the application process. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Restaurant owners — including Katie Button of Curate + Button & Co. Bagels — hope to have their case heard in Congress soon. She’s part of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a nationwide effort to get federal help for the struggling restaurant industry, specifically independent restaurants which have a harder time obtaining funding. The coalition seeks additional grant money for independent restaurants + easing restrictions to PPP funds. (WLOS)
○ The State Board of Education approved updated year-end grading policies. K-5 students will not receive year-end grades, but will get feedback on their strengths + areas for improvement. Middle schoolers in grades 6-8 who were passing as of March 13 — or who reached passing during virtual learning — will receive a passing grade, PC19. Those who remain below passing will receive a withdrawal grade, WC19. High school students have the choice of receiving letter grades that count toward their GPAs or a pass/withdrawal score that will not. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ The North Carolina Division of Employment Security updated its online system on Friday to allow self-employed workers to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You cannot reapply if your application is still pending, and you must have been formally denied if you applied before April 24. Payments should go out 14 days after you successfully apply. Apply here. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Two emergency funds in Buncombe County and WNC have raised over $2 million to help people during COVID-19. The One Buncombe Fund has raised over $1 million in donations, resulting in 339 jobs being retained, 38 loans processed + 665 people receiving assistance. The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC) has raised $1.1 million and distributed grants totaling $951,900, half of which address issues of hunger + food insecurity.
○ Independent restaurants across the country have taken a huge hit as a result of the pandemic. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sally Kestin of AVL Watchdog spoke with multiple James Beard Award–nominated chef Katie Button of Cúrate and Button & Co. Bagels on the unique struggles affecting the industry and what recovery entails. Read it here. (AVL Watchdog)
○ A new web app matches needs with resources during the pandemic. The COVID Mobilize app — created by Asheville entrepreneurs Emily Breedlove of Breedlove & Co., Matthew Nederlanden of Security Camera Warehouse, and Nathan Silsbee of Nomadic Software — helps area bizzes find + provide direct support to local nonprofits, healthcare providers + governments.
○ Local high school senior Jo Gratz has created a project to make 10,000 masks for healthcare workers locally + all over the country. Want to support? You can donate funds for fabric or make your own (there’s a tutorial on the website) to contribute to the total – so far, over 4,000 have been made and tracked as part of the project. Jo is delivering masks locally to the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County for distribution.
○ Calls to domestic violence hotlines are on the rise as people spend more time at home. WNC-based agencies are offering support and have increased outreach and help, including funding auxiliary shelters, providing help for Spanish-speaking communities and undocumented individuals, offering free counseling + more. (BPR)
○ The WNC Nature Center is one of the local businesses that have suffered financially due to the pandemic. Revenue due to lost ticket sales at the center is down 90% since they closed their doors Mar. 13. Memberships to the Friends of the WNC Nature Center and gift shop sales are also down. Wanna help? Find info on how to support them here.
○ The Open Door, a homeless shelter in Waynesville, has closed their doors because of the pandemic. After a recent town vote, they set up portable bathroom + hand washing facilities near The Open Door and in the First United Methodist Church’s parking lot to provide homeless folks in the community with bathroom access. Once The Open Door and town restrooms reopen, officials say they will remove the portable facilities. (WLOS)
○ The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office recently bought 1,600 face masks from nonprofit Eagle Market Streets Development Corp. Sheriff Quentin Miller says the masks will be particularly helpful for Buncombe County Detention Facility employees + first responders. Want to order some yourself? Email Eagle Market Streets Development Corp here.
○ Some places in WNC are slowly lifting their restrictions. Lake Louise Park in Weaverville opened their path around the lake Mon. with one-way flow. — though the playground, restrooms + equipment remain closed — and the Asheville Golf Course followed suit on Tues. Both spots sport plenty of signage to remind patrons to maintain a distance of six feet. (WLOS)
○ In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners have approved an additional $700,000+ in funding. $500,000 will go to general public needs + $232,800 will go to buying a new ambulance truck. This comes after two of the county’s trucks broke down. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ The Asheville Survival Program is working to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. They provide materials like hand sanitizer, food + more, and are asking for financial donations and donations of material goods. Donate here + find a list of donation bin locations. (theurbannews.com)
○ If you’re a government employee or first responder, Autobell Car Wash will disinfect the interior of your car for free. You can get it as a stand-alone service or an addition to your car wash. The disinfectant is EPA-registered + hospital-grade, and all you have to do is bring in a government-issued ID and the service is free of charge. There are six Autobell locations in the Asheville area. (WLOS)
○ Life changes, including losing health insurance through your job, can qualify consumers for Special Enrollments Periods through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace — but the time to report that change + sign up is only 60 days. Pisgah Legal Services is offering free assistance to help area folks review their options + sign up for health insurance. Appointments can be made online or via phone at (828) 210-3404.
○ Are you a small biz or entrepreneur with questions about the CARES Act, regional support, local nonprofits helping out + more? NAI Beverly-Hanks created a comprehensive list of COVID-19 business support resources to help you out. (Capital at Play)
○ The Hendersonville Family YMCA may be closed, but they are still working to help the community by giving out free meals to kids 18 and younger + hosting mobile markets. They are also providing homeschool resources like educational activities, active play ideas, character development exercises + STEAM projects. Bonus: Find at-home workouts on their website, or tune into live workouts via Facebook.
○ Three cheers for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, which has been stepping up + helping out during the pandemic. They donated their PPE, which are used by their home repair staff, to Mission Hospital. They also deployed two ReStore truck drivers to help MANNA FoodBank with food distribution operations.
○ Asheville web design + marketing agency Status Forward has launched Supply Connector, a new online directory that lets manufacturers, suppliers + essential providers list their needs and production capabilities in order to help COVID-19 relief efforts in the supply chain. Find more info here.
○ A new charity organization called RVs4MDs is helping healthcare workers + their loved ones during the pandemic. Anyone working on the frontlines COVID-19 can be lent an RV to help them self-isolate from their family. 1400 volunteers have been recruited, and over 800 matches have been made. Learn more about the group here.
○ Southern Vision Alliance’s Frontlines Leaders Fund are offering grants of up to $500 to neighborhood-based + local organizing efforts in response to COVID-19. Priority is given to efforts by LGBTQ people, students, disabled people, people of color, rural communities, migrants + families. Apply here.
○ Asheville area hotels are offering discount rates for essential employees. At the Cambria Downtown Asheville and the Country Inn & Suites Westgate, FIRC Hospitality’s “essential traveler rate” includes a grab + go breakfast. McKibbon Hospitality is offering a “good neighbor rate” at downtown’s Aloft Hotel, AC Hotel + Kimpton Hotel Arras. Home2 Suites by Hilton Asheville Biltmore Village is offering an “essential worker rate” with grab + go breakfast and complimentary on-site laundry facilities. (WLOS)
○ Pandemic of Love’s Asheville Chapter is helping connect those in need with those who want to help during this time. Anyone interested can fill out either the Request Aid Form or the Commit To Help Form. Volunteers then create matches that connect people to give quickly, discreetly + directly. Have questions or want to volunteer? Email the local chapter here.
○ The Arc of Buncombe County received $18,000 from Walnut Cove Members Association through their Crisis Intervention Grant Program. Funds will help families that are homeless + in crisis as well as go to groups like MANNA FoodBank, Homeward Bound and Haywood Street Ministry.
○ The state is looking for more medical volunteers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Openings are available for clinical volunteers (physicians, nurses, etc.), clinical support (pharmacy, imaging, respiratory care) + non-clinical support (facility maintenance, safety+ administration). Volunteers will be deployed as close to home as possible with pay of $15/hour. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ The ASPCA is distributing free pet food to Buncombe County residents impacted by the pandemic. This will be a drive-through event by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, call the ASPCA hotline (800) 738-9437 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. There are no same-day appointments.
○ Want to help feed those affected by COVID-19? Feeding the Carolinas has created a list of all food banks across NC + all the other ways you can help.
○ Asheville City Schools bus drivers + nutrition employees are delivering meals to children at four main distribution sites: Pisgah View Apartments, Hillcrest Apartments, Klondyk Apartments + Arthur Edington Center. There will also be a drive-through distribution site at Isaac Dickson Elementary on Hill Street in the Montford community. The packaged meals include a hot lunch + the next day’s breakfast. (WLOS)
○ The YWCA of Asheville and WNC is partnering with MANNA FoodBank to provide meals for people in need, and they’re looking for healthy volunteers who are not in at-risk populations today and on Mar. 26 to help pack food. Prospective volunteers should fill out this form or email Amanda Durst. You can also donate to the YWCA’s relief fund. 🥫
○ The Asheville Citizen-Times has lifted their paywalls for important COVID-19 coverage.
○ Brother Wolf, along with The Humane Society of the United States and The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, are encouraging folks with pets to create a plan for how to ensure their pet is cared for should they become sick or hospitalized.
○ Service industry professionals needing extra assistance due to COVID-19 can check out USBG National Charity Foundation.
○ Asheville Water Resources will suspend all water disconnections due to non-payment of City of Asheville combined utility bills. For more info, call (828) 251-1122.
○ Duke Energy is suspending disconnects for nonpayment for home + business accounts.
○ The Asheville Police Department is amending their patrol response procedures to protect officers, personnel + residents from potential coronavirus infection. Effective immediately, all non-emergency calls (including lost property, fraud, and stolen property of less than $1,000 in value) will be handled by an officer via telephone. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Governor Roy Cooper announced that parents who need food help for children ages 18 and younger can text FOODNC to 877-877 to locate nearby free meal sites. Parents enter their address + receive the location + serving times for nearby pick-up free meal sites. The service is also available in Spanish; text “COMIDA” to 877-877. (FoxCarolina)
○ United Way has created a list of food pantries, shelters + services offered in Buncombe County during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dial 2-1-1 from your phone 24/7 days a week to be directed to real-time health and human service resources closest to you in the community. You can donate to United Way here.
○ A group of local volunteers – led by software engineer Geert Bevin with the help of 3D printers, Day One Disaster Relief, and UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio – are making and donating protective face shields to healthcare providers in Asheville + beyond to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. See the full story here. Ⓟ
Health Care Resources
○ Forty percent of the lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Buncombe County are among those ages 25 to 49. Cases continue to spread after folks continue to interact with other people — even without a certain source of exposure. Officials statewide continue to highlight the importance Wearing a mask, Waiting six feet apart, and Washing your hands frequently. (WLOS)
○ Farmers + farm staff in WNC are at a heightened risk for exposure to COVID-19 because they tend to work in close proximity with one another, especially if they take buses to work. NC State University created an online portal with information for farms and agribusinesses navigating the pandemic with advice on food safety, employee health, disinfecting practices + more. (WLOS)
○ COVID-19 cases in the Latino community account for 27% cases overall in Buncombe County. The county’s Latino/Hispanic population is 6.7%. Officials say that the disproportionate numbers are likely due to working conditions + systemic racism. In NC overall, Latinos make up 42% of total cases. (BPR News)
○ NC Republicans have introduced the “No Patient Left Alone” bill, which would allow one person in the hospital with a COVID-19 patient. The person would be given personal protective equipment and their temperature would be screened regularly. The bill is scheduled for a vote today at 10 a.m. (News & Observer)
○ A recent investigation by the New York Times alleges that despite funding from the CARES Act, the 60 wealthiest hospital chains in the country have furloughed, laid off, or decreased employee pay in efforts to save money amidst the pandemic. Included in the report is HCA Healthcare, the owners of the Mission Health system. Mission says they have spent $138 million on pay continuation programs to date. (BPR News)
○ The NC Department of Health and Human Services has filed a temporary restraining order against Ace Speedway for defying the state’s order that it remain closed until June 26. The raceway has repeatedly allowed gatherings of thousands, which is prohibited under Gov. Cooper’s Phase 2 plan to reopen the state. A hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday. (News & Observer)
○ The White House Coronavirus Task Force is concerned about the spread of coronavirus in NC’s urban population centers, including counties like Durham + Wake in the Triangle. Local officials are working to dramatically increase the daily number of COVID-19 tests. Statewide, officials are concerned with the doubling rate, which measures how long it takes for each county’s total number of cases to double. (News & Observer)
○ Four Michigan doctors ranked the risk levels of 36 businesses + activities from bars to camping. Bars were given a nine out of ten (the riskiest) because alcohol reduces inhibitions. Gyms + churches ranked eight out of ten, while movie theaters and hair salons were given a six out of ten. Camping, grocery shopping + golfing received a three out of ten. (WLOS)
○ Governor Roy Cooper asked anyone who has been in a crowd to get tested for COVID-19. This comes after countless people across the country, including thousands in Asheville, took to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd. Health officials advise that if you went to a protest but are not experiencing symptoms to wait a week before getting tested. (WLOS)
○ The NCDHHS is designating child + adult protective services workers as first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will help workers access personal protective equipment when they are in face-to-face situations with families, children + adults. While firsthand observation is useful when determining people’s well-being, they’re working to conduct virtual visits where possible. (WLOS)
○ Tubing season has arrived. The good news? There’s little risk of contracting COVID-19 if you’re out on the French Broad River. However, experts advise checking on water quality here, as the river’s E. coli levels are still an issue. Tubers should practice social distancing. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Madison County health officials are reporting a third positive case of coronavirus. The resident is quarantined at home, and contact tracing efforts are now underway. On Wednesday, June 3, the county will launch its first drive-thru testing event at the Spring Creek Community Center from 10 a.m-noon. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ The executive director of South Asheville nursing home StoneCreek Health & Rehabilitation says a kitchen worker has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was asymptomatic. The facility has no plans at this time to do widespread testing for other employees + residents. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Two Asheville City Schools employees built a special glass chamber Buncombe County’s Emergency Management Team to use for COVID-19 testing. The chamber is made of Plexiglas, aluminum + stainless steel and allows medical professionals to stand inside while they test people outside. It weighs about 200 pounds and is seven feet tall + three feet wide. (WLOS)
○ Western North Carolina University is researching how folks process information + make decisions about COVID-19. Volunteers are interviewed anonymously to gauge how they interpret pandemic-related info they encounter on television, in print, and on social media. Researchers hope to find answers to help counter disinformation, an especially important task as public health restrictions are lifted. (WLOS)
○ You can now view COVID-19 information based on zip code. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released the breakdown of confirmed cases via a searchable, interactive map. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ Buncombe County has a new automated assessment tool to help folks determine if they have COVID-19. COVID-19 Self-Checker can be used online or by phone, and it offers both guidance for anyone feeling symptomatic + data to help Buncombe County determine when it’s safe to begin the first phases of reopening.
○ COVID-19 antibody tests are now offered with all Blood Connection blood donations. The tests are free + will be included in the normal panel of testing. This is not a diagnostic test for COVID-19. Research is being conducted on antibodies now, but both the FDA + the CDC note that their presence does not mean someone has immunity to the virus. (WLOS)
○ Nationally and locally, communities of color are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. According to the county’s interim public health director, Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, 34% of lab-confirmed cases have been of Latino individuals. According to a July 2019 Census estimate, less than 7% of Buncombe County residents identify as Latino. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
○ The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has responded to COVID differently than other communities in NC because of its status as a sovereign nation. They have tested more people (1,400 total, one person per household) and have had fewer cases than the surrounding areas. They have also done aggressive contact tracing and closed the borders to the Qualla Boundary before the state’s Stay-Home order was announced. (BPR)
○ To help folks in WNC connect to telehealth services during the pandemic, Vaya Health is donating 500 smartphones. The phones will be distributed to local healthcare providers to give to members without smartphones. Vaya will also maintain data plans on phones at no cost to providers or participants for six months or until the crisis ends.
○ 283 asymptomatic front-line workers were tested for COVID-19 in Haywood County on April 28, and all test results came back negative. Haywood County Health and Human Services + Haywood County Emergency Services conducted the tests. (WLOS)
○ Four Seasons, a hospice and palliative care facility in Flat Rock, has expanded services at Elizabeth House, their inpatient unit, to serve COVID-positive patients, creating an isolation hall to protect other patients and staff. The hall will have a private entrance and be staffed separately.
○ COVID-19 has changed how the Red Cross responds to people in need. The org recently helped a Candler woman who lost her home to a fire by calling her and setting up a place for her to stay. They have partnered with emergency agencies to help get contact info for people in need, and in need of blood donations. (WLOS)
○ N.C.-based LabCorp has received emergency FDA approval to make at-home COVID-19 testing kits. Swab tests will initially be available for first responders + front line healthcare workers, but should be available to the general public in the next few weeks. The test is listed for $119 on LabCorp’s website. (WLOS)
○ How do the demographics look for COVID-19 in NC? The age group that makes up the highest portion of confirmed cases is 25-49 year olds (42%) while residents 65+ make up only 20%. The 65+ group has the majority of deaths, at 80% of the total cases. (News & Observer)
○ During times of stress and crisis, it can be hard for parents + caregivers to know how to address coronavirus with kids in an honest + age-appropriate way. It is also common for kids to be more demanding and seek more attachment. Check out the World Health Organization’s resources here.
Asheville Area Arts Council has compiled a list of resources to stay creative + entertained during self-quarantine. From Asheville Symphony performances + virtual tours of the Asheville Art Museum to local authors to read, CreativeMornings talks, and more, you’ll be able to flex your imagination right here.
In need of an art fix? Southern Highland Craft Guild is hosting virtual exhibitions, including a guild member show and pieces from their permanent collection, including ancient textiles, craft traditions + more.