COVID-19 update: Cases keep declining in Buncombe; officials urge safe fall gatherings – Citizen Times

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Pfizer files for emergency use of COVID vaccine for kids 5-11

Pfizer files for emergency use of COVID vaccine for kids 5-11


Buncombe County continues to see COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths decline as officials urge residents to stay safe as fall events and celebrations near. 

In a weekly update Oct. 12, Buncombe Health and Human Services says local case rates have declined for the fourth week in a row, including by 8% to 10% two weeks in a row. 

“Overall, our local trends continue to improve,” Public Health Director Stacie Saunders said in the release. “This is a welcomed sight after this most recent surge, fueled by the delta variant, which showed very rapid spread and transmission, especially among our unvaccinated population.”

Week-over-week, that rate has fallen from 216 new cases per 100,000 residents per week to 198, according to the update. 

Percent positivity, or the share of COVID-19 tests returning positive results, was 6.9%, and has been hovering between 6.7% and 7.1%, it says, while hospitalizations and ICU bed rates have dropped to 9.1% and 40% respectively. 

As of the Oct. 5 update before Buncombe County Commissioners, test positivity was 6.9%, hospitalizations at 11.6% and ICU utilization at 44%. 

COVID-19-related deaths — at 1.9 per 100,000 residents per week — is down from 2.3 week-over-week, according to the county.

Related reporting: As new COVID-19 cases decrease, Buncombe doubles down on vaccine outreach

“While this is a hopeful trend, it is important to remember that while decreasing, this case rate and transmission rate is still very high,” Saunders said in the announcement. “This is a steady decline but not a precipitous decline, meaning that COVID-19 is still widely circulating in our community.”

And with fall events like Halloween and Thanksgiving on the way, the health department recommends attending outdoor or virtual events where the risk of spreading COVID-19 is lower. 

If attending an event in-person, officials recommend getting vaccinated for those who have not yet done so, wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing when indoors. 

In a media call Oct. 6, Saunders shared hope that rising vaccination rates and readily available vaccines would help the county avoid the surge of COVID-19 transmission that accompanied the fall and winter months of 2020. 

“We had a large winter surge,” she said at the time. “Today it’s very different. Today we have really good access and really good distribution of vaccine.”

As of the county’s Oct. 12 update, 62% of Buncombe’s total population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 60% are fully vaccinated. 

Related: Buncombe health director hopes to avoid deadly COVID-19 winter amid vaccination efforts

Accounting for only those residents who are eligible for the vaccine and at least 12 years of age, that rate jumps to 71%, according to the update, as BCHHS marks more than 102,000 doses of vaccine administered since December 2020. 

In the last week, according to the update, the county has administered more than 600 doses in outreach events at three local schools, one fire department, and a partnership with the Mexican Consulate

“Each vaccination is protecting another member of our Buncombe County community, which in turn helps to protect us all, especially those not yet eligible for vaccine,” Saunders says in the update.

“We are actively planning for vaccination events for the anticipated eligibility of some of our youngest family and friends, 5-11-year-olds. Until then, I hope that other members of our community will do their part to help protect our children from COVID-19.”

More: Buncombe’s partnership with Mexican Consulate key for COVID-19 vaccination efforts

According to the latest data from the state Department of Health and Human Services, Buncombe County’s trends are mirroring that of the state as a whole, which has seen gradually declining cases since a peak in early September. 

On Oct. 12, North Carolina added 2,148 new COVID-19 cases, following 1,786 on Oct. 11, which marks the fewest since July 27.

Hospitalizations have been trending down since the state logged 3,815 on Sept. 8, with a total 2,236 hospitalized COVID-19 patients Oct. 11. 

Statewide, the test positivity rate has risen slightly, to 7.7%, though down from the 12.3% recorded Sept. 12. 

Across the state, 58% of the total population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, with 54% fully vaccinated. Of eligible residents, 68% have received at least one dose and 63% are fully vaccinated.

Derek Lacey covers health care, growth and development for the Asheville Citizen Times. Reach him at or 828-417-4842 and find him on Twitter @DerekAVL.