As of January 6th, 16.8% of all COVID-19 tests conducted in the state of North Carolina are returning positive for the virus. In Buncombe County, the rate is 12.7%. Of all tests conducted in this county, including the thousands of frequent, routine tests of nursing home residents and employees (which can be seen as potentially inflating the denominator}, over 1 in 10 individuals are receiving diagnoses of COVID-19. Our hospital system is seriously strained and it is legitimately at risk for being overwhelmed if case counts continue to rise. After a year of consistently gloomy news, it is natural to become somewhat impervious to the constant barrage of disconcerting data. Please take a moment to allow this to set in. Right now, right here in Asheville, the situation is extremely dangerous. COVI0-19 is everywhere.
Via press conference on January 6th, Governor Roy Cooper extended his Modified Stay at Home Order in response to critical levels of community-based transmission of COVID-19 across the state. But that message pales in comparison to the stark, unambiguous warning offered by NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen in her Directive published on the same date, which begins by stating that North Carolina residents “should take immediate action” to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Here are some excerpts from the directive, highlighting its most salient points:
As of January 6, 2021, 84 of North Carolina’s 100 counties are currently categorized as red on the County Alert System [including Buncombe County], indicating the highest level of viral spread. In recent weeks, North Carolina has experienced record high numbers of cases reported each day, the percent of tests that are positive, and people hospitalized with COVID-19.
Due to the rapidly increasing number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina and the rising numbers of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 and in the intensive care unit with COVID-19, the undersigned finds the issuance of this Secretarial Directive necessary to protect the health of the public.
North Carolinians are directed to adhere to the following:
• Wear a mask at all times and maintain physical distance (at least 6 feet) from people when outside your home to the maximal extent possible.
• Stay home. Avoid leaving your home for all but essential activities (essential activities include medical appointments and receiving your COVID-19 vaccination). If possible, use delivery services or curbside pick-up for food and retail to the greatest extent possible to avoid in-person interaction with people that you do not live with.
• Avoid gathering with individuals that you do not live with. Multiple households should not co-mingle.
• If you have gathered with individuals that you do not live with, assume that you have been infected. Stay home and get tested.