BCHHS Public Health Provider Alert: COVID vaccine updates & info on quarantine periods for K-12 students

May 10, 2021

Local COVID-19 update

  •          As of today, per the NCDHHS dashboard, 47.6% of the population of Buncombe County has received at least 1 dose of COVID-19 vaccine (a slight increase from 45.7% on 4/28) and 42.7% are fully vaccinated (up from 37.3% on 4/28).
  •          We continue to see improvement in COVID metrics. Last week, there were 60 new cases per 100,000 population per week in Buncombe County and the percent of COVID tests that came back positive was down to 3%. Both of these metrics have been trending down over the past several weeks while testing numbers remain strong. Regional hospitalizations related to COVID continue to remain low and stable.
  •          Please continue to promote COVID-19 vaccination to your patients, coworkers, family and friends. Information on where to access vaccine can be found at myspot.nc.gov.


Update on Buncombe County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic

  • Buncombe County continues to offer walk-in Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations to individuals 16 years of age and older at the county’s vaccine clinic at AB Tech (16 Fernihurst Dr., Asheville, NC 28801). The clinic is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9a-4p. Individuals also can continue to make 1st dose appointments online at www.buncombeready.org or by calling 828-419-0095 Monday-Friday, 8a-8p (switches to 8a-5p on 5/15).
  • As of today, the county is administering both 1st and 2nd doses of Pfizer vaccine at the AB Tech vaccine clinic. We will provide 2nd doses to anyone regardless of where they received their 1st dose, but we do ask that they bring their vaccine card with them.
  • We have made it to the bottom of our list of individuals who are homebound and want COVID vaccine brought to them, but we know there are still more folks out there who could benefit from this service. If you know of individuals living in Buncombe County who have difficulty leaving their home because of medical or transportation issues and want to be vaccinated with Pfizer or J&J COVID-19 vaccines, they or their caregivers can call 828-419-0095 to be put on the county’s homebound vaccination list. Their household members & caregivers can be vaccinated at the same time.
  • A shout-out of gratitude to all the local healthcare providers and community members who volunteered at our vaccine clinics over the past several months. We greatly appreciate your willingness to join our vaccination efforts and the great compassion and care you provided to those who came to our clinics. Thank you! Your assistance was key to our successful operations.


Quarantine period for local K-12 students

  •          Per guidance from BCHHS Public Health, both Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools are requiring a full 14-day quarantine for students who attend a school operating under Plan A (which does not require 6 feet of physical distancing) and are identified as close contacts to someone with COVID-19.
  •          While the CDC and NCDHHS provide options to reduce quarantine time for people who have been exposed to COVID-19, those options require that the exposed person: 
    •    Stay 6 feet away from others,
    •    Wear a face covering,
    •    Wash hands frequently, and
    •    Watch for symptoms until 14 days after exposure.
  •          While Asheville City and Buncombe County schools are operating in Plan A, they cannot guarantee 6 feet of physical distancing at all times. Therefore, students at these schools, and any other school operating under Plan A, are unable to meet the requirements for shorter quarantine times. As a result, BCHHS Public Health has recommended that these schools require the full 14-day quarantine for their students.


Update on Pfizer EUA for 12-15 year olds

  •          Today, the FDA expanded the Pfizer vaccine’s emergency use authorization (EUA) to include its administration to children 12-15 years of age.
  •          The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will be meeting Wed., 5/12, to review the data and vote on a recommendation for use of the Pfizer vaccine in this age group.
  •          If ACIP recommends the Pfizer vaccine be used in 12-15 year olds, the CDC will need to adopt the recommendation and then vaccine providers will be able to administer the vaccine to this age group.
  •          Vaccinating 12-17 year olds, especially before summer camps or in-person schooling in the fall, will help us as we continue to try to control the pandemic.
  •          It is important to remember that the CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccines not be given within 14 days before or after other vaccines. If you have adolescents who need to get routine vaccinations, be sure to communicate this recommendation with their caregivers and plan accordingly.


Please become a COVID-19 vaccine provider!

  •          NCDHHS and BCHHS encourage all pediatric and adult primary care providers to enroll with NCDHHS as COVID-19 vaccine providers.
    •    It is important to make vaccines easily accessible to individuals in settings they trust, such as in your clinics. Having vaccine onsite will increase the chance that your patients will get vaccinated after you’ve addressed any remaining concerns or questions they may have.
    •    We know that using every dose in a vial before it expires can be challenging when accommodating walk-ins or administering vaccine in smaller settings. But giving people easy and convenient options to be vaccinated should be prioritized over ensuring that every dose is used in an open vial.
    •    BCHHS Public Health staff are available to answer your questions about handling and storage of the vaccine, and will work with you to transfer small allotments of vaccine to meet your clinic’s needs.
    •    To learn more about enrolling, see the information here, as well as this roadmap of the state’s provider enrollment process.


NCDHHS guidance documents

  •          Updated guidance from May 6th on COVID-19 testing, clinical care and reporting
    •    Testing guidance has been updated to account for vaccination status. Of note, for those who are not fully vaccinated, testing is recommended before and after travelling. (See guidance for more details.)
  •          Updated interim guidance for individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 for you to review and share with your patients, friends and family members
  •          Updated requirements for the use of face coverings & masks
  •          Guidance on at-home COVID testing (from 3/2021) – discusses considerations for use of at-home testing and at-home collection devices, as well as interpretation and reporting of results
  •          Guidance on SARS-CoV-2 variants (from 2/2021)
    •    Information from the CDC about variants can be found here. B.1.1.7 is the predominant variant in NC, the Southeast US, and the US overall.
    •    Clinical laboratories in NC, including the State Lab of Public Health, are participating in genomic sequencing surveillance with the CDC.
    •    Clinicians should contact the Epidemiologist On-Call with the NC Division of Public Health at 919-733-3419 for cases meeting 1 or more of the following criteria to discuss potential submission of specimens for sequencing:
      •   Persons who have a positive diagnostic test at least 14 days after completing vaccination with an FDA authorized vaccine (meaning after two doses for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) and with no previous positive test in the preceding 45 days
      •   Persons with suspected re-infection, if:
      •          Both the initial and subsequent positive sample are available for submission, OR
      •          The positive test was collected at least 90 days after their initial positive and the person had new onset of COVID-19 symptoms requiring hospitalization
      •   Persons with severe immune compromise with prolonged infection
      •   Persons with international travel within 14 days before symptom onset (or before positive test if asymptomatic)
      •   Large or unusual outbreaks or clusters
      •   Pediatric deaths


If you have any questions about any of the information in this email, please let me know. Remember also that Buncombe County Communicable Disease nurses are available 24/7 at 828-250-5109 to answer your questions about COVID-19 or other communicable infections or conditions. My deepest gratitude goes out to them, as it does to all nurses, during this National Nurses Week. Buncombe County’s COVID response was built upon the exceptional, dedicated, compassionate public health nurses who care for our communities day in and day out. I am very fortunate to work alongside them.