Buncombe County face covering requirement expires as COVID-19 metrics continue to improve

February 15, 2022

Feb. 15, 2022 Update: Buncombe County face covering requirement expires as COVID-19 metrics continue to improve.

COVID-19 metrics are continuing to improve overall. Since Jan. 18, there has been a 67% drop in new cases per 100,000 per week. The current new case rate is 386 new cases per 100,000 per week. Buncombe County is continuing to see a fairly rapid decline from week to week in new cases. Additionally, the percent positivity continues to decline and has fallen from 19.6% last week to 15.5% this week.

Hospitalization indicators are now more favorable and there has been a considerable drop in inpatient hospital beds occupied with COVID-19 from last week to this week. Last week, the percent of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 was 13.4% and is now 8.8%. As of Monday, there were 104 total patients with COVID-19 in the Mission Health System as compared to a peak of 196 patients three weeks ago. ICU utilization continues to fall and is now well below 30%.

Deaths, unfortunately, have increased. Sadly, 21 new deaths were added to the dashboard, however, only 9 of these occurred in the last week. The remaining deaths occurred in weeks previous but were delayed in being reported. This has caused the local death rate to jump to 8 new deaths per 100,000 per week. It is likely that the death rate will fluctuate for several more days or weeks as deaths are the most lagging of all the indicators.

Overall, this continues to be a favorable trajectory in terms of the Omicron surge. As stated previously, there are some signals that the response may be entering a new chapter. Approximately 70% of the eligible population in Buncombe County has received their primary series, and 56% of those with a full series have received a third/booster dose. Vaccines continue to demonstrate effectiveness in preventing infection, severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths. In addition, evolving treatments and therapeutics continue to grow in supply and access. These treatments also help in reducing severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths in individuals at higher risk.

At its Feb. 15 regular meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners moved to allow the face covering requirement to expire at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 16. While face coverings in public indoor spaces are no longer required, public health officials strongly recommend them in crowded indoor spaces.

Even as the requirement expires, businesses and organizations may continue to require face coverings. Determinations about face coverings for schools will be made by the local Boards of Education. The Buncombe County Courthouse will continue to require face coverings. A federal mask requirement for public transportation remains in place through March 18, 2022.

At the following Buncombe County Government facilities, face coverings will continue to be required until further notice:

  • All public-facing Health and Human Services operations, including those at 40 Coxe Ave., and 35 Woodfin and the Family Justice Center
  • The Buncombe County Detention Center

All other Buncombe County Government facilities will strongly recommend face coverings.

Public Health Director Stacie Saunders stated: “Public health leadership will continue to monitor cases and percent positivity and with emphasis on hospitalizations and deaths. We will continue to work with our area medical providers, community partners, and hospital system to adapt to the changes in the pandemic at the local level.”

Free vaccines for anyone 5 and older continue to be available at Buncombe County Health and Human Services, 40 Coxe Ave., Asheville between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. No appointment is needed. For a full list of vaccine providers in North Carolina, visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.

To stay up to date about future developments surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other County operations, text “BCAlert” to 99411 or click here.