ASHEVILLE – More than 2,000 more people in North Carolina tested positive for COVID-19 July 22, the same day Johns Hopkins University reported that the global number of positive cases surpassed 15 million.
As of noon Wednesday, 1,137 people were in hospitals with the disease in the state, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. That’s 42 fewer than on Tuesday, when there were a state record 1,179 coronavirus hospitalizations6.
The state tallied 105,001 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of noon July 22, an increase of 2,140 from the previous day. That’s the fourth-highest one-day increase in positive cases since the start of the pandemic and comes four days after the state had a record 2,481 new cases Saturday.
On Wednesday, 31,115 tests were completed in the state, the second-highest since at least mid-June. The most recent data reported by the state on its dashboard shows 8% of all tests July 21 were positive. The average daily positivity rate had been about 9% this month.
NCDHHS reports a total of 1,698 people have died statewide as a result of COVID-19 Wednesday. That’s an increase of 30 over Tuesday.
Those numbers differ slightly from the Johns Hopkins University report in the graphic above. As of about noon July 22, JHU counted 3,915,780 confirmed cases and 142,312 deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the United States. Its worldwide tally was 15,000,424 cases and 617,832 deaths.
As of about noon Tuesday, Buncombe County reported on its coronavirus dashboard that there were 1,088 cases in the county, up 29 from the previous day. However, the state reported Wednesday that Buncombe had 1,248 cases, up 25 from the previous day. The county has said that its dashboard would lag behind the state’s tally. The number of COVID-19 related deaths in the county was 43, according to its dashboard.
Confirmed cases in other Western North Carolina counties, according to state counts:
- Avery: 53 cases, 0 deaths.
- Cherokee: 151 cases, 2 deaths.
- Clay: 39 cases, 0 deaths.
- Graham: 15 cases, 0 deaths.
- Haywood: 192 cases, 0 deaths.
- Henderson: 1,191 cases, 52 deaths.
- Jackson: 306 cases, 3 deaths.
- Macon: 397 cases, 1 death.
- Madison: 25 cases, 0 deaths.
- McDowell: 416 cases, 3 deaths.
- Mitchell: 60 cases, 1 death.
- Polk: 121 cases, 5 deaths.
- Swain: 86 cases, 2 deaths.
- Transylvania: 98 cases, 1 death.
- Watauga: 189 cases, 0 deaths.
- Yancey: 68 cases, 0 deaths.
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Testing at community sites limited
Buncombe County announced July 20 it will reduce COVID-19 testing capacity for community sites to 300 per site per week, Mackensy Lunsford reports.
Those sites — now limited to one in east Buncombe and one in central Buncombe — offer testing at no out-of-pocket cost, and are in part intended to serve populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and those without access to resources for testing.
The county has collected an average of 850 tests per week since June 30 between three testing sites. In that span of time, confirmed cases in the county have increased from 572-1,088.
But with the Thursday COVID-19 community testing site at the Buncombe County Sports Park now closed indefinitely, only 600 tests will be available between the two sites per week, the county said.
Buncombe infections accelerating
Many local gains against the coronavirus have been erased as Buncombe County hits as an “acceleration phase” in the pandemic, the county’s top health official said July 21.
Joel Burgess reports that the increase in cases, now at 1,223 county residents, is not being driven by more testing, but is from a rising infection rate, Health and Human Services Interim Director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore told the county Board of Commissioners.
Mullendore and commissioners painted a disturbing picture locally and beyond, with the national rise in infections compounding county problems by making it difficult to maintain community testing sites used by many who don’t have insurance.
Buncombe County Health and Human Services Interim Director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore
“I wish I had good news to report, but unfortunately, we are definitely in the acceleration phase of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mullendore said.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino has cluster
Health officials have identified a “cluster” of COVID-19 cases among table games workers at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Jackson County, a tourist attraction that draws millions of visitors annually.
John Boyle reports that according to a press release, five employees of the table games section the casino have tested positive for COVID-19.
“All positive employees are following isolation orders,” the release states, adding that the investigation is ongoing.
Table games feature live dealers and workers, and they include poker, blackjack, roulette and craps.
No more Fun
Fun Depot, one of Asheville’s favorite spots for family amusements, is closing, a victim of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, John Boyle reports.
“After 17 years of serving Western North Carolina, it is with deep sadness that we have made the difficult decision to close Asheville’s Fun Depot,” owners Dave and Mary Beth Day said in a statement posted to Facebook. “As a result of current economic conditions due to COVID-19, the Fun Depot and the entire entertainment industry have suffered sever losses in revenue.”
The center, located at the southeast corner of Interstate 40 and Sweeten Creek Road, will close at 8 p.m. on Aug. 2.
Henderson schools to return in remote mode
Henderson County Public Schools will begin the school year under a fully-remote learning model, following a 6-1 vote Monday by the board of education. This currently applies to the first six weeks of the 2020-21 school year, Rebecca Walter reports.
“Our ultimate commitment is to the health and safety of our students, staff and their families,” said school board Chair Blair Craven. “It is with this in mind, and with the understanding that plans will be evaluated and refined based on public health in our community, that our board voted to start the school year on a fully-remote model.”
Many of the school board members expressed their desire for some sort of in-person learning option for parents and students. But after listening to the details of each plan and the opinions of the HCPS leadership team, almost all decided to go to remote learning for at least the beginning of the school year.
Zoom in on the situation with sports
The N.C. High School Athletic Association’s announcement last week to move the start of fall athletics to at least Sept. 1 has only furthered the debate about the future of high school sports, including football, this school year.
In our new segment “Zoomed In,” reporter David Thompson is joined by Reynolds football coach Shane Laws, who answers important questions about the future of high school athletics amid a pandemic and gives his thoughts on the biggest questions facing his sport.
Popular West Asheville pub takes precautions
Westville Pub has closed temporarily after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to a July 20 post on the restaurant and bar’s Facebook page, Mackensy Lunsford reports.
“In the spirit of transparency, Westville will be closed until Wednesday evening at 5 p.m. as a preventative response to a limited contact employee testing positive for COVID-19,” it reads. “As an extreme precautionary measure we are paying to have all our employees tested through a 48 (hour) result service.”
According to the post, no other employees are symptomatic.