ASHEVILLE – Buncombe reported nine additional coronavirus deaths in county residents over the last week, bringing the number of new deaths reported over the last two weeks to 16.
As of midday Aug. 24, there had been 2,298 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe residents — 206 more than one week prior — according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
The number includes 64 people in the county who have died due to the illness. Last week, Buncombe reported 53 deaths. That number was an increase of seven over the week before.
Buncombe health officials did not immediately respond to a Citizen Times email asking how many of the deaths reported this week were tied to long-term care facilities. But health director Stacie Saunders previously said that 43 of the 53 deaths reported as of Aug. 18 were of long-term care facility residents. She also connected a recent spike in deaths to such facilities when speaking to county commissioners Aug. 18.
There are active outbreaks at 11 local long-term care establishments — nine nursing homes and two residential care facilities — according to a state report on congregate care outbreaks last updated Aug. 21.
The county’s COVID case counts for the last six Mondays were:
- Aug. 17 – 2,092 cases (an increase of 200 from the previous week).
- Aug. 10 – 1,892 cases (an increase of 177).
- Aug. 3 – 1,715 cases (an increase of 242).
- July 27 – 1,473 cases (an increase of 250).
- July 20 – 1,223 cases (an increase of 325).
- July 13 – 898 cases (an increase of 215).
Saunders said Aug. 20 the county has been seeing 25-30 new cases of the illness each day, which is down from an average of about 40 a month before. She said this is an improvement, “but not a sign that we can stop doing the things that help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Almost 50,000 tests have been completed in Buncombe County. Saunders said about 5% have come back positive over the past few weeks.
Mission COVID hospitalizations stabilize
Mission Health reported 38 COVID-positive patients hospitalized in systemwide on Aug. 24. Of those, 30 were at Mission Hospital in Asheville, four were at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, two were at Transylvania Regional, and one was at Mission Hospital McDowell.
The system — which operates six hospitals and numerous clinics in Western North Carolina — has reported a steady increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the summer. Daily cases ranged from 15-20 each day in June, then rose from counts in the 20s to the high 40s in July. Mission Health saw its record, 49 cases, on Aug. 3.
Through August, however, Mission’s daily hospitalization counts have stabilized, remaining in the high 30s through high 40s.
Dr. William Hathaway, Mission Health’s chief medical officer, said via email the system continues to “closely monitor the recent slight increase in positive tests across the state and here in Buncombe County.”
“Whether this will continue on an upward trajectory remains to be seen, but it emphasizes the critical need for all to adhere to the three W’s — Wear a mask, Wait 6 feet or more apart and Wash your hands frequently,” he said. “These practices will also help us to minimize any risk of influenza as we move into fall and winter.
Mission executives have said the system is nowhere near its bed capacity and that it has adequate staffing. Some registered nurses at Mission Hospital have said otherwise, petitioning for additional staff as cases rise and calling hospital working conditions “very dangerous.”
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