Here’s a round up of COVID-19 related news for 7/31/20. See our Coronavirus Resource Guide for extensive resources and information.
North Carolina as a whole
With actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 beginning to have impact, Governor Roy Cooper is doubling down on prevention measures with Executive Order 153 stopping the sale of alcoholic drinks in restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries at 11 pm. North Carolina bars that are currently closed will remain closed. This order will take effect Friday, July 31.
“Slowing the spread of this virus requires targeted strategies that help lower the risk of transmission,” said Governor Cooper. “This will be particularly important as colleges and universities are scheduled to start, bringing people all over the country to our state. We have seen case numbers increase among younger people, and prevention is critical to slowing the spread of the virus.”
The order will not apply to grocery stores, convenience stores or other entities permitted to sell alcohol for off-premises consumption. Local governments that have implemented orders that end alcohol sales before 11 pm or that apply to other entities remain in effect.
After setting all-time records for unemployment in April and May, the Asheville area and Buncombe County saw unemployment numbers drop significantly in June, landing under 10 percent.
Buncombe County’s unemployment rate came in at 9.8% for June, dropping from 17% in May. For the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties, the rate fell to 8.9% from an all-time high of 15.6% in May 2020.
Today, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released a Request for Applications for regional partner organizations to administer an innovative new program to support individuals in targeted counties who need supports like food and transportation to successfully quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19.
“Quarantine is a critical part of slowing the spread of COVID-19, but we can’t ignore the strain it puts on people’s everyday lives,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “This program will ease the burden of isolation for North Carolinians in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by this virus.”
In the Isolation Supports program, people in target counties who are directed to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 may apply to receive one or more of five social supports to help them do so: nutrition assistance such as home-delivered meals or groceries; a relief payment to offset temporary loss of income or ability to look for work; transportation; medication delivery; and COVID-related supplies such as a mask or cleaning supplies.
DHHS released the RFA today in order to select regional partners who will administer the program in their area, including directly providing or contracting with local organizations that can collectively provide the full array of support services, handling invoicing, reimbursement, and reporting functions related to the delivery of support services, and working closely with local health care professionals who will be referring and coordinating services.
Buncombe County Schools will begin the fall semester with a “Plan B Beyond” that emphasizes remote learning. This decision comes days after Asheville City Schools announced that they would start out the fall semester with 3 months of remote-only learning. Under Plan B Beyond, Buncombe County will still kick off the semester on August 17th. 39% of students across the system have chosen to be completely remote for the first semester. The remaining 61% of students will be under a hybrid learning plan for the first 6 weeks of the year depending on their age brackets.
Kindergarten-8th grade: will be divided into A/B groups. Monday-Thursday, the groups will alternate between days in the class and days at home. Friday will be remote for everyone. Starting August 24th, they will go fully remote for 5 weeks.
9th-12th grades: will also be divided into A/B groups. This age bracket will follow the same pattern: alternating between classroom and at home for Monday-Thursday, and both groups fully remote on Friday. Starting August 31st, they will go fully remote for 4 weeks.
Before Sept. 28, the school board will evaluate coronavirus metrics and determine how to proceed with the rest of the semester.
Governor Roy Cooper announced that an additional $150 million in federal funds provided for COVID-19 relief to counties has been disbursed this week. These funds are from the state-administered Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) that was passed by Congress. The funds represent the second half of $300 million appropriated by statute to county governments. Counties are required to offer a minimum of 25% of their total allocation of the funds to municipalities.
“During this pandemic people across North Carolina rely on their local governments for essential health and safety help close to home. Local governments need stability and funding to cover the costs of Covid-19 response and we are working quickly to get these resources where they are needed,” said Governor Cooper.
Buncombe County received just over $5 million in this second round of allocations, for a total of $9,568,844 during both funding rounds.