COVID-19 News Update: 8/28/20

August 28, 2020

Here’s a round up of COVID-19 related news for 8/28/20. See our Coronavirus Resource Guide for extensive resources and information.

Here are the COVID-19 stats for Buncombe County and North Carolina

Buncombe County 

  • Positive cases: 2,385
  • Last week’s number of positive cases: 2,166

North Carolina as a whole 

  • Positive cases: 162,491
  • Last week’s number of positive cases: 149,904

North Carolina announces $175 million to assist with rental and utility payments for state residents

Governor Roy Cooper announced $175 million to help North Carolinians with rental and utility payment support in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 has strained family finances across North Carolina, and many people are struggling to make ends meet,” said Governor Cooper. “People need a safe, stable place to call home, especially during this pandemic, and we must help keep people in their homes and keep their utilities on while our economy recovers.”

Approximately $94 million of the funding will be disbursed by the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) to support rental and utility payments and prevent evictions for those with a demonstrated need. The funding will be distributed to eligible community agencies around the state that will work directly with North Carolinians on an application and disbursement process.

Information about how people can apply for the NCORR program and the ESG-GV program will be shared once the programs have launched in the coming weeks.

The application process for local governments to apply for the Commerce-administered funding has opened. Eligible local governments who would like to apply for the Commerce CDBG-CV program can click here to learn more.

NCDHHS Launches “¡Recuerda las 3Ms!” Campaign to Increase Awareness of Preventative Measures to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

The “¡Recuerda las 3Ms!” (Know your 3Ms) campaign was launched this week by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) as part of a larger public outreach campaign designed to reach historically marginalized populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

This campaign, which will run in parallel with the “Know Your 3Ws!” English-language campaign, is designed to increase awareness of preventative measures for Spanish-speaking North Carolinians. The 3Ms campaign, originating in Spanish and created by native Spanish speakers, is an authentic and memorable interpretation of the three key steps to prevention, known in English as: Wear. Wait. Wash.

“It is critical that we create public awareness campaigns that directly reach our Spanish-speaking community. In English, many of us are familiar with ‘Know Your 3Ws’. Now, in Spanish, I hope everyone becomes familiar with ‘¡Recuerda las 3Ms!’,” said Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “By practicing these simple steps, we can all do our part to slow the spread of this virus.”

Buncombe County Election Services preps for upcoming election season

Corrine Duncan, county election services director, says that the department has been focusing on creating modified safety procedures since March to ensure everyone has the opportunity to safely cast their vote. “Voters might, understandably, be apprehensive about going out in public to vote during this election,” she said in a video “In order to reduce crowds, we’re trying to spread voters across voting methods.”

Those three available methods are:

  • Absentee by mail, for which requests are due Oct. 27.
  • Early voting, which is available Oct. 15-31.
  • Election Day voting, which will be Nov. 3.

Buncombe County Board of Elections has already received 25,000 absentee requests for mail-in ballots this year. ‘

To vote absentee by mail, an application must be submitted to the election services office. That application form is available on the board’s website, Voters can also get the form in person at the office at 77 McDowell Street, in Asheville.

The request form can be mailed, faxed or hand-delivered to the elections office. The deadline for submitting it is Oct. 27. The United States Postal Service has recommended that those mailing in the request for an absentee ballot send it in a week earlier, by Oct. 20.

The first mail-in ballots will go out Sept. 4. Those who have already submitted a request will get their ballot within two weeks of that day, Duncan said. The ballot will arrive with instructions and voters will need a witness when they fill it out. Once the ballot is complete, voters can either mail it in or drop it off in person.

Voting in person will be similar during early voting and on Election Day, but it will look different from elections of the past. Sadly, there will be no “I Voted” stickers. 

“If you choose to vote in person, you’ll be greeted by a greeter who will offer hand sanitizer and, if you don’t have a mask, they’ll have masks available for you,” said Duncan.

The State Board of Elections has directed that no one can be turned away from an election site for not wearing a mask.

“But we want voting to be safe, so we strongly encourage that you do (wear a mask) and that you make sure to social distance,” said Duncan.

Great Smokies reopen campgrounds and picnic areas for Labor Day weekend

In time for the crush of Labor Day weekend crowds, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will reopen all of its campgrounds that had been closed since March for COVID-19 safety mandates.

Starting Sept. 3, the following campgrounds will reopen: Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cataloochee and Cosby Campgrounds, and Big Creek, Cataloochee, Round Bottom and Tow String Horse Camps.  Heintooga and Look Rock picnic areas and Little Greenbrier Road will also reopen Sept. 3.

The only campground to remain closed is Look Rock on the Tennessee side of the park, which is still closed for rehabilitation. All group campsites will remain closed.