COVID-19 News Updates 5/7/20

May 7, 2020

Here’s a round up of COVID-19 related news for 5/7/20. See our Coronavirus Resource Guide for extensive resources and information

Governor Cooper orders Phase 1 of reopening to begin tomorrow, May 8th 

On Monday, Governor Cooper announced that North Carolina will transition to Phase 1 of three-phase reopening plan starting on Friday. During Phase 1, the distinction between essential and nonessential businesses are removed, and some businesses are allowed limited reopening with reduced capacity. Businesses will be required to screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms, perform frequent cleanings, and provide hand sanitizer when available. Retail businesses are permitted to open at 50% capacity, and are required to operate under social distancing protocol.

Phase 1 will last for 2-3 weeks, or at least until May 22nd. After that, the state will determine whether or not we will move into Phase 2 based on data on hospital capacity, positive tests, and more.

N.C. General Assembly passes 2 relief bills worth nearly $1.6 billion 

Last week, the North Carolina General Assembly went back into session, and members quickly got to work on a relief package to help N.C. communities weather the COVID-19 crisis. Governor Cooper signed in two pieces of legislation worth about $1.6 billion into law based on that work done by the Assembly.  The relief package, which was passed unanimously, includes almost $1.6 billion in relief measures for critical expenditures related to public health and safety, educational needs, small business assistance, and continuity of state government operations. Of this amount, $1.4 billion has been appropriated and $150 million is set aside in a reserve fund for future local government needs.  The package also contains key policy changes to support North Carolinians as the state battles COVID-19.

HB 1043, the spending package, allocates federal funding sent to the state from the CARES Act. It includes:

  • $50 million to provide personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies
  • $25 million to support enhanced COVID-19 testing and tracing
  • $125 million in small business loans administered through the Golden LEAF Foundation
  • $50 million in health support for underserved communities including rural areas and minority communities
  • $95 million to support North Carolina hospitals
  • $20 million to support local health departments and the State Health Lab
  • $75 million for school nutrition programs
  • $70 million for summer learning programs
  • $30 million for local schools to purchase computers and other devices for students
  • $6 million for food banks
  • $9 million for rural broadband
  • $85 million for vaccine development, antibody testing, community testing, and other COVID-19-related research at Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, East Carolina University, Campbell University, and Wake Forest University.

Senate Bill 704 contained provisions to help North Carolinians. It includes:

  • An extension of driver’s license and registration expiration deadlines
  • Waived interest on tax payments normally due in April
  • Modifies end-of-grade testing requirements for public schools
  • Adjusts the 2020-21 K-12 public school calendar
  • Allows pharmacists to administer a COVID-19 vaccine once it is developed

Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Act signed into law, allowing tourism-related businesses impacted by COVID-19 to receive grants of up to $50,000

Mountain BizWorks set to administer $5 million emergency grant fund; application period opens May 15, with awards announced in mid-June

The $5 million Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund was enabled Monday for local tourism-related small businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis, thanks to legislation introduced by Sen. Chuck Edwards with support of the Buncombe County delegation, and signed into law on Monday by N.C. Governor Roy Cooper.
Senate Bill 704 allows the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to establish the fund for emergency grants of up to $50,000, available for businesses that provide a direct visitor experience, including restaurants, retail establishments, studios and galleries, attractions, tours and activities, entertainment and event venues, and breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries, among others. Grants can be used to help with rent, payroll, inventory, and other expenses associated with reopening. Priority will be given to small businesses that are local and independently owned. Lodging properties are not eligible.

The Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund will be administered by Mountain BizWorks, a local U.S. Treasury-certified nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) with a 30-year history of providing tailored small business financial services in the Asheville and region, and experience managing several emergency response funds.

The online application portal opens May 15 and runs through May 31. Awards will be announced in mid-June.  Learn more about the program, including opportunities for training and technical assistance in applying for grants here:

The recovery fund is established with occupancy tax revenue collected for the Tourism Product Development Fund, maintaining the purpose of the TPDF while responding to the unique needs of the coronavirus crisis. The Tourism Product Development Fund comes from 25 percent of the occupancy tax paid by people who visit and stay overnight in commercial lodging facilities in Asheville and Buncombe County.

Buncombe County updates Stay Home, Stay Safe declaration to mirror the state’s policy

To bring our community in closer alignment with Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 138, Buncombe County Public Health has issued a superseding Stay Home, Stay Safe Declaration that will go into effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 8, 2020 and will remain in effect until Friday, May 22, 2020 unless otherwise repealed, replaced, or rescinded and transitions to Phase 1 of slowly easing certain COVID-19 restrictions. This order aligns Buncombe County with Governor Cooper’s executive order with the sole exception of a continued restriction on Leisure Travel Booking.

Mass gatherings are still limited to 10 people or fewer. However, outdoor church and worship services will now be granted unlimited crowd size, as long as the group can still adhere to social distancing guidelines. Indoor church services are still limited to no more than 10 people. Child care will now be open for working parents and those seeking work. Campgrounds are allowed to operate for 828 area code residents. Outdoor sporting events and activities can occur with 10 or fewer participants as long as there is no close contact. Libraries can open at 50% capacity.

People who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are still strongly encouraged to stay home and travel only for absolutely essential purposes in Phase 1, but in general, people may go out for nonessential goods and services from any business that is not closed. The county also recommends wearing a cloth face covering,waiting at least six feet apart and avoiding close contact, and washing hands often and using hand sanitizer.

Some parks have reopened in Buncombe County 

Buncombe has reopened some of its parks that were shut down as part of the county’s effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Below are the parks that have reopened:

  • Collier Cove Nature Preserve on 194 Rhododendron Drive in Arden
  • Alexander River Park on 2589 Old Marshall Highway in Alexander
  • Bent Creek River Park on 1610 Brevard Road in Asheville
  • Corcoran Paige River Park on 9 Pinners Road in Arden
  • Glen Bridge River Park on 77 Pinners Road in Asheville
  • Hominy Creek River Park on 220 Hominy Creek Road in Asheville
  • Ledges Whitewater Park on 1080 Old Marshall Highway in Alexander
  • Walnut Island River Park on 3042 Old Marshall Highway in Alexander

While these parks are open, the County asks visitors to observe social distancing protocol and to stay home if they do not feel well. There are no restrooms or water fountains at the eight parks that are currently open; picnic tables, grills and fitness equipment remains closed.

Testing has expanded in Buncombe County

COVID-19 testing is available for people who think that they may have COVID-19. The Buncombe Ready COVID-19 Self Checker can help you assess whether or not you need to be tested for COVID-19. If your primary care provider does not offer COVID-19 testing, they can refer you to an option that works for you. Please go online or call ahead to schedule a visit and to confirm the location of the testing site.

Visit the County’s website for more information on testing sites.

Avadim Health to provide PPE to corporate and government channels to help protect front-line workers 

Avadim Health, Inc., a healthcare and wellness company, reports that federal, state and local government entities and large corporate organizations have begun providing Theraworx Protect to its employees and national drug and grocery chains have expanded their offerings of Avadim products with Theraworx Protect.  Theraworx Protect, previously used as the clinical hygiene solution for millions of ICU patients has now crossed over into corporate and government channels and expanded its consumer channels to help protect front-line employees and to serve as an advanced hygiene offering for consumers seeking innovative solutions.

Steve Woody, CEO of Avadim Health said,  “This product serves front-line essential employees and consumers seeking a hygiene solution that addresses the zone of viral entry- the T-Zone or eyes, nose and mouth. We always believed our hospital clinically proven brand has a major role to play for occupational and consumer health and our current situation has accelerated our timeline.”