ASHEVILLE — COVID-19 rates are rising in Buncombe County and around North Carolina, but hospitalizations are still low in the western part of the state.
According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, which monitors levels of the virus that causes COVID-19 from wastewater treatment plants across the state, Buncombe County has had the highest virus levels since April 14. Levels of COVID-19 being monitored at the Buncombe County Metropolitan Sewer District are currently in the mid-40s.Th and 60Th Percentage compared to past levels measured at the same site.
This is based on data as of August 2, the most recent available as of August 10.
“We’ve seen COVID wax and wane, rise and fall over the years,” Buncombe County Health and Human Services Medical Director Jennifer Mullandore told the Citizen Times on Aug. 10. “We’ve seen an increase in cases or an increase in COVID. Trends in the summer months, often in the winter months. It’s a natural trend of ups and downs that we’ve been seeing since the beginning.
Hospitalizations are still low across western North Carolina. As of Aug. 5, the state’s most recent seven-day average for hospitalized patients with COVID was 21, according to NCDHHS. Buncombe County is still in the Centers for Disease Control’s “green zone,” with the lowest number of hospitalizations in its three-color system. The number of serious cases of COVID-19 in local hospitals has not risen recently.
According to AdventHealth Hendersonville spokeswoman Victoria Dunkle, the number of people coming to the hospital’s emergency department with COVID-19 has increased, but none of the patients are severe enough to be hospitalized. According to Dunkle, a total of eight patients at the hospital have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week, but all have been discharged home.
Chris Parsons, medical director of the UNC Pardee Center for Infectious Diseases, said in a statement that UNC Pardee has not seen a dramatic increase in hospitalizations. Parsons said the hospital is seeing an average of two to three Covid patients each day. Less than 10% of PCR tests performed at the hospital turned out to be positive.
Mission Hospital spokeswoman Nancy Lindel said in a statement that the hospital has not seen an increase in COVID-19 patients and that “no more than 11 patients” were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 at Mission in the past week.
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Parsons noted, “Other areas of the state — particularly large metro areas — are experiencing an increase in cases, and our community typically doesn’t see those kinds of increases after a few weeks.” Several wastewater facilities in the Charlotte area currently have the highest percentage of Covid-19 virus levels in the mid-80s.Th and 99Th percent. Many in Raleigh are in their mid-60sTh and 80Th percent.
Mullandor said he couldn’t predict whether the numbers would continue to rise, but pointed to ways people can protect themselves from getting sick.
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“We’ve learned through this pandemic that we have better tools to protect ourselves from serious illness,” Mullandor added. He said there are Covid-19 boosters and pointed to an updated vaccine available by the end of September. Mullandor said people should wash their hands, cover coughs and sneezes, get tested for the disease and stay home when people are sick.
“Covid is part of our lives. It’s not going away anytime soon. We have to have a healthy respect for that and take appropriate action,” Mullendore said.
Mitchell Black covers Buncombe County and healthcare for the Citizen Times. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MitchABlack. Please help support local journalism subscription to Citizen Times.