ASHEVILLE – As of noon June 9, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services tallied 37,160 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide. That’s an increase of 676 from the previous day, the lowest daily increase since June 2.
That number differs slightly from the Johns Hopkins University report in the graphic above.
NCDHHS counts a total of 1,029 deaths associated with lab-tested COVID-19 statewide, an increase of 23 over the previous day, with 774 people hospitalized across the state.
As of about noon June 9, Buncombe County reported 401 total cases and 34 deaths.
Buncombe reported that 29 nursing home residents have died or COVID-19, about 85% of all related deaths in the county.
Confirmed cases in other Western North Carolina counties, according to state counts:
- Avery: 6 case, 0 deaths.
- Cherokee: 22 cases, 1 death.
- Clay: 8 cases, 0 deaths.
- Graham: 5 cases, 0 deaths.
- Haywood: 63 cases, 0 deaths.
- Henderson: 379 cases, 47 deaths.
- Jackson: 55 cases, 1 death.
- Macon: 157 cases, 1 death.
- Madison: 3 cases, 0 deaths.
- McDowell: 101 cases, 1 death.
- Mitchell: 13 cases, 0 deaths.
- Polk: 48 cases, 4 deaths.
- Swain: 23 cases, 0 deaths.
- Transylvania: 16 cases, 1 deaths.
- Watauga: 39 cases, 0 deaths.
- Yancey: 21 cases, 0 deaths.
The Citizen Times is providing this story for free to readers because of the need for information about the coronavirus. We encourage you to further support local journalism by subscribing.
Universal nursing home testing?
Of the 34 Buncombe County residents who have died of the novel coronavirus, 85% have been nursing home residents.
Joel Burgess reports that Buncombe’s top elected official, Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman, has called for the county to officially recommend that all nursing homes do regular COVID-19 testing whether or not they have experienced a case.
Interim Health Director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore and other local health officials have said regular universal testing is a good idea, but that local nursing homes face barriers, including lack of funding, personal protective equipment, lab capacity and personnel.
More: Asheville, Buncombe coronavirus deaths, cases climb; nursing homes hardest hit
Smokies is close to 100% open
It might actually feel like spring to Western North Carolina outdoor lovers now that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is almost 100% reopened.
Karen Chávez reports the country’s most visited national park, which covers a half-million acres of rugged mountains, forests, rivers and waterfalls on the North Carolina-Tennessee border, reopened some of its most popular trails and facilities June 8, after having been shut down since the end of March due to coronavirus pandemic precautions.
More: Great Smoky Mountains draws crowds as more park facilities, visitor centers reopen
Are schools on track to open?
In a June 8 briefing, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper and state education leaders unveiled interim guidance on Monday to the state’s public schools about safety provisions for teaching children when classes are slated to resume in August.
The Associated Press reports the guidance requires schools to create three plans for instruction based on data trends in the coming weeks and months. Two of the plans require levels of social distancing at schools. The other would revert to remote learning again should trends continue to worsen.
Cooper and DHHS will announce by July 1 how schools can safely reopen for the new year.
“Opening schools will depend on our health metrics,” Cooper said. “We very much want to open the school buildings, but we won’t open them and make a reckless decision when it’s so important.”
More: Gov. Cooper warns school opening could be delayed as NC COVID-19 cases increase
Is a return of high school sports in the works?
David Thompson reports that the state high school sports association has released Phase 1 of three phases for the return of high school sports, which have been shut down because of the pandemic. The guidelines apply to all sports, and students must complete a physical examination form, initial screening questions and a daily monitoring form.
Athletes in all sports will be allowed to begin limited workouts, but there will be efforts to prevent physical contact and shared equipment. Schools must provide hand santizer stations clean surfaces after every workout.
Spectators are not allowed in Phase 1. Parents can remain in their cars.
More: High school sports to return on June 15, with restrictions
Outdoor gear manufacturers crank out PPE
As businesses shut down in March to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, Kitsbow, which makes high-end tops, bottoms, jackets and other athletic wear for cyclists, pivoted to the production of personal protective equipment.
Karen Chávez reports that more than two months later, the company, along with other members of Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, have weathered the coronavirus quarantine and continue make PPE, while slowly restarting their pre-pandemic businesses of making tents, packs and bicycle parts and apparel.
More: Kitsbow, other WNC outdoor gear makers still hiring as they increase PPE production
It was a unique ending to the school year, as measure designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus included the closing of school building and a shift to remote learning.
Limits on crowd sizes and social distancing also forced big changes in graduation ceremonies, as drive-thru diploma pickups replaced the traditional walk to the stage.
Citizen Times photographers were on hand at many Buncombe County schools to capture the scene.