Asheville amends emergency plan, cuts allowed crowd size to under 100 on city property
ASHEVILLE - In an amendment to its recent state of emergency declaration, city leaders are now forbidding crowds of 100 people or more people on city property.
The original March 12 declaration spurred by the coronavirus pandemic forbade 250 people or more. But less than a day later, shortly after 9:30 a.m. March 13, officials announced an amendment, lowering the threshold.
The change came after new guidance from the governor's office.
"Subsequent to the city's declaration of a state of emergency, Gov. Roy Cooper issued guidance recommending the cancellation or postponement of gatherings and events likely to draw 100 or more persons," the amendment said.
The amendment was issued as the City Council held its annual retreat at the Harrah's Cherokee Center-Asheville in the Banquet Hall. The retreat, which does not include public comment, was being live-streamed.
Working to prevent exposure
As of the morning of March 13, there were 17 confirmed cases of people infected in North Carolina. There are none in Buncombe County. The closest case was in Spartanburg, South Carolina, an hour away from Buncombe.
Health officials have said people at high risk — those over the age of 65 or with underlying health conditions — should avoid large gatherings as much as possible, including church services, concerts and sporting events.
The city also is exploring ways to allow people to participate in meetings without physically attending. Officials are seeking advice on legal aspects from experts with the UNC School of Government, Mayor Esther Manheimer said.
A state of emergency for all of North Carolina was declared by Cooper on March 10, activating the Emergency Operations Center, which will help agencies coordinate their responses.
North Carolina's emergency declaration also allows the state government to protect consumers from price gouging, increases county health departments' access to state funds and makes it easier to purchase essential medical supplies, according to Cooper's office.
The state declaration preceded a March 11 announcement by World Health Organization that COVID-19 was a global pandemic with more than 100,000 cases of the respiratory illness in over 100 countries. The WHO reported early this month that the death rate for the virus was 3.4%.
Buncombe County has also declared a local state of emergency, giving it access to state and federal resources and better enabling all units of government to work together. County staff recommended that rules be changed to allow the quick transfer of $250,000 from the county's fund balance to its public health services if needed.
What to do if you suspect coronavirus
If you think you have COVID-19, officials advise that you first call your doctor. If you do not have a doctor, call the Buncombe health department's communicable disease line at 828-250-5109.