ASHEVILLE – Local officials say social distancing measures “flatten the curve”, but local and other estimates vary up to a month from when the top of that curve – or the peak in cases – will produce.
In an April 6 community update, Fletcher Tove, director of public health emergency preparedness for Buncombe County, said that officials “know our social distancing measures are working” and that the best estimate is now that a peak begins between April 13 and April 27 for county and state. Tove did not provide any specific figures showing how social distancing worked.
But new modeling in North Carolina now indicates that the statewide peak will take place in May. This model gave two estimates based on when the social distancing measures are lifted.
Journalists submitted questions in advance for the continuous update. Some additional questions were answered through written messages sent via Facebook. Tove and two county spokespersons did not respond to the post-meeting message asking for information on the difference in estimate.
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Estimate the “peak”
A spike would not subside quickly and would last four to ten weeks, straining local health care systems, said Tove. In places like Italy and New York, this has forced doctors to make dark decisions about how to analyze a limited number of ventilators for patients who would die without them.
During the update, Tove responded to a question from the Citizen Times about whether he thought last week’s county estimate of a peak on April 20 was still the best.
He replied that the peak could occur in the next 7 to 21 days, that is, from April 13 to 27. For this reason, April was “critical,” he said.
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New state model
But the same afternoon, a statement from the office of Governor Roy Cooper spoke of the new model.
These estimates by academic and nonprofit researchers indicated that if strict social distancing measures were lifted in late April, a spike would occur in early May. If social distancing measures are continued in early May, the peak would be later in the month. They did not release county-level estimates.
County officials and the authors of the NC model have all agreed that social distancing and other measures such as hand washing are essential to stop the spread of the virus.
Tove at the time of the update said that the persons in charge “are examining several models”.
“I want to emphasize that the numerical predictions of such models are seldom accurate,” he said.
“The strength and usefulness of these models act as decision-making tools and show us which source of inputs and interventions have the greatest effect. So these models vary but they all tend to agree that North Carolina and Buncombe County will see our peak cases occur within the next 7 to 21 days. ”
Local home stay order likely to be extended
A local home stay order is likely to continue after April 9, Tove said.
While a statewide order is in effect until April 29, Buncombe has his own order with more stringent restrictions than the state order. It will expire Thursday. More stringent county restrictions have prohibited real estate agents from working outside the office, except in a few cases.
A project is being prepared to extend local order, said the director of civil protection. The new local order would be better aligned with that of the governor, “(but) there will still be some notable exceptions where the councils of Buncombe County are more restrictive than those of the governor,” said Tove.
Details should be discussed within 16 hours. April 8 community update.
Joel Burgess has lived at WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on subjects ranging from gerrymandering to the use of force by the police. Help us support this type of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.
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