March 12 is a solemn anniversary for Buncombe County. It’s the day we officially declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19 in 2020.
As I write this, more than 300 of our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, church members, and others are no longer part of our community due to this global pandemic. It’s been an arduous year of grief, perseverance, innovation, and generosity that’s brought us to this moment of cautious optimism.
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While paying respect to those we’ve lost, I feel compelled to recognize the sacrifice and collaboration of our community at-large. The County’s six municipalities, our two school systems, health care representatives, fire districts, law enforcement personnel, nonprofits, and other community leaders joined our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and pioneered crucial initiatives like providing to-go meals for newly homebound students and creating an interactive food assistance map.
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I’m painfully aware that counterbalancing success stories are narratives of small businesses that couldn’t stay afloat and families that missed meals, medications, and other basic necessities as the strain of a global pandemic amplified existing difficulties. In that spirit, I urge us all to exercise empathy, offer hospitality, carry other’s burdens when possible, and spur each other toward good deeds. As we get closer to the common goal of normalcy through vaccines and herd immunity, please remain diligent in exercising COVID etiquette and seek out those in our midst silently struggling.
Finally, I want to express heartfelt condolences to everyone who has experienced loss, struggled, and felt ravaged by the effects of this pandemic. Buncombe County thanks all our community partners, frontline and essential workers, the media, One Buncombe Fund donors, government employees, and everyone else dedicated to getting us through the pandemic. It’s not over, but we will honor the losses, sacrifices, and hard work that got us this far by persevering together to the end.
Avril Pinder is the Buncombe County Manager.