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Coronavirus updates from Macon County officials

Macon County Board of Commissioners held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss how the county is preparing to deal with the Coronavirus locally. 

As already reported, a New York resident who tested positive for COVID-19 in Buncombe County is now isolated in her home in Macon County. 

Macon Health Director Carmine Rocco said the health department has been in communication with the patient, who is being cooperative and staying at home until she is recovered from the virus. So far, he said her symptoms have been mild and manageable. While he isn't certain of her contact with anyone between Buncombe and Macon County, the patient has said her contact was very limited in Macon and someone else was sent to do some shopping for her while she’s in isolation. 

So far in Macon County, Rocco said the health department has administered 32 tests — five have been negative and the remaining tests are pending results. A drive-thru testing/screening center began on Monday at the health department to limit the number of people entering the building.  

The health department also has a call center number — 828.349.2517 — for residents to call and receive consultation before deciding whether they need to come to the health department for testing. 

“We’re only testing (for COVID-19) if you have a fever of 100.4 or higher and if you’re exhibiting respiratory illness like coughing or shortness of breath and if you test negative for the flu,” he said. “Other medical providers are being asked to use their discretion when recommending people for testing (at the health department).”

Private providers can also administer their own tests using their discretion. Right now the COVID-19 testing involves a nasal swab and a throat swab. Rocco said the Macon health department only has a few testing kits but is expecting another shipment of 30 tests soon. 

“This is a historic event and it could last for several months. We want to look back and be proud of how we’ve reacted to it,” he said. 

 

Sheriff Robbie Holland said his staff was working to reduce its detention center population to make things more manageable. Last week Macon had over 100 inmates and as of Tuesday the number was down to 90. Since the jail only holds 75 people, 15 inmates are being housed in other facilities. 

“A few were able to make bond for minor offenses… five had bond modifications and one case was dismissed,” he said. 

As for rumors and reports that the court system had come to a halt, Holland said that wasn’t true. 

“Courts are in process. We’re still conducting court procedures, especially for those incarcerated — they still have a right to due process. We’re still doing bond hearings, probable cause hearings, domestic violence cases,” he said. 

The jail is working on setting up more teleconference capabilities to allow inmates to still have visitation with family and to appear before judges without having to be transported to the courthouse. 

After hearing from department heads, Commissioner Chairman Jim Tate said he finds solace in the fact that Macon County has a healthy fund balance, which is set aside in case of emergencies. 

“We have six months of expenses set aside,” he said. “My fear is that our budgets could get blown due to unexpected expenditures and there’s also a good chance projected revenues aren't going to be met for obvious reasons.”

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