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Community spread confirmed in Jackson

Proactive testing by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has revealed community transmission of COVID-19 in Jackson County.

The Cherokee Indian Hospital began offering drive-thru testing on Thursday, April 2, setting up locations in the town of Cherokee and in Cherokee County. Testing is open to all enrolled members, residents of tribal land and essential employees who have access to the Qualla Boundary — people do not have to show symptoms in order to qualify for testing. 

In fact, the six people who have tested positive at the drive-thrus as of press time were all asymptomatic. Four of the six are Cherokee County residents, but on April 13 two Jackson County residents received positive test results. 

“What’s important for people to note is that all of these patients were asymptomatic,” Principal Chief Richard Sneed said in an April 13 video update. “They weren’t feeling sick. They didn’t have a fever. They didn’t have a cough. They were completely asymptomatic. They simply showed up for the testing and it turned out that they were already positive and did not even know that they were positive. That points to why it’s so important that everybody get tested.”

Between March 1 and April 14, the tribe administered 238 tests, of which 157 were negative and six were positive. An additional 75 tests await results. 

The two Jackson County cases are separate from each other, and both people are in isolation, said Jackson County Deputy Health Director Melissa McKnight. After investigating the patients’ travel history and close contacts, the department was unable to link the disease to an identifiable source.

“Based on the findings of our communicable disease investigation, we are able to confirm that we have community transmission in Jackson County,” said McKnight.

The department is working to identify close contacts of the COVID-19-positive residents, defined as those who were within 6 feet of the person for 10 minutes or longer. 

These confirmed cases make Jackson the 92nd county out of 100 to have at least one verified COVID-19 case among its residents, but the virus has been present in the county since before March 23. On that date, a part-time resident of the county tested positive. However, because that person’s primary residence is not in Jackson County, the case was attributed to the person’s home state rather than to North Carolina. A total of two cases have so far been confirmed in part-time residents. 

Case counts for both full-time and part-time Jackson County residents are posted at health.jacksonnc.org/covid19, and the EBCI is posting daily counts at www.ebci.com. A hotline for COVID-19 questions is open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 828.631.HELP. For more information about EBCI drive-thru testing, call 828.497.3743.

 

Second COVID-19 case confirmed in Macon

Macon County Public Health received notice on late Wednesday evening, April 8, that a second Macon County resident has tested positive for COVID–19.

The individual is between the ages of 25-49 with underlying health conditions and is in isolation in a health care facility. No further information will be released about this individual. Macon County Public Health is working to identify close contacts of the individual. The CDC defines close contact as being within approximately 6 feet of a person with an infection of COVID-19 case for 10 minutes or longer.

Based on information provided by the individual, county health officials will assess risks of exposure, determine which if any additional measures are needed such as temperature and symptom checks, quarantine and/or testing. The entire state of North Carolina is under a “Stay at Home” executive order. Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19; however, anyone of any age can become infected with this illness.

Macon County Public Health regularly updates its Facebook page with accurate and current information regarding COVID-19. Visit www.facebook.com/MaconPublicHealth. If you believe that you may have COVID-19, call the Health Department at 828.349.2517. 

 

Haywood COVID-19 cases in recovery

Haywood County has had three confirmed cases of COVID-19, but as of Tuesday, April 14, all three patients had recovered from the virus following the required 14-day quarantine. 

As of April 13, a total of 161 people in Haywood County have been tested for coronavirus — 139 of those tests came back negative, three came back positive and the health department is still waiting on the results of 19 tests. 

Being “recovered” means the patients have met the criteria to come out of isolation and are well. It means it’s been at least seven days since the onset of symptoms, at least 72 hours with no fever and off any medication that would suppress a fever and improve symptoms.

Post isolation recommendations are to continue good hand-washing practices, disinfecting surfaces, distancing measures and wearing a mask until fully well.

 

No confirmed cases in Swain

Swain County is one of the few counties in the state that hasn’t had one confirmed case of COVID-19 yet. 

According to the county’s website, 124 people have been tested, 112 tests have come back negative and the county is still waiting on the results for 12 people as of April 13.

Swain County implemented a State of Emergency on March 17, the same day Gov. Roy Cooper issued the statewide emergency order. Swain has also passed several amendments to its order that placed further restrictions on businesses and residents. As of March 31, anyone entering Swain County from another state or country had to self-quarantine for 14 days and bring enough supplies to last them the entire quarantine period. Then on April 8, Swain commissioners put a countywide curfew in place, telling residents not to be out and about from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless they are an essential employee driving to and from work. 

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