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Jackson reports first coronavirus death

Jackson County reported its first coronavirus death on Monday, May 4. 

According to the county’s health department, the patient was over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions. To protect the family’s privacy, the department won’t release any further information about the patient. 

The news makes Jackson the third of the seven western counties to report a death from COVID-19 as of press time. Cherokee and Macon counties have each reported one such death, according to data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. However, just to the east 21 deaths have been reported in Henderson County and four in Buncombe. 

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of this individual.” said Health Director Shelley Carraway. “We also want to reiterate the importance of staying home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Everyone, whether you are a full-time resident, part-time resident or otherwise, should be staying home as much as possible and continuing to practice social distancing when you must go out.” 

As of press time Tuesday, May 5, 20 full-time residents and 2 part-time residents had tested positive for the virus, with Jackson County health providers reporting an additional 19 positive tests from people who do not live in Jackson County. Those figures have increased significantly from Tuesday, April 28, when the county reported 13 full-time residents, two part-time residents and nine non-residents testing positive. 

To date, 837 COVID-19 tests have been administered in Jackson County. 

The health department began including the section on diagnoses of non-residents in its daily report after three subcontractors working on the Apodaca Science Building construction project at Western Carolina University — none of whom were county residents — tested positive for the disease. However, Deputy Health Director Melissa McKnight emphasized that the non-resident metric is not directly related to the worksite. 

“Many from the construction site were not from Jackson County and did not get tested for COVID-19 in Jackson County,” said Deputy Health Director Melissa McKnight. “They went to their place of residence — whether that is out-of-county or out-of-state — to be tested.  At this time, I don’t have a way to track those individuals.”

There are about 229 workers on the site, according to a spokesperson for contractor Skanska USA. The spokesperson would not answer any further questions specific to the worksite but said that the company has implemented additional health and safety measures to address COVID-19 exposure risks. These include a zero tolerance for working sick policy, providing hand sanitizer and wash stations, increased cleaning and sanitization by third-party specialist cleaning contractors, strengthening glove policy requirements, screening measures at jobsite entry gates, required social distancing and additional PPE requirements where construction activity prevents adequate social distancing. 

Jackson County updates are posted on the Jackson County Department of Public Health website, or by calling the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center at 828.631.HELP.


Haywood County 

Despite being mostly spared from large numbers of COVID-19 diagnoses, Haywood County's totals have continued to grow slowly in recent days and have more than doubled since April 28.

After adding three new cases on April 29 — bringing the total to 10 — and then adding another five on April 30, yet another confirmed case was announced in a press release issued by the county May 1, bringing the total to 17. As of press time Tuesday, Haywood had confirmed 18 cases. 

Out of the 18 cases, 13 remain active and five have recovered. As yet there have been no coronavirus-related deaths in Haywood County.


Macon County

Macon County Public Health received notice on Wednesday, April 29, that a third Macon County resident has tested positive for COVID–19.

The individual is between the ages of 25-49, the patient had contact with a known COVID-19 case outside of Macon County. The patient is not experiencing any symptoms and will isolate at home for 14 days. No further information will be released about this individual. Macon County Public Health is working to identify close contacts of the individual.

On April 30, Macon County officials released a press release stating that regulations imposed in Macon County in connection with the COVID-19 Pandemic will be repealed, canceled and ended effective 5 p.m. May 8, while Gov. Cooper’s orders are still valid and remain in full force and effect, including a stay at home order, limits on mass gatherings, and retain social distancing requirements.

“With the number of COVID-19 positive patients having a minimal impact to date on the health care system in Macon County and with provisions available to pause reopening actions or take further actions deemed necessary and appropriate in the future, the regulations so imposed by the Emergency Management Coordinator are deemed no longer necessary as of May 8,” the press release stated. 

As of May 4, 137 people in Macon County had been tested. Of the three positive cases, one is considered active, one is in recovery and one died. Fourth tests are still pending. 


Swain County

As of press time Tuesday, Swain County had six confirmed cases of COVID-19 after 608 tests have been administered. However, 98 of those tests are still pending. After consideration, Swain County commissioners voted to lift its supplemental restrictions on May 5 due to the low number of cases. 

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