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Jackson County fire chief dies from COVID

The COVID-19 death count in Jackson County nearly doubled over the holiday season, increasing from 10 as of Nov. 25 to 18 as of Jan. 4. One of the lives lost was that of 66-year-old Darrell Woodard, a fixture in the community who led the Savannah Fire Department as chief for 36 years. 

After he passed away Dec. 29, family members created a Facebook group in his memory, and it has since filled with posts remembering him as kind, courageous, family-oriented and humor-loving, written by friends and loved ones full of disbelief that he could be gone so soon. 

“Everyone involved with Jackson County N.C. Emergency Management would like to send our deepest condolences to the family of 701 Chief Darrell Woodard and the Savannah Fire Department,” reads a Dec. 30 statement from Jackson County Emergency Management. “You are in all of our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

As of Jan. 4, Jackson County had logged 2,419 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began — a 77 percent increase from the 1,366 cases confirmed Nov. 25. Equivalent to 551 cases per 10,000 residents, that’s the highest rate of the seven western counties. By comparison, Swain County is currently reporting 508 cases per 10,000, Macon County 433 cases per 10,000 and Haywood County 374 cases per 10,000.

However, the picture shifts somewhat when looking at cases per 10,000 residents in the past 14 days. Swain County leads the pack with 116, then there’s Macon with 96, Jackson at 88 and Haywood at 82. 

Those figures all come from the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, because as of Dec. 24 Jackson County Department of Public Health stopped maintaining its local COVID-19 dashboard to rely solely on the state dashboard instead. According to a Dec. 23 press release, the local dashboard was created at the beginning of the pandemic, when “access to local data wasn’t easily accessible, robust or thorough.” The state website has become much more comprehensive since that time, though it still lacks many of the data breakdowns offered by the local site. 

“Case investigation, case management, contact tracing and vaccine administration has reduced the capacity of JCDPH staff to support the Jackson County, NC COVID-19 Data Dashboard,” the press release said. The department decided to forgo updating the local dashboard in an effort to “streamline services and focus efforts on what is most important.”


Elderly in Haywood can pre-register for vaccine

Beginning Jan. 6, Haywood County residents over the age of 75, who have not already been included in a previous vaccination group, may begin pre-registering for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. 

As Haywood County prepares to move into the next phases of vaccine distribution, the health department is asking for residents to pre-register so staff can develop a list of those interested in being contacted when vaccines are available.

Initially, there will not be enough vaccine doses available to vaccinate everyone who will want to be, but this list will provide a starting point to begin scheduling as vaccines arrive.

Register at vaccine or call 828.356.2019.

This registry system is not for people in long-term care facilities or who work in healthcare and have already been contacted about vaccination. 

Long-term care residents and staff, including residents age 75 and older, are in the state’s Phase 1A and are currently receiving vaccinations through a federal vaccination partnership with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. People living and working in these facilities are being contacted by facility administrators to schedule their appointments.

Haywood County Public Health and local hospitals are continuing to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals identified in Phase 1A of the state’s rollout plan. This priority group includes frontline health care workers at most risk of direct exposure to COVID-19. People in this group who are eligible to receive the vaccine are being contacted by their employers to schedule their appointments.

There is no cost to the patient when receiving the COVID-19 vaccine through Public Health. Appointments are only for Haywood County residents. The COVID-19 vaccine requires two shots that are spaced several weeks apart. Those who pre-register will be contacted to schedule the initial appointment and an appointment for a person’s second vaccination will be scheduled when they receive their first shot. 

For more information on vaccine prioritization plans:

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