News in brief

Haywood offers COVID guidance amid surge

Over the past two months, Haywood County has seen a sustained high number of new COVID-19 cases. Hospitalizations and deaths are up again as well, though fortunately not at the levels we’ve seen in past surges.

As we navigate this latest surge, here is some practical guidance from Haywood County Health and Human Services:

• If over 50 years old, get a booster. Those with two booster doses had a four times lower risk of serious illness or death, compared to those with one booster dose. People will still be eligible for an Omicron-specific booster this fall. Whatever someone’s age, protection against infection is close to zero if it’s been a while since infection and/or last vaccination.

• If high-risk and infected, talk to your doctor about taking Paxlovid. This medication has been shown to markedly reduce the risk that someone will need hospitalization, but it must be started within five days of symptom onset. 

• Do not rely on the CDC community levels to estimate risk of infection. They indicate the risk of regional hospitals becoming overwhelmed due to COVID, not when it’s time to take action for individual protection, especially in crowded, indoor spaces.

• Increase ventilation. The concentration of virus in the air is what matters. That’s why indoors is riskier, especially when it’s hot and houses are closed up running air conditioning. Run a fan, keep exhaust fans running, add a portable HEPA filter-anything to keep the air moving.

• Use antigen tests properly. Don’t trust a single negative test. Repeat in 48 hours to be sure. If someone is infected, they shouldn’t leave isolation until you are well and test negative, even if that takes longer than the CDC guideline of five days. Up to 50% of people will remain infectious after five days.

• If you must go out, wear a well-fitting N95 or KN95 until well and test negative.

• If you have no symptoms and want to visit someone high risk or go to a gathering, test 48 hours before the event and again the morning of. If both are negative, you can feel comfortable proceeding.

• Vaccination appointments are available by appointment only, Monday through Friday from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Please call 828.356.2019 to schedule. Primary doses of Pfizer OR Moderna are available for everyone ages 6 months and up. Most people 5 and up are eligible for boosters five months after finishing the primary series. Some exceptions apply, check your booster eligibility here:


New drone technology will help emergency responders save lives in Haywood

Haywood County Emergency Services has a new tool in the form of a state-of-the-art flagship drone, which will be deployed starting this month under the Emergency Management department.

For several years, Haywood County has benefitted from the assistance of volunteer drone pilots brought in on a case-by-case basis. Now with its own unmanned aerial system, Emergency Management drone pilots can respond more quickly to disasters with a full complement of tools at their disposal.

The new drone is a DJI M30T, capable of 41 minutes of flight time on full batteries. It is equipped with a wide-angle lens, a 200X digital zoom lens, a high-resolution thermal camera, and a first-person view camera. 

The drone also has the capability to carry a spotlight and speaker which can be used to communicate with people on the ground.

It is also weather-proof, capable of withstanding rain, dust, dirt and a wide range of temperatures.

“This drone brings new capabilities to Emergency Services that we believe will save lives in the future,” said Emergency Manager Zack Koonce. “It has everything on our wish list and will be used in lifesaving missions, as well as for emergency management tasks such as mapping and damage assessment.”

The drone will also be available to provide services to other departments and agencies through mutual aid agreements.

“We see this new tool as a huge benefit, not only to our department but to the county and to its citizens. In the past, such technology was out of reach, being too cost-prohibitive. As technology improves and prices come down, we anticipate tools like drone-mounted thermal cameras will be essential to emergency response,” said Koonce.


Book pantry opens at Crabtree UMC

The “Book Pantry” has opened at Crabtree United Methodist Church, 5405 Crabtree Road in Haywood County adjacent to the 24/7 outdoor food pantry in the church’s upper parking lot.  The Book Pantry is similar to a little free library, where readers borrow a book or books and return a book or books, if possible. A limited selection of fiction, non-fiction, spiritual and children’s materials has been provided and will be monitored on a weekly basis to add new materials. Donations of books are also welcome.

The Book Pantry has been made possible through a gift from the family of the late Nina Small, a member of the Crabtree congregation. Through her professional career as a reading specialist, Mrs. Small instilled the love of reading in many children and Crabtree UMC is pleased to honor her in this way. Additional funds were provided by the Crabtree United Methodist Women, Crabtree United Methodist Men and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Patton.

For more information, contact Carla Woody, chair of the Mission Outreach Committee, at 828.627.3666.

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