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More COVID-19 outbreaks reported in WNC

According to the Haywood County Health Department, a significant number of the close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases recently identified by contact tracers have refused to participate in contact tracing, testing, and/or quarantine.

“These people are at higher risk of being pre-symptomatic carriers of the virus and are putting the rest of the community at risk,” the department stated in a press release. “This is all the more reason to keep wearing a face mask that covers your nose and mouth, wash your hands regularly, and keep a distance of six feet between yourself and anyone who doesn’t live in your house.”

In the past two weeks, Haywood County has had COVID-related deaths, a significant outbreak at Silver Bluff nursing home in Canton and a COVID cluster at a place of business. The outbreak at Silver Bluff accounts for many cases since it has affected both residents and staff. Some staff have infected family members.

In just over a week, Haywood County saw 74 new COVID-19 cases. On July 31, Haywood County’s COVID-19 working number — representing individuals who are currently in isolation or quarantine due to exposure — was 198 people. Of those, 53 cases were in isolation after testing positive and 145 people were in quarantine because they have been identified as close contacts of known cases during contact tracing efforts. All are being monitored by the Haywood County COVID-19/contact tracing team.

“We’ve also seen our case numbers rise dramatically in July. When we take a closer look at our cases, we do see patterns and connections that help give perspective,” the press release stated. 

A COVID-19 outbreak is defined as two or more cases of COVID-19 found in staff or patients in a long-term care Facility and it is a serious public health concern. 

The cluster identified at a business has had five positive staff members who’ve infected family and friends. The North Carolina Division of Public Health defines clusters of COVID-19 in workplace, educational, and other community settings as a minimum of five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible linkage between cases where cases were present in the same setting during the same time period.

“We mostly see new cases related to existing cases (family or work spread.) We still have cases pop up where the individual has no idea how they were exposed, which is an indicator of community spread,” said Health Director Patrick Johnson.

Haywood has had a total of 348 positive COVID-19 cases — of those, 207 are recovered and six have died. More than 6,880 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the county.

“If you have symptoms such as headache, fever, cough, shortness of breath or loss of sense of smell don’t wait, get tested,” said Johnson. “If your doctor isn’t providing testing, contact one of the local urgent cares. Call first for pre-emptive screening and to find out what the current protocols are for when you arrive. It’s also important to understand that anyone tested for COVID-19, even as a standard pre-operative precaution, needs to stay home and self-quarantine away from other family members as able until test results are received, and then follow instructions according to the test results.”

As of Tuesday, Jackson County’s COVID-19-related deaths were at four. All the deaths have been people over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions. In total, Jackson has had 412 positive cases, but a majority of them are considered recovered. As of Tuesday, only 33 people were in isolation.

Jackson County also had an outbreak at a nursing home, Skyland Care Center, that was announced July 17 when five residents tested positive. 

Macon County was up to 460 total cases as of press time Tuesday, but 387 of those are recovered. The county has 70 active cases, 236 tests pending and three COVID-19-related deaths. 

The latest outbreak in Macon was reported Monday at Drake Cottage, a congregate living facility. Four staff/patients tested positive. All the residents and staff of Drake Cottage were tested for COVID-19 at the direction MCPH’s Medical Director and Drake Cottage. All results have been received, and all residents and staff will be tested again later in the week. 

Swain County has had a total of 106 positive cases, but only 10 of those cases are still considered active and those residents are in isolation. There have been two COVID-19-related deaths and 229 test results are still pending. 

In North Carolina, COVID-19 cases were up to 128,161 on Aug. 4 — 2,019 deaths and 1,166 hospitalizations were reported. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has free community testing events coming up, including one in Highlands from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 8; in Jackson County from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 12 at 164 WBI Dr., Dillsboro and Graham County from noon to 2 p.m. at 50 Fontana Rd., Fontana Dam. 

For more information, visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/about-covid-19/testing/find-my-testing-place/pop-testing-sites.

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