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COVID-19 deaths continue across the region

COVID-19 deaths continue across the region

Macon County Public Health received notification Aug. 30 that a Macon County resident between the ages of 65-74 who was diagnosed with COVID-19 passed away. This death brings Macon County to 44 deaths related to COVID-19.

“This family is in our thoughts and prayers as they mourn the loss of their loved one,” said Health Director Kathy McGaha. “Macon County residents can help protect themselves and others in our community by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Macon County has appointments available for the lifesaving vaccine for everyone who is 12 years old and older. The more individuals who get this vaccine, the more likely that we will stop seeing COVID-19 deaths.”

Haywood County Health and Human Services received notice of two more COVID-19 deaths on Aug. 24, bringing the total deaths in Haywood to 108. One individual was between the ages of 80-85 and died at Haywood Regional Medical Center on Aug. 16. The immediate cause of death was COVID-19 pneumonia.

The other individual was between the ages of 80-85 and died at Haywood Regional Medical Center on Aug. 17. The immediate cause of death was acute hypoxic respiratory failure, COVID-19.

“We at Haywood County Health and Human Services extend our deepest sympathies to the family and loved ones during this time of loss,” said Health Director Sarah Henderson. “COVID-19 is a serious and sometimes deadly illness. We ask everyone to consider the pain and loss this virus can bring with it and do everything you can to help prevent its spread.”

Between Aug. 17 and Aug. 24, Haywood County Public Health received notice of 226 new cases of COVID-19. According to the CDC, all of North Carolina is listed as an area of high community transmission. All surrounding states are also high-transmission areas. 

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Mask-wearing indoors is now highly recommended in such areas. Masks are now required in Haywood County facilities, including the libraries, for employees and the public. Parents are strongly recommended to encourage their school-age children to wear masks at school.

“Between COVID-19, severe weather, staffing concerns, and several other factors, Haywood County is faced with a critical situation. The emergency medical system is stretched to its capacity. Hospitals throughout the region are full. Patients needing transport by ambulance are having to wait outside, sometimes for hours, in the ambulance before a bed in the emergency department is available,” Henderson said. “Everyone needs to be aware of the seriousness of the situation and take steps to stay safe. Avoid unnecessary travel, dangerous activities, and take all safety precautions to protect your health and wellbeing in a time when medical care options are under more pressure than usual.”

Swain County is also reporting high community transmission of COVID-19. As of Aug. 24, the county had 89 active COVID-19 cases in Swain County and 19 deaths.

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Citizens who test positive for COVID-19 are encouraged to reach out to friends or family that meet the close contact criteria and encourage them to self-quarantine and get tested five to six days after their exposure to the individual who tested positive. The end goal is to reduce community spread and keep COVID numbers on the downward trend.

Businesses need to be mindful that having quarantined employees return to work too quickly could cause a cluster of cases in the workplace. 


Masks required in Jackson County buildings

After a three-month lapse, Jackson County has re-instituted its masking requirement for county facilities. The mandate applies when entering “interior public spaces” and being within 6 feet of another person. 

The county is under a state of emergency and has been since March 16, 2020, but falling positivity rates and case numbers led to a May 17 supplementary order lifting previous requirements to wear a mask and social distance when inside county facilities. The May 17 order followed a May 14 executive order lifting the statewide mask mandate that had been in effect at that time. 

Due to rising rates of positive test results and hospitalizations for COVID-19, Jackson County reinstituted its indoor mask mandate for county facilities in an Aug. 27 amendment to the declaration of the local state of emergency, signed by County Commission Chairman Brian McMahan. 

The order includes several exceptions to the masking requirement, including for people who are under age 2; are actively eating, drinking or strenuously exercising; are speaking for broadcast, to an audience or to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired; are required to remove the mask for identification purposes or to secure government or medical services; would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work; is a child whose parent, guardian or responsible person has been unable to safely place the mask on the child’s face; is working in an interior office or protected area with a barrier such as a plastic or glass shield; or cannot wear a face covering due to medical or behavioral conditions. 

Unlike in May, the order does not mirror a similar statewide order. However, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services does say that even vaccinated people should wear masks in areas of high transmission, and Jackson County currently falls in this category. 

The county order does not mandate masking outdoors or in privately owned spaces. 

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