Darrell Woodard


By Dave Russell


Jackson County’s first responder community, and the community at large, was in mourning Wednesday morning following the news that beloved Savannah Volunteer Fire Department Chief Darrell Woodard, 65, passed away Tuesday night after an extended battle with COVID-19.

The SVFD was organized in 1978. Woodard, was with the department since the beginning. He was a driving force behind the department’s famed ramp dinner fundraisers that ran from 1979 until 2003. The final event saw the department serve more than 2,500 plates.

“That was his passion,” said Ronnie Buchanan, who served with Woodard. He held the position of chief for more for nearly four decades. Buchanan also hailed the passion Woodard had for the SVFD.

“He was like a brother, or dad, to all of us. He was a worker, a special man, kind, would do anything for anybody who asked him.

“He knew all the ins and outs of the department, and we’re going to have to really sit down and see what he doing and how to pick up and go on. That’s what he’d want us to do.”

“Darrell was always for his community to help his fellow man,” Jackson County Emergency Services Director Todd Dillard said. “You could call Darrell any time of the night, day, whenever and he was always there to help. He will be greatly missed, not only by the Savannah community and fire department, but by the whole county. He worked so well with all the other chiefs and emergency services. He was a great man.”

Woodard was one of two Jackson County residents to die from COVID-19 since last Tuesday, upping the county total to 19. 

Cases of COVID-19 among Jackson County residents increased another 148 over the last week, from 2,068 as of 5 p.m. last Tuesday to 2,216 Wednesday morning.

The county has had 504 cases per 10,000 residents, up from 470 last week.

Cases increased in Jackson County by 7.2 percent since last Tuesday.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday reported 524,279 statewide cases (up from 488,902 last week) and 6,574 total deaths (up from 6,291 last week) in the state.

Nationwide, cases numbered 19,232,843 (up from 17,974,303 last week) and deaths 334,029 (up from 318,569) as of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Jackson County and the entire country could see a spike in COVID-19 cases heading into the new year.

Jackson County no longer has a local source for COVID-19 data, as that function has been turned over to the NCDHHS.

The Jackson County Department of Public Health no longer has time to update their dashboard, according to a Dec. 23 release.

“Case investigation, case management, contact tracing and vaccine administration have reduced the capacity of JCDPH staff to support the Jackson County, NC COVID-19 Data Dashboard,” they said.

The DHHS Data Dashboard is at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard.

The COVID-19 vaccine has reached Jackson County in a limited capacity at Harris Regional Hospital.

“We can confirm that we have received an initial allocation of COVID-19 vaccines and are in the process of distributing them in accordance with prioritization guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government and the state of North Carolina,” Harris CEO Steve Heatherly said. “Once the vaccine becomes more broadly available, we strongly encourage our community to get vaccinated.”

Sylva Town Hall is closed through Jan. 29 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. Payments can be dropped off in the drop box. Tax payments can be made online at www.townofsylvatax.org. Call 586-2719 with any questions.

Smoky Mountain’s women’s varsity basketball program was shut down Tuesday after a player tested positive, according to school officials. Players and coaches are in quarantine and will be tested after five days. If there are no more positive tests, steps toward restarting the program will proceed.