By Dave Russell


March 3 marks the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in North Carolina, when a Wake County resident traveled back home from Washington. Since then, the Old North State has seen 846,284 infections, an average of about 2,357 per day.

Jackson County reported its first case on April 9. As of Tuesday, 320 days later, the county has had 3,270 cases, an average of about 10 per day.

Cases are in decline, a trend seen nationwide since record reports in December and January. 

The Jackson County Department of Public Health continues to work to vaccinate those in Groups 1 and 2, but is changing its registration system. To prepare for progression into additional groups, JCDPH aims to transition from its current process of pre-registering community members via 631-HELP.

That pre-registration list will close Friday. Any community member who falls into Group 1 or 2 who is not yet on this list should call 631-HELP prior to Friday.

JCDPH will continue to work from this closed list to make appointments as supply allows until the list is exhausted. After vaccines are in those arms, JCDPH will begin offering appointments to eligible community members via an online portal.

More information about this portal will be shared on the department’s website, Facebook page and with local media partners once it becomes available.

Weather in other states impacted the delivery of vaccines in Jackson County last week.

JCDPH and Western Carolina University had partnered to offer first doses at the Department on Aging last Friday. Weather postponed the delivery of vaccine.

“Those doses did not ship in time, so we had to postpone that Drive Thru Clinic,” McKnight said. “JCDPH has rescheduled our patients for the same time and location Friday, Feb. 26, while WCU will be reaching out to their patients to reschedule them at a later date.”


3Ws still apply

Even with vaccine distribution, the public needs to remain vigilant.

“Scientists are still studying how often vaccinated individuals can become infected (experience illness without symptoms) from COVID-19 or pass the virus to others,” McKnight said. “This is why it is very important that you follow the 3Ws even after becoming vaccinated. The vaccines provide their full protection from COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the second dose.”

Two doses about a month apart are essential.

“The first dose is known as the prime dose,” McKnight said. “It primes the immune response and gets your body ready for the best protection. The second dose boosts the immune response to become fully protected. While other countries may take a different approach, the CDC and FDA continue to recommend that everyone get both the prime and booster dose. There isn’t enough data currently to suggest that one dose provides enough protection against COVID-19.”

According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services dashboard, 4,755 first doses of the vaccine have been given in Jackson County, with 2,266 people having received both doses. About 16 percent of county residents have had at least one shot.

Late Monday afternoon, the health department received its allotment of 300 doses for the week of Feb. 15-19 and 500 doses for this week, McKnight said. 

Jackson County Public Schools employees were eligible to receive their second vaccine last Friday at Smoky Mountain High School. Harris Regional Hospital provided that clinic.

By the numbers

The county’s death toll currently stands at 48, up one from last week. The rate of COVID-19 infection in Jackson County continues its downward trajectory, increasing only 3.4 percent since last Tuesday.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, DHHS reported 3,270 total cases in Jackson, an increase of 111 from 3,159 a week earlier.

The county has had 744 cases per 10,000 residents, up from 719 last week. According to the DHHS dashboard, Jackson County has a testing positivity rate of 5.4 percent. That’s below the state rate of 6.2 percent.

DHHS on Tuesday reported 846,284 statewide cases (up from 826,340 last week) and 10,965 deaths (up from 10,562 last week).

Nationwide, cases numbered 27,993,504 (up from 27,542,421 last week) and 498,993 deaths (up from 463,659) as of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The Jackson County Public Schools dashboard ( tracks positive cases among staff and students. There have been 120 student cases, up eight from last week’s 112. Four of those cases are active, including one at Cullowhee Valley School, two at Smoky Mountain High School and one at Smokey Mountain Elementary School as of Wednesday morning. There are no active staff cases at this time.

Since reporting began July 1, Western Carolina University reports 624 total cases among students, employees and contractors, up from 583 last week. Since Jan. 1, there have been 111 student cases, up from 83 last week, and 39 employee cases and three contractor cases for a total of 150, up from 120 last week.

The campus has 95 quarantine beds, with 14 in use currently. Off campus, 79 students are in quarantine/isolation.