Downtown cherry tree spring Sylva

A cherry tree on Main Street welcomes spring in Sylva, along with unwelcome news on the COVID-19 front. Town sidewalks have seen few footsteps following business and travel restrictions established by state and local officials.

‘We know it is here’

2 part-time residents test positive for COVID-19 

 

By Dave Russell

 The Jackson County Department of Public Health webpage tracking COVID-19 cases on Tuesday indicated two part-time residents have the disease.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services put the county case count at zero.

“The way communicable diseases are reported in the state of North Carolina is based on a resident’s home address,” JCDPH Deputy Director Melissa McKnight said. “Therefore, if a person is a part-time resident of Jackson County, they will not show up as a Jackson County case when tracked on the state level. Regardless, JCDPH has opted to track all positive cases (both part- and full-time residents) reported to the Health Department on our website at http://health.jacksonnc.org/covid19.”

The county case count is updated before noon daily.

The DHHS website began listing a Jackson County case Sunday, but McKnight said that was a mistake. DHHS now lists no cases for Jackson County.

Unlike some other counties, the JCDPH will not be providing answers to questions about patient quarantine, testing sites, how or where patients might have contracted the disease or where they might have traveled.

“We will not release any additional information about them,” McKnight  said. “Our staff are closely following the past and current behavior of our positive cases to make sure they are complying with requirements. All positive cases have complied with isolation requirements, and the Health Department has completed all necessary contact tracing which includes identifying others they were in close contact with, assessing their risk for exposure, and determining if they need to take any additional measures.”

Officials do not know the total disease burden in the community yet, and turnaround for test results is between 3-10 days, she said.

“Based on the data from our state, we know it is here,” she said.

McKnight said the department is following medical privacy laws to protect the privacy of the positive cases.

“Knowing exactly where one case lives and has visited could give a false sense of security if you avoid that area alone,” county Health Director Shelley Carraway said. “Jackson County now has two confirmed cases and we have evidence of community spread in North Carolina. In consideration of those facts, everyone should be staying home as much as possible and social distancing if you must go out anywhere.”

The risk of contracting COVID-19 is low unless you have been less than 6 feet away from an infected person for at least 10 minutes, Carraway said.

“The safest thing is to assume everyone has it and keep your distance,” she said.

As of Tuesday morning, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,498 cases and eight deaths in the state. Nationwide, cases number 163,539 and deaths 2,860 as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.