Though still raging, trendlines improving slightly

By Dave Russell 

Arrows on COVID-19 charts are pointing downward. Just a little.

The seven-day average of cases in the U.S. fell from a Delta-variant high of 159,929 on Sept. 1 to 118,878 on Sept. 19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statewide, the seven-day average fell from 9,414 on Sept.13 to 6,194 on Sept. 20. In Jackson County, that average has fallen from 40 on Sept. 13 to 32 on Sept. 20.

More good news: of Americans 18 and older, 76.5 percent are at least partially vaccinated and 65.9 percent fully vaccinated. 

And more: the Food and Drug Administration announced last week that the Pfizer booster shot is safe and effective. The FDA recommends a booster for those 65 and older who have been fully vaccinated for at least six months, are at high risk of severe COVID-19 or at high risk of occupational exposure. The CDC should this week define these groups before boosters will be available. 

Pfizer also said the latest trial of its COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 indicates it is safe and generates a “robust” antibody response. The trial consisted of a two 10-microgram doses administered 21 days apart. A dose for people 12 and older is 30-micrograms.

A box truck driving in Charlotte near the Bank of America Park during the New Orleans Saints/Carolina Panthers game Sunday sported the words “Don’t get vaccinated” on the side. Lettering beneath indicated the vehicle was from Wilmore Funeral Home, whose website says “Get vaccinated now. If not, see you soon.”

North Carolina school boards have to vote monthly to continue requiring masks in schools under a law signed Aug. 30 by Gov. Roy Cooper. Tuesday’s meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education will be its first since the law went into effect. The board previously voted to require masks in schools.

The Smoky Mountain High School’s weekly newsletter addressed protocols for COVID-19 exposure: “Parents should be getting a call if your child is in class with someone who has tested positive for Covid. The school will follow up with you individually if your student has been identified as a close contact with the positive individual. Contact is defined as being unmasked, closer than six feet for a duration of more than 15 minutes over a 24 hour period.”


By the numbers

As of Wednesday morning, Jackson County Public Schools reported no staff and non-staff cases and 33 student cases. Last week’s numbers were three and 85, respectively.

Smoky Mountain High School reported 11 (down from 24 last week); Fairview, six (down from 14); Cullowhee Valley, six (down from 15); Smokey Mountain Elementary, two again; Scotts Creek, three (up from two); Jackson County Early College, three (up from two); Jackson Community School, two.

Blue Ridge School and Blue Ridge Early College are the only schools reporting no active cases.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports 5,071 total cases in the county through Sept. 19, up 200 from 4,871 last Tuesday.

The county has had 1,154.1 cases per 10,000 residents, up from 1,108.6 last week. DHHS reports 63 deaths in the county, the same as last week. About one in nine Jackson County residents has been stricken with COVID-19.

As of Wednesday morning, the DHHS Dashboard shows 23,595 people in Jackson County have been fully vaccinated with 26,563 at least partially vaccinated. That’s 54 and 60 percent respectively.

Since reporting began July 1, 2020, Western Carolina University reports 1,014 total cases among students, employees and contractors, up from 981 last week.

WCU reports eight students in quarantine/isolation on campus and 81 in off-campus beds.