By Dave Russell
About one in 7.5 Americans has had COVID-19. About one in seven North Carolinians has suffered through it. Jackson County is not far behind at about one in eight.
The pandemic is far from over, but infections continue to decline at all levels.
The U.S. current seven-day average of 95,448 is down 11.6 percent from the previous week’s 107,953.
Jackson County’s seven day average is down to 21; a fall from 40 on Sept. 13.
Good news comes on the vaccination front as well.
Pfizer and BioNTech last Thursday asked federal regulators for an emergency use authorization of their coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. In a release, the companies said they are submitting data supporting the change to the Food and Drug Administration. The agency has promised to move quickly on the request and has tentatively scheduled a meeting on Oct. 26 to consider it. A ruling is expected between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The move would help protect over 28 million people in the United States.
The Jackson County Department of Public Health is ready for the go-ahead, spokeswoman Anna Lippard said.
“We are already beginning to prepare for the emergency use authorization approval of Pfizer for 5-11 year olds, she said. “Based on demand we will adjust our clinics accordingly. It is our hope that more local providers, like pediatrician offices, will be on-boarded to assist with vaccine administration.”
The vaccine would be different dosage from that of the current adult dose, with new pediatric vials to accommodate the smaller pediatric dose size and matching pediatric ancillary supply kits, Lippard said.
“Similar to the booster approval process, the FDA will need to provide authorization, followed by recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before any vaccine can be administered to 5-11 year olds,” she said.
The JCDPH offers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shots on Thursdays and Fridays. To schedule a booster shot appointment visit vaccines.gov and search for 28779 or call 587-8289.
The JCDPH last week began additional no-cost COVID-19 testing. Testing will not take place at the JCDPH offices. It is nearby at 154 Medical Park Loop, the old Meridian Building. The testing will be available: Mondays 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
While walk-ups are accepted, pre-registrations and appointments are highly encouraged at https://lhi.care/covidtesting. Those without internet access can register by calling (877) 562-4850. Anyone can be tested, including those who are underinsured, uninsured, undocumented or homeless.
New treatment on the horizon
Merck has submitted an Emergency Use Authorization application to the FDA for molnupiravir, an oral medicine, for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults who are at risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.
Merck announced earlier this month that trials showed that molnupiravir, administered as a five-day treatment, reduced the risk of hospitalization by 50 percent.
Merck said molnupiravir, which attacks the enzyme that allows the coronavirus to duplicate itself, is likely effective against COVID-19 variants, including the Delta variant.
By the numbers
As of Wednesday morning, Jackson County Public Schools reported six staff and non-staff cases and 36 student cases. Last week’s numbers were two and 17, respectively. On Sept. 22, JCPS reported 85 student cases.
Smoky Mountain High School this week reports seven (up from four last week); Fairview, 19 (up from eight); Cullowhee Valley, one (down from seven); Smokey Mountain Elementary, three (up from two); Scotts Creek, four (down from 12). Blue Ridge School and Blue Ridge Early College each report one active case (up from zero).
Jackson Community School and Jackson County Early College are the only schools with no cases.
The schools have 97 students in quarantine as of Wednesday morning, with FES reporting 49.
NCDHHS reports 5,472 total cases in the county through Oct. 10, up 120 from 5,352 on Oct. 3. The county has had 1,245.4 cases per 10,000 residents, up from 1,218.1 last week. DHHS reports 70 deaths in the county, up from 69 last week.
As of Wednesday morning, the DHHS Dashboard shows 21,310 people in Jackson County have been fully vaccinated with 23,010 partially vaccinated. That’s 49 and 52 percent respectively.
Since reporting began July 1, 2020, Western Carolina University reports 1,092 total cases among students, employees and contractors, up from 1,071 last week. WCU reports 125 students in quarantine/isolation on campus and 66 in off-campus beds.