By Dave Russell
Jackson County recorded at least four more COVID-19 death over the last week. The New York Times, drawing data from a variety of sources, reports 68 cases in Jackson on Sept. 14 and 94 the day before. The county’s previous high was 101 last September.
Statewide, on Sept. 7 North Carolina recorded its seventh-highest tally since the pandemic began. And that’s with 51 percent of the state fully vaccinated.
The Jackson County Department of Public Health now offers additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. Clinic hours are 8-11:30 a.m. with appointments available by calling 587-8289.
“Currently the additional doses are only Pfizer and Moderna,” JCDPH spokeswoman Anna Lippard said. “The additional dose is extra protection for those who are immunocompromised because their immune system did not build the same level of immunity after the original vaccination. The guidance we’ve been given is it is preferred to get the additional dose of the same vaccine you had before, but if it isn’t available to you Moderna or Pfizer could be given.”
Boosters are for everyone who is fully vaccinated, but are not yet approved or available. They are pending full review and recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, she said.
“Once authorized by the FDA and the CDC, people who received Pfizer and Moderna will be eligible for a booster, likely starting eight months after their second dose,” Lippard said.
Research is still underway for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster recommendations.
“Although the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective protecting against hospitalization and severe outcomes for those that are fully vaccinated, we are seeing a decrease in vaccine effectiveness against mild to moderate infection, those people getting sick but not severely ill and needing hospitalization,” she said.
Cases in kids rising
Health experts have been troubled by an increase in COVID-19 infections in children.
According to a weekly report prepared by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of Sept. 9 nearly 5.3 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Over 243,000 cases were added the week of Sept. 3-9, the second highest number of child cases in a week since the pandemic started.
Children represent 15.5 percent of total cumulative cases. For the week ending Sept. 9, children were 28.9 percent of reported COVID-19 cases, but kids under age 18 make up only 22.2 percent of the U.S. population.
Vaccines save lives
A Center for Disease Control and Prevention study examined hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 over three months, finding that unvaccinated people are more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who have been vaccinated, and 11 times more likely to die of the virus, according to CDC director Rochelle Walensky.
By the numbers
As of Wednesday morning, Jackson County Public Schools reported three staff and non-staff cases and 85 student cases.
Smoky Mountain High School reported 37 (up from 24 last week); Fairview, 10 (down from 14); Cullowhee Valley, 23 (up from 15); Blue Ridge School one again; Smokey Mountain Elementary, five (up from two); Scotts Creek, two (up from zero); Jackson County Early College, two (up from zero).
Blue Ridge Early College is the only school reporting no active cases. It had three cases last week.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reports 4,871 total in the county through Sept. 12, up 239 from 4,632 last Tuesday.
The county has had 1,108.6 cases per 10,000 residents, up from 1,054.2 last week. DHHS reports 63 deaths in the county, up from 59 last week. About one in nine Jackson County residents has been stricken with COVID-19.
As of Monday, Jackson County was one of 10 counties in the state to report no clusters or outbreaks.
As of Wednesday morning, the DHHS Dashboard shows 23,237 people in Jackson County have been fully vaccinated with 26,298 at least partially vaccinated. That’s 53 and 60 percent respectively.
Since reporting began July 1, 2020, Western Carolina University reports 981 total cases among students, employees and contractors, up from 939 last week.
WCU reports 13 students in quarantine/isolation on campus and 117 in off-campus beds.