By Dave Russell
Jackson County saw a 25-case COVID-19 spike on Monday.
“We did have a large spike in cases yesterday,” Melissa McKnight, deputy director of the Jackson County Department of Public Health, said Tuesday. “We are working through case investigation to determine the cause and see if cases are related. It’s too soon to determine if this is an upward trend just yet but we are keeping a close eye on it.”
The bump contributed to a 7.6 percent increase from last week. The county currently has 50 people isolating due to COVID-19 infection. That’s up from 21 last week.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the health department reported 720 cases among full-time residents, with 15,175 tests reported to the agency.
Last Tuesday, the health department reported 669 cases of full-time residents and 14,090 tests performed.
The county has had 164 cases per 10,000 residents, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS on Tuesday reported 221,258 cases and 3,670 deaths in the state, with 3,210,905 tests conducted.
Nationwide, cases numbered 7,436,278 and deaths 209,560 as of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The Jackson County Public Schools dashboard (jcpsnc.org/covid), tracks positive cases among staff and students. There have been five cases, but none are active as of Wednesday morning. Three of the cases were among Smoky Mountain High School students, and one was a non-staff member associated with the SMHS athletic department. The other cases was a Fairview Elementary School student.
Western Carolina University’s dashboard (wcu.edu/coronavirus/reporting.aspx) reports 12 new cases – 11 students and one employee – the week of Sept. 28-Oct. 4.
The WCU dashboard showed eight new student cases the previous week.
Since July 1 there have been 134 cases among students, five among employees and five among sub-contractors.
WCU reports 94 students in self isolation/quarantine, including eight on campus. The total is up from 72 last week.
COVID has led organizers to cancel some events set for downtown Sylva, while decisions have not been made on others. The Western Carolina University homecoming parade and Treat Street are canceled.
A decision about the annual Christmas Parade could come in today’s (Thursday) Sylva town board meeting.
“A town board member has asked for preliminary guidance on how to handle the Christmas Parade,” McKnight said. “We have shared interim guidelines, noting that it is prudent to plan for varying scenarios as our situation in Jackson County may be different in December.”
The health department is keeping a close eye on re-opening, she said.
“Our leaders have made decisions to cautiously and incrementally re-open,” McKnight said. “We, as individuals, must still follow preventative measures and assess our own personal risk before participating in any activity. If we don’t, we will see a spike in cases.”
Gov. Roy Cooper last week signed Executive Order 169, entering the state into Phase 3 of lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
Under Executive Order 169:
Large outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7 percent occupancy for spectators.
Smaller outdoor entertainment venues, such as arenas or amphitheaters, may operate at 30 percent of capacity – or 100 guests, whichever is less.
Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30 percent of capacity – or 100 guests, whichever is less.
Bars may operate outdoors at 30 percent of outdoor capacity – or 100 guests, whichever is less.
Amusement parks may open at 30 percent occupancy, outdoor attractions only.
The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will be extended to Oct. 23.
State and public health officials said they would continue watching the key COVID-19 trends to determine if further restrictions can be eased when Executive Order 169 expires Oct. 23.