Tuesday was another record setting day in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as Macon County crossed over the 500 active case mark for the first time.
According to Macon County Public Health statistics, there were 541 active cases as of Tuesday, with 153 patients awaiting test results. Since the pandemic began in February of 2021, there have been 1,771 confirmed cases in Macon County.
On Thursday, Dec. 31, MCPH confirmed three COVID-19 deaths, which brought the county death toll to 12. The persons were each over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions. To protect the family´s privacy, no further information will be released about the patients who died.
“The family and loved ones of these individuals are in our thoughts and prayers. As more people stay indoors, our community needs to continue to practice the ‘3 W’s’ and be mindful of those that are higher risk,” stated Kathy McGaha, Macon County Health Director. “We can make a difference by wearing a mask, washing our hands, and staying 6 feet from others. Continue to practice social distancing and limit your trips outside your home to help to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Statewide there have been 570,111 confirmed cases and 6,941 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Nationwide, the case count reached 20,640,210 on Tuesday with 351,590 deaths.
Cluster at Eckerd Center
MCPH identified a cluster of COVID-19 positive cases at the Eckerd Living Center in Highlands on Dec. 30.
According to MCPH statistics, one staff member and five residents tested positive for COVID-19 in less than a week.
All the residents and staff of Eckerd Living Center have been notified of their exposure and will be tested for COVID-19 at the direction MCPH’s Medical Director and the facility’s leadership team. Plans are in place to isolate any other individuals, should there be a positive result.
Eckerd Living Center and Macon County Public Health have been working together and have verified that both facilities have all the necessary PPE, sanitizing, and monitoring supplies and guidance they need to assure that any spread is minimal. Eckerd Living Center is currently closed to visitors.
While COVID-19 vaccinations began at Highlands Cashiers Hospital and Angel Medical Center in Franklin before Christmas, Macon County Public Health employees rolled up their sleeves for the first time on Thursday, Dec. 31.
Macon County is currently in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution, which includes healthcare personnel directly responding to COVID-19 and long-term care facilities. Any individuals who fall in the Phase 1A can call the Macon County COVID-19 Call Center at 828-349-2517 to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine. Those who are not in Phase 1A are not able to schedule an appointment at this time.
There is no timetable for when Macon County may move into Phase 1B of vaccine distribution. Phase 1B will include anyone age 75 or older, and essential front line workers, but that phase can not begin until the NC Department of Health and Human Services is assured that all citizens who qualify for Phase 1A in Macon County have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
Macon County Public Health will issue public notice when Phase 1A is complete and when Phase 1B will begin.
Back to school
Macon County schools reopened their doors on Tuesday following a two-week Christmas break.
Highlands School was the exception, as administrators decided to schedule a week of virtual learning from Jan. 5-8.
The Macon County Board of Education discussed employing a similar virtual strategy district wide during the board’s specially called meeting on Dec. 30, but ultimately allowed in-person instruction to continue.
On Tuesday, MCS reported a positive case of COVID-19 among school district administrative staff as well as one case at Highlands School, one at Franklin High School, one at Macon Early College, one at Cartoogechaye Elementary and two cases at Macon Middle School.