Cars began lining up just after 8 a.m. on Thursday for the first drive-thru COVID-19 testing event in Highlands.
While testing wasn’t scheduled to start until 9 a.m. at The Farm at Old Edwards, staff from the Macon County Public Health Department and Macon County Emergency Services used the early opportunity to get as many people through as possible.
By 2 p.m., a total of 251 tests had been completed and sent to the health department. The testing was free and open to anyone who believed they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
“We tested 251 people, which is more than I thought we would do in the five-hour time window we had,” Macon County Fire Marshal Jimmy Teem, who handled the logistics for the free testing site, said. “Everything went relatively smoothly and despite the long line of cars at times, the wait wasn’t terribly long.”
Teem noted that there were 150 test kits on site at the beginning of the day and another 150 on standby offsite for when they were needed. Firefighters from Macon County Squad 4 handled traffic control and The Farm at Old Edwards offered the testing facility under its covered driveway and entrance.
Participants were given the proper forms to fill out while they waited and an interpreter was on site to help those who were not fluent in English.
“We tried to make everything as easy as possible for the public and for the staff members that are conducting the tests,” Teem said. “Being the first one of these (testing events) we weren’t sure really what to expect, but overall it went well.”
As of Wednesday, there have been 157 cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in Macon County. Of those, 139 are considered active cases, while 17 are deemed recovered and one person has died as a result of the virus.
There have been 2,221 COVID-19 tests completed and reported to Macon County Public Health and there are 319 tests pending results.
Following the initial drive-thru testing at The Farm at Old Edwards in Highlands, MCPH officials announced a second round of testing would be open to the public on Tuesday at the same location.
The Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation conducted a drive-thru testing event at The Village Green in Cashiers on Saturday, June 6. The foundation will host a similar event at the Highlands Rec Center on Saturday, June 13. Anyone who would like to be tested at the HCHF event in Highlands should call 828-506-6907 to register and receive an appointment time.
County employees test positive
Macon County Public Health identified a county employee that tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, June 4.
That employee has been isolated and all close contacts have been notified and tested. Anyone who has been tested is quarantined until his or her test results are known.
“Macon County is confident the risk of exposure for employees and citizens is minimal, and by implementing these measures, the county has been and will continue to provide services safely,” MCPH Director Kathy McGaha said in a written statement. “As local businesses open, Macon County leadership encourages all businesses to implement measures to keep employees and customers safe while visiting their establishment. Count On Me NC is a public health initiative that empowers guests and businesses to help keep everyone safe from COVID-19, to access the free training visit countonmenc.org.”
Since March, Macon County has taken steps to ensure that county employees and the public can safely do business. The county conducts symptom screenings before employees start their workday, limits public access to county buildings with congregate areas, encourages social distancing, and provides personal protective equipment for employees who deal directly with the public.
On Monday an employee who works within the health department tested positive. That employee has been isolated and all of their close contacts have been notified and tested, according to MCPH officials.
Due to their higher than average risk of exposure, MCPH employees are tested for COVID-19 on a regular schedule. According to information provided by MCPH, the employee who tested positive has not had any interaction with the public since the beginning of the pandemic.