Macon County’s first resident diagnosed with COVID-19 coronavirus has died according to Macon County Public Health officials.
On Monday morning, public health director Carmine Rocco noted that the county had recorded its first death as result of the virus. Due to privacy laws, no further information about the patient, such as their name, age, or address will be made public.
Rocco did note that the COVID-19 patient was over the age of 65 and had an underlying health condition prior to their death.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the family and loved ones at this time,” Rocco said in a written statement. “We want to reiterate the importance of citizens staying home and practicing social distancing until further direction of the government and health leadership.”
The patient was diagnosed with COVID-19 on April 1 after being tested on March 26. The patient was admitted to a local hospital and placed in isolation following the positive test.
Since the positive test was recorded, MCPH officials have been working to determine if the patient had any close contacts. The Center for Disease Control defines close contact as being within six feet for a period of 10 minutes or longer.
If close contacts are identified it will be up to MCPH officials to determine if additional tests, symptom checks or patient quarantines are needed.
“Our message to those who are full-time residents, part-time residents, or may be visiting Macon County is to stay at home, stay safe and practice social distancing,” Rocco said. “Self quarantine if you have travelled and limit your trips from home to necessities.”
The COVID-19 patient who died was the first Macon County resident diagnosed with the disease. There have been two other cases connected to Macon County – one a travel-related patient from New York state who self-quarantined in Highlands during the recovery period, and a Jackson County part-time resident who tested positive for COVID-19 at Highlands Cashiers Hospital.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and/or shortness of breath or respiratory illness. Anyone who thinks they may have COVID-19, or with questions about the disease, should call Macon County Public Health at 828-349-2517.
Stay at home orders
The state of North Carolina, Macon County and the Town of Highlands have each issued a stay at home order that continues to be in effect.
Highlands has closed all town-owned buildings, including the Highlands Rec Center and Town Hall. All playgrounds are also closed and areas where people may congregate, such as the stage at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park, the pavilion at the dog park and public restrooms are also off limits.
All retail businesses are closed, except for those deemed essential by the state, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and home improvement stores. Restaurants are only open for curbside takeout or delivery.
All hotels, motels and rentals are closed until further notice. Anyone coming to Highlands from out of state is required to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date they arrive.
Highlands police officers are conducting checkpoints along the main roads into and out of town and are also conducting random stops to ensure that drivers in town limits are in public as part of essential business.
Macon County also issued a stay at home order that closed all hotels, motels and rentals outside of the Franklin and Highlands municipal limits. The order also prohibits any gatherings of more than 10 people.
The state’s stay at home order is in effect until April 30. The order, signed by Gov. Roy Cooper on March 27, closes all businesses where social distancing is not possible, such as beauty salons, barer shops, tattoo parlors, gyms, health clubs, spas, skating rinks, movie theaters, bowling alleys and live performance venues.
All North Carolina public schools are closed until at least May 15.