COVID-19 vaccinations began rolling out in Highlands on Wednesday.
After experiencing technical issues surrounding the phone system at the Macon County Public Health Department, county leaders pivoted and quickly revamped the COVID-19 vaccination registration process this week.
The new system features an online option as well as call-in registration.
“Our folks at the health department have been working hard to try to make the process easier for folks who are trying to get a COVID-19 vaccination,” county commissioner Ronnie Beale said. “The vaccine distribution process has been new to all of us and it’s been a collaborative effort with the state and federal levels as well.”
Vaccinations began rolling out to the public for anyone age 75 and older on Thursday, Jan. 14. On Tuesday, the NC Department of Health and Human Services changed the vaccination priority designations and thus opened the vaccination program to anyone age 65 and older.
Macon County Public Health is now registering individuals to receive the COVD-19 vaccination at two call centers as well as online. The options are as follows:
Option 1: Individuals may access a web link on the right side of the Macon County home page at maconnc.org and complete the form to include their last name, first name and email address. Once this information is submitted, Macon County Public Health will be able to upload the information into the state COVID-19 Vaccination Management System. After CVMS receives the submission, an email will be sent to the address provided allowing the individual to complete the registration process and set-up their password. Following confirmation that their registration is complete and their phase confirmed, individuals may call 828-349-2517, Option 2 to schedule their appointment once we begin vaccinating their eligible phase/group.
Option 2: Individuals may call 828-349-2517, Option 2 and speak with a representative who will get them registered in the state COVID-19 Vaccination Management System after completion of a brief questionnaire. Once the registration has been completed, an appointment will be scheduled.
Option 3: Individuals may call 828-524-1500 and speak with a representative who will get them registered in the state COVID-19 Vaccination Management System after completion of a brief questionnaire. Once the registration has been completed, an appointment will be scheduled.
Call Centers are operating 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. As of this week, NCDHHS transitioned from vaccination phases to groups. In accordance with NCDHHS’s Vaccination Plan, Macon County is currently providing vaccinations to individuals in “Group 2,” which individuals age 65 and older regardless of health status.
Vaccinations are being administered by appointment at the MCPH office in Franklin as well as the Highlands Rec Center. The Highlands location, which is a collaborative effort between MCPH, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, the Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation, Mcon County EMS, the Town of Highlands and multiple local nonprofit organizations, opened for the first time on Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, 798 vaccinations had been administered in Macon County. There were 520 additional doses of the vaccine available at the health department.
Death toll climbs
MCPH released updated numbers related to the number of COVID-19 deaths in the county on Friday.
According to MCPH records, five additional county residents died of COVID-19 between Dec. 30, 2020 and Jan. 14, 2021. The most recent deaths bring the total number to 17 countywide since the beginning of the pandemic.
Each of the most recent deaths occurred outside of Macon County and all were over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions. To protect the family´s privacy, no further information will be released about the patients.
“We continue to be in the critical outbreak stage but, we can make a difference by be diligent in wearing a mask, washing our hands, and staying six feet from others,” MCPH Director Kathy McGaha said. “Continue to practice social distancing and limit your trips outside your home to help to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
According to MCPH statistics, there were 610 active confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county as of Tuesday. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 2,398 confirmed cases and 17 deaths. Statewide there have been 684,497 confirmed cases and 8,139 deaths.