Holly Kays, Smoky Mountain News

Two full-time Jackson County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, the Jackson County Department of Public Health learned today.

The residents have been in isolation, and the JCDPH will continue to monitor them throughout the duration of their isolation. The department is working to identify close contacts of these positive case and to determine how the individuals contracted the virus.

“We are in the beginnings of our communicable disease investigation,” said Melissa McKnight, deputy health director. “We are still gathering information on their close contacts and travel history to see if their exposure is due to those circumstances or if we have confirmation of community spread in Jackson County.  We do know that these are separate individual cases that are full time residents of Jackson County.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a close contact as being within approximately 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 infection for 10 minutes or longer. Based on information provided by the residents, staff will reach out to close contacts, assess their risk of exposure and determine if they need to take any additional measures.

“The identification of positive cases in full-time residents does not stop us from our proactive prevention efforts or our willingness to adapt to guidelines set by the state of North Carolina and the federal government,” said a press release announcing the cases. “However, this information stresses the point that everyone should be staying home as much as possible to reduce our chances of exposing ourselves or others to COVID-19.”

These confirmed cases make Jackson the 92nd county to have at least one verified COVID-19 case among its residents, but the virus has been present in the county since before March 23. On that date, a part-time resident of the county tested positive. However, because that person’s primary residence is not in Jackson County, the case was attributed to the person’s home state rather than to North Carolina. A total of two cases have so far been confirmed in part-time residents.

Case counts for both full-time and part-time Jackson County residents are posted at http://health.jacksonnc.org/covid19. A hotline for COVID-19 questions is open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 828.631.HELP