The Sylva Herald, by Dave Russell

Jackson County COVID-19 cases rose by 36.5 percent over the last week, bringing the county’s total to 157 since two cases were reported April 12.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Jackson County Department of Public Health reported 157 cases of full-time residents, and 5,620 tests. The county has had one death from COVID-19.

Last Tuesday, the health department reported 115 cases of full-time residents and 5,017 tests performed.

The county has 34 cases per 10,000 residents, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS on Tuesday reported 75,875 cases and 1,420 deaths in the state, with 1,071,290 tests conducted.

Nationwide, cases number 2,932,596 and deaths 130,133 as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Two clusters of COVID-19 have been identified in the county.

The N.C. Division of Public Health defines clusters of COVID-19 in workplace, educational and other community settings as:

• A minimum of five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period.

• Plausible linkage between cases where cases were present in the same setting during the same time-period (e.g., same shift, same classroom, same physical work area); that the timing fits with likely timing of exposure; and that there is no other more likely source of exposure for identified cases (e.g., household or close contact to a confirmed case in another setting).

One cluster involves five employees of Current Dermatology who tested positive for COVID-19. All positive employees are following isolation orders. All additional employees have been tested and received negative results.

The health department is working to identify any additional close contacts of these employees. The CDC defines close contact as being within approximately 6 feet of a person with an infection with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time of 10 minutes or longer.

All patients seen during the time period of June 15 through 26 have been notified.

Current closed offices in Sylva and Clyde June 26 with plans to reopen Monday. The practice will implement stricter rules regarding PPE, handwashing, and screening for employees, Dr, Currie Patterson said.

“Those potential patients should self-monitor unless called with different instructions by someone from the health department,” Jackson County Department of Public Health Deputy Director Melissa McKnight said. “If symptoms appear, patients should seek testing.”

Another cluster was identified at Mountaintop Golf & Lake Club in Cashiers, where 11 employees tested positive for COVID-19. All positive employees are following isolation orders; additional positive results are expected, the health department said in a release.

All indoor facilities at Mountaintop were closed June 27 to allow time for employees to be tested, for symptoms to resolve, and to perform cleaning and disinfecting. Mountaintop instituted a phased re-opening with the intention of resuming all operations on July 15.

Re-opening schools

The health department has two members on the Jackson County Public Schools Task Force on reopening schools, she said.

“They have been meeting virtually for the past few weeks to talk about plans for re-opening when given approval from the governor,” McKnight said.

“I know JCPS is using this guidance, paired with local expertise, to develop a plan that prioritizes the health and safety of our students, staff and community,” she said. “JCDPH is working with Western Carolina University on re-opening plans as well.”

Details are available at www.wcu.edu/operations-procedures.

Drive-thru testing open

JCDPH now provides a weekly COVID-19 Drive Thru Testing Clinic in the parking lot at 154 Medical Park Loop, Sylva. The clinic will be open on Tuesdays weekly from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., weather permitting.

Appointments are required.

To make an appointment or for more information, call 586-8994.

Additional testing sites are available. For more testing site options, visit Find My Testing Place at www.ncdhhs.gov/TestingPlace.