Smoky Mountain News, By Jessi Stone

Jackson County has seen a steady growth in active COVID-19 cases in the last week as an outbreak was reported at a local skilled nursing facility on July 17 and a cluster was announced at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino on July 20.

Five employees at the Skyland Care Center have tested positive for COVID-19. All positive employees are following isolation orders. The North Carolina Division of Public Health defines an outbreak in a long-term care setting, like a skilled nursing facility, as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 within two incubation periods (28 days) in the same facility.

The investigation is ongoing. Symptomatic individuals who test positive will be required to remain in isolation under the following conditions — at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and at least 72 hours have passed since the resolution of fever without the use of medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms. Asymptomatic individuals who test positive will be required to remain in isolation under the following conditions — at least 10 days have passed since their positive test assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test.

Upon notification of the first positive case, Skyland Care Center coordinated with the health department to determine next steps. Quarantine and testing were recommended for close contacts of the first positive case. Upon identification of additional cases, Skyland Care Center coordinated COVID-19 testing for all additional employees and residents. Testing was completed by July 16; results are pending.

“Skyland Care Center takes the health and safety of all its residents and staff very seriously and has prepared the facility and staff for potential exposures in dealing with the pandemic. We will monitor the test results closely and will take preventative measures as necessary to reduce the potential for exposures,” said Skyland Care Center Administrator Mistie Cooley.

As of July 20, Jackson County had a total of 279 cases, 59 people currently in isolation and three deaths.

Macon County had a total of 401 cases — 122 are active cases while 278 are considered to be recovered. To date, there’s only been one reported death in Macon County. There are still 360 test results pending.

Haywood County has performed more than 5,000 COVID-19 tests and has a total of 167 positive cases, but 138 of those are considered recovered.

In Swain County, 2,668 tests have been performed and there has been a total of 81 positive cases and two deaths. The county also has 377 tests pending.

Getting test results back is still taking a week or more depending on the lab being used, according to providers and the health department. The state issued a press release last week stating that 13 additional qualified vendors have been approved to expedite testing and contact tracing efforts.