The Sylva Herald, By Carey Phillips and Dave Russell

While the rate of infection is dropping locally, Jackson County has reported three more deaths in the past week from COVID-19. That brings the total to seven since the pandemic started in March.

The Jackson County Department of Public Health announced Aug. 5 that the recent death of a county resident is related to COVID-19.

The individual was greater than 75 years old. Since the person had underlying health conditions, the health department investigated the death and was able to confirm that COVID-19 was a contributing factor.

Two more deaths were reported from the disease this week, according to the health department. One was between the age of 50 and 64, and the other was older than 75.

“Any additional death is devastating not only to the family and loved ones of the individual but also to our community,” said Deputy Health Director Melissa McKnight. “Please use our best public health tools to slow the spread of this virus and protect those who are most vulnerable in our community – stay home if you can and if you must go out, follow the ‘three W’s.’”

Jackson County COVID-19 cases rose by 9.4 percent over the last week. That’s down from almost 40 percent three weeks ago.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Jackson County Department of Public Health reported 465 cases of full-time residents, with 9,286 tests reported to the agency.

Last Tuesday, the health department reported 425 cases of full-time residents and 8,678 tests performed.

Jackson County currently has 20 people isolating due to COVID-19 infection. That’s down from 71 last week.

The county has 103 cases per 10,000 residents, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS on Tuesday reported 137,895 cases and 2,204 deaths in the state, with 2,017,498 tests conducted.

Nationwide, cases number 5,064,171 and deaths 162,407 as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Events called off

Several events have either been put on hold or canceled following Gov. Roy Cooper’s Aug. 5 announcement that the state would stay in Phase II of its reopening plan for five more weeks. Phase II, which began May 22, will now last at least through Sept. 11.

Among the provisions of Phase II is a limit of 25 people for outdoor gatherings. Therefore, the Concerts on the Creek series has again been delayed.

The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce is working on another revised schedule with the bands involved. Concerts on the Creek typically are held on Friday nights at Bridge Park from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends.

Organizers of the fourth annual Hook, Line and Drinker Festival in Sylva have postponed the event from Sept. 12 until May 22.

“We are working diligently to secure everything as it was meant to be in 2020 for 2021, including having the event from 3-7 p.m.; booking Carolina Soul Band for two hot sets of music; and welcoming back all of our favorite craft beer vendors, fly fishing and outdoor gear vendors and children’s activities,” a spokesperson said.

Bear Lake Reserve has canceled its Labor Day fireworks show.

Travel tips

Even though she warns against traveling at this time, McKnight offered some guidelines for staying at hotels.

“I would ask hotel staff if they are following CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting,” she said. “Also look to see if staff are wearing cloth face coverings, have hand sanitizer readily available at check-in, have plastic ‘sneeze guards’ in place that separate you from them, have areas marked for 6 feet of separation and signage reminding folks what they should be doing. If you don’t see them, consider staying elsewhere.”

Asking hotel staff for a room that did not have a guest the previous night and only using the elevator alone are good ideas, she said.

“When in the room, wipe down frequently touched surfaces like door knobs, remote, side tables, faucets and light switches,” McKnight said. “I would pull the hotel quilt down and sleep on the sheets. All in all, we know that this virus is most often spread from person to person so definitely stay away from others in the hotel  The virus can live on surfaces but you’re less likely to get it this way.”