COVID cases climbing in Macon County and across the state

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Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

The Macon County Department of Public Health began updated COVID-19 metrics for the county on a weekly basis in July, after seeing the numbers of cases steadily decline since the height of the pandemic. However, that changed this week as they once again began publishing daily updates as the Delta variant begins to surge across the nation. 

On July 30, Macon County reported 44 active cases and a total case count of 3,280 since March 2020. At that time, a total of 12,678 vaccines had been given by the health department and 9,720 COVID-19 tests had been administered. The same day, North Carolina reported a total of 1,048,076 positive cases since the pandemic began. 

By Aug. 3, Macon County reported 62 active cases with a total case count of 3,305. The county’s vaccine distribution number remained unchanged and the number of tests administered was 9,771. North Carolina reported 1,058,887 positive cases as of Aug. 3. 

As numbers continued to climb, Mission Health Systems implemented visitor access restrictions to hospitals including Angel Medical Center and the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital. Some businesses and local governments have begun requiring masks again. 

After a special called meeting of the Highlands Board of Commissioners on Monday, the board unanimously voted to mandate masks for all “indoor” Town of Highlands facilities effective Aug. 3, 2021.  The meeting included a question and answer session with the Chief Medical Officer of Mission Health, Dr. Bill Hathaway. Dr. Hathaway advised the commission that the Covid-19 Delta variant is a significant concern for the medical community and the population at large, and can only be addressed with higher vaccination rates and/or wearing a mask. 

The Board is also encouraging town employees to seriously consider getting vaccinated and information sessions are being planned to assist with these efforts. The mask mandate does not apply to private businesses in the town of Highlands or any outdoor settings on town property.

As numbers continued to rise, N.C. Governor Roy Cooper urged citizens to wear masks, but stopped short of issuing another mask mandate. Instead, Cooper, and State Health Director Mandy Cohen  have shifted their focus to vaccines.

“Until more people get the vaccine, we’ll continue living with the very real threat of a serious disease,” Cooper said. “We will continue to see more dangerous and contagious variants like the Delta variant.”

To push more people in his administration to get vaccinated, Cooper issued an executive order on Thursday that takes effect Sept. 1, requiring the more than 50,000 employees in state government agencies to show proof of vaccination or be required to wear face coverings and subject themselves to frequent COVID-19 testing.

“We are strongly urging other state government agencies and private businesses to, at a minimum, do the same,” Cooper said. “Many businesses are going a step further and requiring their employees to get vaccinated.”

More than 61% of North Carolina adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

As part of its effort to help more North Carolinians protect themselves against COVID-19 and the highly contagious Delta variant, North Carolina is now offering $100 Summer Cards at some vaccine sites across the state to offset the time and transportation costs of getting vaccinated. 

From Aug. 4 through Aug. 31, the $100 Summer Cards are available to anyone 18 and older who gets their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a participating site—while supplies last.

In addition to providing a $100 Summer Card to those who get their first dose of vaccine, North Carolina continues to offer $25 Summer Cards to those who drive others to their vaccination appointment. They receive a $25 card each time they drive someone to a first dose appointment at the completion of the vaccination. This helps offset the costs for those who help family, friends and neighbors find their spot for a vaccine and drive them to their shots. There is no limit on the amount of times someone can drive people to a vaccination appointment; however, a driver will only receive one card per visit. 

Those interested in the $100 Summer Card for first-time vaccinations and $25 Summer Card for drivers should call 888-675-4567.

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