COVID19 cluster identified at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort 

Macon County Health Dept. photo by Vickie Carpenter

Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

The Jackson County Department of Public Health (JCDPH) and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Public Health and Human Services (EBCI PHHS) have identified a COVID-19 cluster in a local business.

Five employees of the table games section at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort have tested positive for COVID-19. All positive employees are following isolation orders. Contact tracing is being conducted.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health (NCDPH) defines clusters of COVID-19 in workplace, educational, and other community settings as: 1) a minimum of five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and, 2) 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).

Symptomatic individuals who test positive will be required to remain in isolation under the following conditions: 1) at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and, 2) at least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and 3) Symptoms (like cough and shortness of breath) have improved. Asymptomatic individuals who test positive will be required to remain in isolation under the following conditions: 1) At least 10 days have passed since their positive test assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test.

JCDPH, EBCI PHHS, and other local health departments are 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 10-15 minutes during their period of infectivity. Based on information provided by the employees, county health officials will assess risks of exposure, determine which if any additional measures are needed, quarantine and/or testing.

Harrahs Cherokee Casino employees more than 180 Macon County residents — and accounts for 5 percent of the total employment in Western North Carolina. 

Macon County Department of Public Health announced on Tuesday afternoon that Macon County recorded its second COVID19 related death. The health department reported that the individual was over the age of 65 and had

underlying health conditions. To protect the family ́s privacy, no further information will be released about this patient.

“We want to express our deepest sympathies to the family and their loved ones during this difficult time,” stated Kathy McGaha, Macon County Health Director.

“Our message to the community continues to be: wear a mask, wash your hands, and wait 6 feet from others. Continue to practice social distancing and limit your trips outside your home to help to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

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