Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor
Just because we live on a remote and somewhat isolated mountain plateau, there is still a possibility that the coronavirus will appear and even spread. We are a tourist community and have many folks coming and going to multiple locations which makes us vulnerable to transmission of the virus. Also, as a retirement community, a significant portion of our residents could be vulnerable to coronavirus complications.
Our town staff is monitoring the situation. Staff members attended a strategy meeting with Macon County Emergency Services and the public health department that was reported in last week’s paper. I have also spoken with EMS Director Warren Cabe. There are protocols in place to address the spread and containment of the coronavirus. As of last week there were no reported cases in Macon County.
I have also talked with Tom Neal, the executive director of the Highlands Cashiers Hospital. HCA is implementing protocols to control the spread of the virus at their facilities. They already screen visitors to the hospital to make sure they do not have cold or flu symptoms. This screening is a standard practice during annually occurring flu season. Tom has informed me that the hospital has all the equipment, materials and staff to deal with a coronavirus outbreak should one occur.
Tom emphasizes that the best line of personal defense against any virus is thorough hand washing. He stresses that folks sometimes forget to wash thumbs and between fingers, and that washing with a good soap should last a minimum of 20 seconds.
Be assured the Town of Highlands realizes this is a serious issue, and we will work with these agencies in a coordinated response. I will be meeting with a representative of the Highlands Chamber of Commerce to discuss the issue of the opening of the season which brings large events to the town. It is anyone’s guess as to how long this virus will remain active. It may dissipate as warmer temperatures return.
I do have the authority to declare a state of emergency if a situation warrants it. As with other emergency declarations, I depend on guidance from experts in the county to advise me as to when to take such action. County officials are in constant contact with state and federal officials who are tracking and analyzing the spread of the coronavirus.
A real problem with this medical crisis is unwarranted fear and misinformation. The spread of COVID 19 virus has without a doubt impacted the world economy, the civil, social and cultural infrastructure. There are no easy solutions such as putting up gates and closing off Highlands to the outside world.
On the other hand, we can use best personal practices to mitigate this potential crisis.I recommend visiting the websites of the American Red Cross or the World Health Organization. Both websites identify practices that can minimize exposure.