People, not numbers:
- The surge continues in Haywood County, as well as across the state and across the nation. Since our weekly message on Friday, December 4, we’ve had 221 new cases. 107 of those have been reported since our press release this Tuesday. Outbreaks continue in long term care facilities throughout Haywood County, and we’ve had 7 additional COVID deaths attributable to these outbreaks since Tuesday.
- These outbreaks comprise about 43% of our current active caseload. The other 57% of cases are in the community, with the most common theme being exposure through family members either bringing the virus home from work or exposing extended family at holiday gatherings.
- If you’re planning to travel or gather with people from outside your immediate household for the upcoming holidays, you may want to reconsider and scale back to a stay-at-home holiday with household members. This will help protect you and your loved ones, as well as reduce the burden on hospitals throughout the country. To see real-time risk levels across the country, visit U.S. COVID Map & Risk Levels. For more information about factors to think about when considering travel, visit the CDC’s travel webpage: Traveling During the Pandemic.
- The current surge in cases has prompted us to make some changes in our COVID-19 contact tracing processes, triaging priorities to focus on positive cases to ensure that our efforts focus on the primary thing that we can do to help mitigate spread.
- We will still be conducting case investigations and monitoring on POSITIVE cases. However, we do not currently have the capacity to track and monitor the close contacts of positives. Therefore:
· When we make our initial contact with positive cases, we will explain the definition of a close contact, and ask the positive person to get in touch with their close contacts so that those contacts know to quarantine and get tested six days after exposure.
· We will still be providing isolation letters and isolation release letters for positive cases when requested.
· CLOSE CONTACTS OF POSITIVES STILL NEED TO QUARANTINE AFTER EXPOSURE TO AVOID FURTHER VIRAL SPREAD. However, since we have placed a hold on monitoring close contacts, we can’t currently provide quarantine documentation for employers. Businesses should be mindful that asking quarantined employees to return to work too quickly could cause a cluster of cases in the workplace. We ask that employers rely on the honor system and encourage employees who have been exposed to quarantine for the recommended time frame of 14 days from the date of exposure to help us reduce the spread during this surge of cases.
· EXCEPTION: We will be providing confidential notification to school nurses of any positives related to the school system (a positive child, a child of a positive, a positive school employee). The school nurses will contact the parent of students or the staff member and get any school-related contacts and do isolation education. They will then call the school-related contacts and notify them of the need to quarantine and do quarantine education. School nurses will follow the contacts and release them from quarantine.
· We are temporarily suspending testing for close contacts of positives, except for those already scheduled. Testing is still available through primary care providers and urgent care centers throughout the county.
o We have streamlined and simplified our case investigation questions and processes, and have pulled additional Public Health staff onto the COVID-19 team to assist with case investigations while we manage the current case surge.
· Now more than ever we need your help. Do everything that you can to not be a close contact. Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth anytime you’re around people who don’t live in your household. Keep six feet of distance. Stay home if you’re sick, and get tested if you become symptomatic for COVID-19.