The Transylvania Times -

We Can Do Better


Last updated 2/12/2021 at 9:19am

For much of the COVID-19 pandemic, Transylvania County residents have responded quite well. When residents first heard of the virus, many stayed home. When people ventured out in public, many wore masks, stayed 6 feet away and washed their hands regularly. When August of last year rolled around, schools were able to open with the hybrid schedule in which students spent two days in school and three days at home because cases in the community were relatively low.

By several measures – actual cases, positivity rates and deaths – Transylvania was doing better than 90 percent of the counties in North Carolina.

That is no longer true. This past Monday the county reported its 22nd death related to COVID-19. The percent of residents testing positive was 25 percent, quintupling the state’s desired goal of 5 percent or less. And the number of cases is trending in the wrong direction with 6 percent more cases in the past week than in the previous week.

A few months ago, we had far fewer cases per 100,000 people than other counties in Western North Carolina. No more. As of Monday, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, for the past 14 days Transylvania had 643 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. By comparison, Buncombe County had 538, Jackson had 428 and Haywood had 619 new cases per 100,000 residents. Of our closest counties, only Henderson had a higher rate at 727 new cases per 100,000 people.

State numbers also have been trending downward since the beginning of January, and the latest seven-day rolling average for the state, despite a huge peak on Feb. 3 of 12, 079 cases, has decreased.

Maybe the most troubling statistic is that on Dec. 31, 2020, some nine full months after COVID-19 arrived in the county, we had 993 cases. In less than six weeks, that number had increased to 1730. That is a dangerous and discouraging increase, and if new cases continue at their current pace, we will have had more cases of COVID-19 this January and February than we had during the first nine months.

We are not sure why our numbers are trending higher when the numbers in other counties in North Carolina and the state as a whole appear to be stabilizing or decreasing. It’s not just a one-week mathematical anomaly since we’ve had more than 730 cases in the last six weeks. It cannot be due to an influx of tourists since January and February are two of the slowest tourism months of the year. The most readily apparent logical explanation is that local residents are not adhering to the safety protocols as strictly as before. We have received several anecdotal reports, as well as witnessing them ourselves, of significant numbers of people not wearing masks or disregarding arrows directing one-way traffic, particularly in grocery stores. And there are instances when some people who wear masks pull them down to talk to someone, thus negating the efficacy of wearing a mask.

We understand COVID-19 fatigue. We all would like to ditch the masks, to give friends and family long hugs and to be able to enjoy music festivals and sporting events.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, is far from over. Even if the number of vaccines doubles by the end of March, it would still be several months before all who want to be vaccinated will be and it could take longer to reach herd immunity. In the meantime, we need to do better in keeping ourselves and others safe, even as the number of people vaccinated increases.


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