JCDPH adds more info to COVID-19 daily testing updates

Jackson County Department of Public Health has begun including more information regarding COVID-19 daily testing updates. JCDPH Deputy Health Director Melissa McKnight said it was important to do so to keep the community informed for the public’s safety.

“We want to provide our community with as much information as we can so that they are able to make responsible decisions for the health and safety of themselves and the ones that they love,” said McKnight. “This is especially important as we are working to determine when and how to loosen restrictions using best practices and data.”

JCDPH Daily Testing Update breaks down the following:

  • # of COVID-19 tests reported to JCDPH
  • # of cases and deaths in the US
  • # of cases and deaths in NC
  • # of cases and deaths in Jackson County full-time residents
  • # of cases and deaths in Jackson County part-time residents
  • # of cases and deaths in people who do not reside in Jackson County (i.e. non-residents) but who were tested at a healthcare provider in Jackson County and reported to JCDPH (new as of April 27)

JCDPH daily testing updates do not include the zip code of a patient’s residence in the updates, which some other counties in North Carolina are doing. McKnight said when considering releasing data to the public, JCDPH considers four main things:

  1. Would releasing this data breach patient confidentiality?
  2. Do we have a clear, widely accepted definition for the type of data being asked for?  For example, at this time, NC DHHS has not provided us with a definition for “recovered” which is why we do not share any data on cases who have “recovered.”
  3. Do we have access to this data on a regular, consistent basis? Is this something we know we will be able to report to our community with frequency? 
  4. Does this data help our community get a better picture of disease burden in our community?

If a data request does not meet each of these qualifiers, JCDPH does not release it. 

“I understand that many want data released by zip codes,” said McKnight. “We will not release this information that way because we have community spread of COVID-19 in Jackson County. That means that people have gotten COVID-19 and don’t know where or from whom they got it. Sharing cases by zip code could give our community a false sense of security, i.e. ‘If I avoid XX community, I won’t get sick.’ That is potentially dangerous as we know individuals have the potential to acquire COVID-19 anywhere in Jackson County because we have community spread.”

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Jackson County, state and county leadership are strategizing the best ways to begin opening up businesses. Jackson County Public Information Officer Kelly Donaldson urges caution moving forward.

“While we are seeing other areas of the country see a decrease in cases and some businesses re-opening, we are indeed seeing an increase in Jackson County,” said Donaldson. “While we understand residents are restless to get back to a ‘normal life’ and businesses are in dire economic need of reopening, now more than ever we must be diligent in following the Governor’s Stay at Home order and recommendations. The last thing we want is to re-open for business and have to close again for a spike in cases.”

Donaldson added the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to continue following social distancing guidelines.

“We really feel like overall, pretending you have the COVID-19 virus and pretending everyone around you has it as well, is the best possible practice for our citizens,” he said. “Now more than ever, we all need to be wearing masks, sanitizing our hands, practicing social distancing, and staying at home unless it’s absolutely-essential travel.”

Governor Roy Cooper has extended the Stay at Home order until May 8 and Donaldson said Jackson County will respond appropriately as restrictions are lifted. Read full story on Gov. Cooper’s 3-phase plan to lift restrictions HERE.

“We will be closely following what the Governor decides about easing or extending the Stay at Home Order after May 8,” he said. “From there, we will follow the three phases he outlined last week and contour our county’s declarations accordingly, as and if our commissioners see fit.”

Click HERE to visit JCDPH’s FaceBook page and view daily COVID-19 testing updates.

Article by Brian O’Shea
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