In mid-March when Swain County residents were first subject to social distancing and quarantining measures against the virus COVID-19, it was mostly a preventative measure as there were no recorded cases.
The county’s number of cases remained extremely low as people hunkered down and visitors stayed away. It wasn’t until May 21 that the Swain County recorded 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That trend seems to be changing, however. Over this past weekend, the number of confirmed cases for the entire county, which includes some of Cherokee, hiked up from 13 on Friday to 21 on Monday.
With a closer look at cases by zip code, the majority of cases are in Cherokee (covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard).
According to Swain County Health Department Director Alison Cochran, test results are taking about 3-5 days. Some communities are now reporting on the number of recovered individuals. Cochran said at this time, Swain County has elected not to report on that information.
The CDC currently recommends testing symptomatic individuals or those with a known exposure. “Guidance can change rapidly,” Cochran noted.
She said some of the positive cases in Swain County have been patients who are asymptomatic when tested.
Chief Sneed urges vigilance
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians keeps its own tally on coronavirus cases on the boundary, which saw a jump of nine new cases through this past weekend. These are people who have tested at the Cherokee hospital.
EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed spoke to the community in a video posted to social media Monday, urging the community to continue to take precautions against the spread of the virus.
“We all share in the responsibility to keep our community safe by keeping our positive cases low,” Sneed said. “I believe in the strength and resilience of our tribe, and I know we can get through this together by being respectful of others, wearing or masks, washing our hands and waiting six feet apart.”
The tribe began widespread testing among tribal members and employees early on. Casey Cooper, chief executive officer of the Cherokee Indian Hospital, said in the same video that more testing is needed.
He stressed that there is community spread, and like Sneed, encouraged everyone to follow the guidelines set out by the CDC to prevent spread.
Testing has certainly increased statewide, as has the number of confirmed cases. As of Tuesday, June 2, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports 29,889 confirmed cases and 921 deaths contributed to COVID-19. Across the state, there have ben 434,921 tests completed, and there are 716 currently hospitalized for the virus. The statewide seven-day average of cases has been on a steady rise. The state estimates more than 18,860 have recovered from the virus statewide.