COVID-19 a hot topic at commissioners meeting


Shaun Adams


Swain County Commissioners held their monthly meeting Thursday, June 11. Swain County Health Department Director Alison Cochran presented the board with an update on COVID-19, and there were 38 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Swain County, which has increased to 40 as of Tuesday.

During the report, Ms. Cochran stated, “the public has asked that we identify what communities the positive cases are in” and she also said that “the state does report by zip code and we are able to do that” and asked the commissioners, “Do you want me to break it down by zip code or leave it as Swain County in general?”

Swain County Commission Chairman Ben Bushyhead responded by asking the rest of the board, “How do you guys feel about that? Do you think it would help you and help the public to know what region for lack of a better term these COVID cases are located?” Bushyhead then expressed concern about whether it may be a violation of HIPPA, and Cochran responded, “No, since the state is using it, it is not a HIPPA violation.”

The board unanimously approved breaking down the cases by zip code.

Duke Ellington addressed the board during public comment voicing his concern “that so many people are coming into the county are not following suggestions from the state and federal government.”

“We feel it is not too much to ask for people to wear a mask when they are around people and try to social distance,” he said. Ellington also wondered if there was a tourist development that could offer masks. He added he was anxious to get back to business.

Bushyhead thanked Ellington for addressing the board and suggested he speak with the Swain County Tourism and Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce.

More COVID-19 concerns were voiced by Jennifer Harbors during public comment, as she asked the board of commissioners about placing hand sanitizer dispensers in Bryson City.

“Even though we are starting to open things up again, I feel like we still need to be vigilant,” she said.

Chairman Bushyhead replied, saying, “I would assume many of the businesses have hand sanitizer inside them, and I don’t know how long we would keep them on the streets if we put them out for people walking on the streets.”

County Manager Kevin King also told her to contact the town of Bryson City or TDA about that.


Commissioners want to honor Dr. Wolfe

Swain County Commissioners unanimously approved joining with Jackson County in a resolution asking the North Carolina Department of Transportation to rename a section of Highway 441 from the exit ramp of 74 to the intersection of highway 19 and 441 to honor Dr. Jeremiah Wolfe.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Memorandum of Understanding was also approved unanimously; it is an agreement with the tribe to allow Swain County’s health department to provide services on tribal land that is good for three years, according to the county manager. Bushyhead asked, “How many times would you say we have signed this agreement,” Alison Cochran replied, “at least three or four times now.”


Deep Creek campground

Manager King discussed reaching out to the National Park Service about the Deep Creek Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park being closed after receiving an email from an unnamed concerned citizen. The park superintendent did not give King a date when it would reopen, but “has three different criteria that he has to gauge that looks at the hospital numbers and the number of cases,” according to Mr. King.


In other business

King gave the tax collectors, and notable numbers total receivable is $5,728,848.50, and the total monthly taxes collected were $109,517.82, and year-to-date taxes received $6,521,647.36. After a presentation by Russ Harris, the commission unanimously accepted the report and passed a resolution entering a housing consortium with the Southwestern Commission.