COVID-19 cluster among Haywood County Detention Center staff

Press release from Haywood County Emergency Management Team:

The Haywood County Health and Human Services Agency has identified a COVID-19 cluster among Haywood County Detention Center staff. The cluster of cases was connected to a detention officer certification training event, held at Haywood Community College from October 5 – November 12, 2020.

Officers from Haywood, Jackson, Swain, and Macon counties all attended the class. All of the students and instructors were notified immediately upon identification of a positive case.

The Haywood County Detention Center had 10 officers at the training, and seven of them have tested positive so far.  A total of 18 people were involved in the training class.

All have been in quarantine since first notified of possible exposure. The cluster has not affected other staff at the detention center and does not affect incarcerated persons at this time.

“We are taking this very seriously at the Haywood County Detention Center. As soon as we became aware of the situation we acted immediately to have all potentially affected employees quarantined and tested. We are continuing to monitor all of our employees and staff in the detention center as well as incarcerated persons in order to protect them. We will continue to monitor the situation following all state and local health department recommendations,” said Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher.

From Dr. Shelley White, President of HCC, “Upon learning of the first positive result from this class, we immediately contacted all those connected to the class and advised them to quarantine. Following our response procedures, a thorough cleaning of the facility was performed. We reached out to the Haywood County Health Department to work together on the next steps needed to address the situation. Throughout the pandemic, HCC has limited on-campus activities and classes to only those with in-person requirements, with the majority of classes being conducted online. We have maintained a consistent focus on following state and local guidelines to ensure we are operating safely and this is a reminder that we must all remain diligent in our efforts at all times.”

The Haywood County Health and Human Services Agency has been working with the college and the Sheriff’s Office to reinforce recommended policies and public health guidelines. Everyone involved has been cooperating fully to ensure appropriate measures are in place going forward.

“This cluster, where county employees let down their COVID guard, is a key example of why we need to remain vigilant in the face of COVID-19,” said Interim Health Director Garron Bradish.  “It’s an important reminder for everyone that COVID-19 spreads quickly if the appropriate precautions aren’t taken. Situations like these are avoidable through consistent masking and social distancing. Practicing the 3W’s anytime we’re around people who don’t live in our household, no matter how well we know them, is the best tool we have to avoid this type of rapid spread in schools, workplaces, churches, families, and the community.”
The North Carolina Division of Public Health (NCDPH) defines clusters of COVID-19 in workplace, educational, and other community settings as 1) A minimum of 5 cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period AND, 2) plausible linkage between cases where cases were present in the same setting during the same time period (e.g., same shift, same classroom, same physical work area); that the timing fits with likely timing of exposure; and that there is no other more likely source of exposure for identified cases (e.g., household or close contact to a confirmed case in another setting).

Symptomatic individuals who test positive will be required to remain in isolation under the following conditions: 1) At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared AND, 2) At least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, AND 3) Symptoms (like cough and shortness of breath) have improved. Asymptomatic individuals who test positive will be required to remain in isolation under the following conditions: 1) At least 10 days have passed since their positive test assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test.

Haywood County Public Health is working to identify any additional close contacts of these employees. The CDC defines close contact as being within approximately 6 feet of a person infected with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more, during the period in which they are contagious.  Based on the information provided by the employees, county health officials will assess risks of exposure, determine which if any additional measures are needed, quarantine, and/or testing.

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