Macon County Public Health reported three more coronavirus-related deaths on Aug. 31, bringing the number of total fatalities to seven since the pandemic began.
All of the deaths have occurred with people over the age of 65.
While active cases continue to decline, the recent deaths indicate that the COVID-19 crisis is far from over. In its Aug. 31 report, the health department reported 15 active cases, down from 43 a week earlier and 57 as of Aug. 17.
“Even with cases going down, if this virus gets to the wrong person, it’s pretty catastrophic,” said Kathy McGaha, director of Macon County Public Health. “It’s that age group with individuals with comorbidities that we’re really trying to protect, and it’s going to take all of us to protect them.”
The health department’s COVID-19 demographics report showed that the 65-74 age group accounted for just 4.6 percent of total cases but accounted for all seven deaths.
“If you look at the number who have died compared to number in that age group that are positive, it’s a higher percentage,” she said.
Protecting those that are most vulnerable remains a priority, even as the number of active cases decline, McGaha said.
“We’re the ones bringing it home to these individuals, many who aren’t necessarily going out of the house,” she said. I know cases are going down, but I don’t want to get complacent with the three W’s (wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance). That does work.”
McGaha said the school system is handling the COVID crisis about as well as could be expected. The positive COVID cases and the resulting quarantines were inevitable.
McGaha acknowledges that parents and students are anxious to return to the classroom, but she thinks it’s too early for that to happen safely.
“At this point, I don’t think that would be the best decision,” she said. “I’m taking this one day at a time. We knew that when school went back into session that there would be positive cases.”
The challenge now is to keep the spread of the virus in check.
“The whole point is to identify them quickly, isolate those that test positive and quarantine anyone who had any chance of exposure. If we can do that quickly and efficiently, they will be more likely to be able to continue face-to-face (instruction).”
Four schools – Franklin High, Union Academy, Macon Middle and Mountain View Intermediate – are now closed to in-person instruction through Sept. 11.
“So far the schools have responded on a school-by-school basis, and that’s the best way to handle it,” McGaha said.