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Macon County Public Health Needs More Staff To Distribute COVID-19 Vaccine

Macon Public Health
Dr. Donald Dewhurst was one of the first to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, December 31st. Nurse Ruthie Capaforte adminstered the vaccine.

In order to meet the demand for vaccinating residents, Macon County is cutting back on contact tracing.

On Monday, Macon County Public Health department announced it would no longer issue press releases about COVID-19 clusters in order to move three nurses from contract tracing duties to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

“If you could double my staff then I could vaccinate all week long and test all week long.”

That’s Kathy McGaha, director of Macon Public Health. Right now, the department only has enough staff to administer the COVID-19 vaccinations two days each week. They working to expand these hours.

Credit Macon County Public Health
Macon Public Health expanded the schedule at the end of the day on January 12th. Click to enlarge.


“We simply do not have the nursing and support staff to do the disease detective work required to identify where individuals contracted the virus. It is not as simple as editing a press release. It takes a team of staff to do the work required to do that reporting and, we simply do not have the capacity needed,” said McGaha in a press release referring to tracing COVID-19 clusters. 

The health department announced at the end of the day Tuesday that beginning January 19th, COVID-19 testing will be on Monday and Thursday; COVID-19 vaccination will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
McGaha adds the health department is also balancing prenatal care needs with the demand for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.

“Overall we have done the majority of the testing for Macon County – and of course we are seeing a surge,” said McGaha.  

McGaha estimates she would need 30 additional medical professionals working at the health department to vaccinate every day.

As of January 10th, 330people have received the first dose of the vaccine in Macon County and 33 people have completed the vaccine series in Macon County according to NCDHHS. 

McGaha says the hospital and long-term care facilities are also administering the vaccine. The most recent county alert system update puts Macon at a critical level of community spread.

The county started vaccinating seniors age 75 and up as part of Phase 1b on Monday. Those who are eligible under this phase can call 828-349-2517 to schedule an appointment.

On Tuesday, Macon County Public Health shared that the volume of calls for COVID-19 testing and vaccination has overwhelmed the county phone system. It is working with Frontier to increase capacity for calls.

Macon County Emergency Services has announced that it will be offering a drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic in Nantahala on January 19th. 

This post was updated with the new Macon Public Health schedule at 8p.m. on January 12th. 

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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