By noon Tuesday, Haywood County reported 16 new positive COVID-19 cases, said Patrick Johnson, the county’s Public Health Director.

That’s despite the fact that many individuals identified as close contacts of an individual recently testing positive are not cooperating by getting the recommended testing.

The 16 positive tests on July 28 are on top of the 31 positive tests reported over the weekend between Friday evening and Monday morning.

By Tuesday afternoon, Johnson said health officials were dealing with a “cluster” at Waynesville Pharmacy.

A cluster is when at least five employees at a certain business or school have a positive COVID-19 test.

That’s different than an “outbreak” which happens at a congregate facility where a minimum of two positive cases is diagnosed.

The cluster is at Waynesville Pharmacy where five current or former employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

The business released the following statement:

“Waynesville Pharmacy has prided itself on providing safe and efficient service to our customers while maintaining a safe workplace for our valued employees.

“Unfortunately, in the past two weeks, five individuals connected to our pharmacy have tested positive with COVID-19.

“Two individuals who tested positive are former employees of Waynesville Pharmacy and received testing and positive results following their resignations.

“These individuals remain in isolation in their homes. The other three individuals who are employees of our pharmacy have followed all CDC guidelines and have been working with the Haywood County Health Department to determine all close contacts.

The statement said none of the individuals came in connection with any medications or supplies and were not present at the pharmacy while symptomatic or positive.

Immediately upon learning of the first positive case with possible linkage to the business, the pharmacy hired a third-party cleaning company to ensure the entire workplace was adequately sanitized.

“We have also decided to provide only drive-thru, curbside and delivery services at this time to ensure greater safety for our customers and employees,” the statement said.

The business follows all CDC and OSHA guidelines, and all employees are required to wear proper PPE while present at the pharmacy, according to the statement.

The recent COVID trend is very concerning, Johnson said.

“Last week we had our first two deaths,” he said. “We started averaging three cases a day, then five a day. Now today we have 16 cases and are looking at a cluster in Haywood County.”

Shining Rock Classical Academy students, administrators and teachers will be returning to school next week.

Johnson said he isn’t concerned about the prospect.

“Dr. Jaben and I spoke with Shining Rock and are very impressed with their plans,” Johnson said. “If they do all they say they will do, they should get along just fine.”

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