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Rep. Ager to look into inconsistent Montreat COVID-19 data

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
Montreat is listed with zero COVID-19 cases by the state despite Montreat College listing one active case.

MONTREAT - State Rep. John Ager says he is looking into how COVID-19 cases at Montreat College are counted for the town's ZIP code. 

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services lists zero COVID-19 cases for the 28757 ZIP code as of Nov. 12. Montreat College is listed with one current student case and 39 total cases since August.

Ager said he has reached out to Matt Gross, assistant secretary for government affairs for NCDHHS, about how student cases are counted.

"It is a community that really needs special attention because there are many older residents living close to Montreat College, with the potential for asymptomatic students with COVID," Ager said. "There is the likelihood of interaction by the close-knit nature of the community."

After an Oct. 5 count of two active cases at the college, NCDHHS listed eight cases in the town. By Nov. 1, the town's total rose to 21.

Madison County Health Director Tammy Cody told The News-Record & Sentinel that cases should be counted where the student is currently staying, not the county the student is from.

"For communicable disease purposes, state guidance is that wherever they are sleeping is the county they belong to," Cody said.

Residents say they have notified Montreat's Board of Commissioners about inconsistencies between state and Montreat College case counts. 

Montreat mayor Tim Helms said the town has been providing as much information as it can to residents and that he was pleased by the town's initial response to restrictions.

"I'm very pleased with the response in the community, and we try to keep them informed on a weekly basis and so forth on what's going on," Helms said. "We've got a lot of vulnerable people up here who retire here. It's in their best interest to do this."

Buncombe County is listed with 4,675 cases and 111 deaths. Black Mountain's 28711 ZIP code has 235 cases and 11 deaths.

Montreat College provides on-campus testing each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and requests both students and faculty to record symptoms daily. Any school cases are placed in a two-week quarantine with testing on the fifth, sixth and seventh days.