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Ask Matt ... about Covid-19 deaths, search for TDA chief

Q. What percent of the overall deaths in our county in 2020 were Covid-19 related deaths?

The Henderson County Health Department reported 92 Covid-19 related deaths since the first coronavirus death last March. Of the 1,563 deaths, the coronavirus accounted for 6 percent of the total or one death in seventeen. According to a recent CDC report, in 94 percent of Covid-19 deaths, an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, respiratory failure or cardiac arrest was a contributing factor.
While I was pulling death figures, I looked at the average number of deaths in the county for the past three years (1,525 per year) and compared that to the comparable number of births (916). At the rate of 609 more deaths than births each year one can surmise that eventually there would be no one left alive in the county. But we of course have the in-migration factor. So although more residents are passing away than new ones being born, our county still grows at the annual clip of 1.3 percent. That’s more “little pink houses for you and me.”

Q. What is the status on the hiring of a new executive director for the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority?

It’s back on. Current TDA Director Beth Carden, announced her retirement last spring but after Covid hit she was asked by her board to stay “until things opened up.” The extension was not supposed to last a year. “We are starting virtual interviews,” said Debi Smith, chair of the TDA board and manager of Cascades Mountain Resort. “We hope to narrow the candidates down to two or three and do in-person interviews.” Smith also hopes to add a level of transparency to the search and introduce candidates to local travel industry partners.
The director’s position, which Carden has held since 2012, is responsible for marketing, budgeting, event and long-range planning. The director heads a full-time staff of six plus dozens of volunteers. Smith believes that many improvements were made under Carden’s leadership and the number of visitors grew. “The next director will need to raise the bar again.” Smith said that the new director could see the construction of two new downtown hotels and will need to work with industry partners on how to maximize the overall guest experience. The TDA board hopes to make a final selection later this month.


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