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COVID-19 Update: Legislation, mandates, and TDH new recommendations

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

It is no surprise that people seem fed up with extra precautions related to COVID-19. This worldwide pandemic has been making changes to the status quo since 2019. Despite the desire to move on, COVID-19 is holding tight and continuing to spread, with the new Delta variant being far more transmissible and possibly more dangerous. It seems that many entities are heading back towards precautions that were common earlier in the pandemic.

Some states are already taking precautions. This past week, Virginia schools announced they would have mask mandates in place. Johnson County does not require masks at this time, but that does not mean it will not change as the pandemic continues. The Johnson County School Board mentioned an unofficially set meeting with the superintendent expected this September regarding a variety of COVID-19 related issues.

Tennessee government is muddying the water on what is required despite the return of mask mandate in several areas. On August 16, Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 84, allowing parents to “opt-out” their children from wearing a mask in school despite school mandates. According to The Tennessean, the state’s two largest school districts stay adamant that masks are mandatory.

Another prominent concern in this pandemic is vaccination. According to Ballad Health, as of August 12, only about 38.4 percent of the population is vaccinated. Experts report that COVID-19 is far more dangerous for the unvaccinated. Because of the influx of hospitalizations from COVID-19, Ballad has once again suspended all overnight, non-emergency elective surgeries.

“You heard Dr. Walensky with the CDC say in the last several days that this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and that is also our experience here in Tennessee,” Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercy explained in a recent broadcast. “About 97 percent of all of our hospitalizations and 98 plus percent of all of our deaths are amongst the unvaccinated.”

At the time of this article, TDH reports 73 cases of COVID-19 in Johnson County. That is a 22 case increase within the last week. For information on the Johnson County Health Department or to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination, call (423) 727-9731. TDH is suggesting that moderately and severely immunocompromised people receive a third dose booster Pfizer or Moderna shot. Find out more at tn.gov/health. See the TDH release here.