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Pandemic spreads, policies change

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic took center stage in 2020, pushing many people to tire of the subsequent and often controversial restrictions. Work on the COVID-19 vaccine seems hopeful, but it is paramount not to get lax with protection. Numbers are soaring and spreading in rural areas like Mountain City and urban areas like Washington, DC. 

“November 8-14 marked the largest number of weekly cases (3,246) the region has had, representing a 30 percent week-over-week increase,” Ballad told The Tomahawk.

Ballad Health’s Scorecard between November 15 and November 16 shows a .2 percent increase in positive cases in the week prior. Johnson County rose from staying stagnant at two, with no deaths to 1,324 confirmed cases and 17 deaths.  The state of Virginia recently released updated restrictions, including mask regulations, but Tennessee is yet to follow suit. Locals report that only about fifty percent of shoppers in the area wear facemasks. County Mayor Mike Taylor signed a mask mandate extending from mid-July until the end of September, and “highly recommended” continued use after its expiration.

“I implore you to do your part to help keep Johnson County healthier by following all the recommended guidelines, such as hand washing, hand sanitizers, and social distancing,” Taylor explained after not extending the local mandate through October. “Because of the care and concern you, the citizens of Johnson County, have for yourselves and your neighbors, we are able to move forward. But we must remain vigilant and persistent as we work together to rid our county of this disease.”

The Tennessee Department of Health seems to agree, according to reports from the Johnson County School Board. School officials have reported meetings with Northeast Regional Health Office Medical Director David Kirschke in the past, and Kirschke called in to address some “terms of quarantine” misconceptions during the Thursday, November 5 meeting. 

The point the Board reports people have been displeased with is Close-Contact Quarantine. According to Kirschke, especially in school-aged children, approximately 50 percent of COVID cases are asymptomatic but still contagious up to two days before any symptoms may arise and ten days after. Close-Contact Quarantine, which lasts for 14 days, is used to prevent possible spread. Health officials are urging everyone to be vigilant, stay the course, and follow guidelines to fight against the spread of the infection. 

For more information on local and state-wide COVID statistics, visit tn.gov/health. More information on the Johnson County School Board and its COVID-19 Dashboard is available at jocoed.net.