By Meg Dickens
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a source of panic nationwide since the infection and death count started rising back in early 2020. Now government entities and individuals are relaxing mentally and relaxing their physical safety standards as infection numbers seem to drop. As restrictions lift and events go back to normal, the question is whether this is as safe as people may think.
Johnson County was relatively late to the party where COVID-19 is concerned. The first few cases hit between March and April of 2020. The numbers stayed stagnant for a while before ballooning. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, this small county has 39 related deaths, and active cases are down to the single digits at the time of this article.
Variants of COVID-19 are spreading nationwide and globally, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). For example, the variant discovered in India is reportedly more contagious than the original and is now classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO). Versions of this variant are reportedly now in the United States and United Kingdoms.
In a previous interview, Johnson County Health Department Public Health Educator Angie Stout explained that cases seem lower, but that could be because of the drastic drop in testing instead of an actual decline in cases. There is not enough population data to tell for sure.
Health officials also report variants in the vicinity. This shows that local areas could be susceptible to global trends. Regional Health Department Director Dr. David Kirschke confirmed the possibility during a past interview.
“COVID variants have been documented in Tennessee, including in the Northeast region,” said Kirschke. “It is likely that they are spreading more widely than we currently have the ability to detect.”
Whether it is a small town or a big city, people should consider the danger involved before hanging up their masks for good. Mask usage in Johnson County residents dropped drastically despite a lack of conclusive evidence on whether the pandemic danger has lessened. Although mandates in Tennessee and neighboring areas are over, health officials continue to take precautions for both their own and public safety.
For more information on the Johnson County Health Department or to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination, call (423) 727-9731. Find the closest vaccine option at vaccines.gov.