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Get people vaccinated, then lift the restrictions

The local mandate for wearing face coverings is expected to end at the end of the month. However, we would encourage the mandate be extended for another month at least.
Tennessee already has eased back on restrictions for sporting events and is encouraging in-person schools. Many churches are having in-person services again. This is fine, but we still encourage wearing face masks and socially distancing.
It has been great news that hospitalizations have been decreasing steadily this month as well as the number of coronavirus cases in Carter County and across Northeast Tennessee. However, only about five percent of Carter County’s population has received both required doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The state and counties in the region are just beginning to vaccinate people 65 and older, and it will take time to complete that portion of the effort to vaccinate a large portion of our region.
In lifting the restrictions, Carter County would run the risk of indicating to people who haven’t liked wearing masks and practicing social distancing anyway that they don’t have to take any precautions now.
That is not true.
We’re still in the early days of this vaccination effort, and so it’s critical we continue to limit virus spread. Wearing a mask, washing hands, and staying home when you’re sick are the best tools to fight against COVID-19.
Carter County reported only five new cases of COVID-19 Monday…but it has had 5,833 total cases and 147 deaths.
Throughout Tennessee, we have taken to heart all the health officials’ warnings that we need to always wear masks when in public and try to stay at least six feet away from other people. We have made great strides in reducing the number of new cases in our state and the number of deaths related to COVID-19. Our hearts go out to families who have lost members to the dreaded disease.
However, we also had low numbers last fall and then saw how quickly they could rise again in November and December. Until our vaccine supply increases significantly and our state is able to vaccinate hundreds of thousands more people, we must remain vigilant.
The state in recent days has launched its new registration website. If you have an underlying condition or are at least 65 years old, sign up and you’ll be notified when you can be vaccinated.
We still have a long way to go in Carter County. We’re not where we should be yet. Now is not the time to become complacent.
Wear a mask in public. Wash your hands often. Practice social distancing.
We will beat this virus, but it still will be months before we can begin to return to “normal.”