COVID-19 situation has worsened in county; masks recommended

Published 3:18 pm Thursday, July 28, 2022

The COVID-19 situation has worsened in our region as the BA.5 subvariant of omicron surges nationwide.
According to Tennessee Department of Health data, Carter County during the seven-day period ending July 23 had a daily case rate of 42.8 cases per 100,000 residents per day. During the 14-day period ending July 23, Carter County averaged 22.9 new cases per day. During the seven-day period ending July 23, Carter County’s positive raTe was 37.8 percent — the highest in Northeast Tennessee. Carter County was followed closely by Sullivan County with a 33.4 positivity rate; Johnson County with a 30.2 positivity rate; Unicoi County, the lowest at 21.4 percent; and Washington County at 30.5 percent.
Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) COVID data show that from the beginning of July through July 23, the seven-county Northeast Tennessee region recorded 20 new COVID deaths. That includes eight in Sullivan County and three each in Greene, Johnson and Washington counties.
Some churches in the area dismissed services last Sunday due to the number of COVID cases in the congregation and the exposure to COVID.
A spokesman for Ballad Health said this week that the BA.5 variant of the virus is now the dominant strain and is extremely contagious. “While many cases are mild or even asymptomatic, the sheer number has pushed hospitalization and ICU totals to their highest levels since mid-March, when the Omicron surge was nearing its end,” Ballad Health Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift said.
Swift said over the past couple of weeks, there had been a 44 percent increase in the COVID inpatient census across all Ballad hospitals with 132 persons hospitalized Wednesday. About a fifth of those patients were in ICU.
“We’re seeing a lot of cases that are mild cases, but we continue to have severe illness and death,” Swift said.
While Ballad testing centers are seeing 200-300 people a day compared to 30-30 a few months ago, many people are simply testing at home.
Testing for COVID is available at the Carter County Health Department. Self-test kits are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. PCR tests are available by appointment.
If you are exposed to someone who has COVID-19, there are immediate steps you should take to protect yourself and those around you. It is recommended you quarantine at home for five days if you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID; if you are unvaccinated, or you are not up-to-date on your vaccine and you have not had confirmed COVID within the past three months.
Regardless of vaccination status, you should wear a mask when around others through 10 days after your last exposure to someone with COVID-19.
Get tested 5 or more days following your exposure, even if you are feeling well.
Watch for cough, fever (100.4°F), shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19. If symptoms develop, you should isolate and get tested for COVID-19. Cover your coughs and clean your hands often to prevent spreading germs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tennessee Department of Health recommend a 5-day quarantine after exposure to a case. Swift recommended masking up, especially when in large gatherings indoors. “It’s a discussion worth having especially with children going back to school within the next couple of weeks. She said most area counties are in the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) moderate or high community spread zones, which recommend masks indoors. “It’s certainly that discussion to have either as a school system but maybe also as parents and children,” Swift said. “Really think about risks and what risks are there for your family and consider those masks again.”
The Tennessee Department of Health reports that 50.5 percent of Carter County residents have received at least one vaccine and 46.1 residents have been fully vaccinated and only 20.1 percent of fully vaccinated residents have received a booster.
Swift also noted that all school-aged children are eligible for vaccines now and suggested that was a good way to protect them.

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