Video #11 Transcript 04/03/2020

Hello Hamblen County.  Today is April 3, 2020.  Many things have changed since our last broadcast and we strongly encourage our community to stay connected with these updates so you will have the most current and reliable information.  Please understand information from this broadcast has been originated from the Hamblen County Coronavirus Task Force.  This Task Force is comprised of the key leaders in our county including directors, presidents, and chief executive offices from the Hamblen County Health Department, Morristown/Hamblen Covenant Health Hospital, Health Star Physicians, Chamber of Commerce, Emergency Management Administration, Emergency Medical Services, City of Morristown, Walters State Community College, Hamblen County Board of Education and both the city and county mayors.  Accurate and timely information will be disseminated through this Task Force.


Clearly the pandemic is an extremely fluid situation and many things can change even within a 24 hour time period.  It is important to secure your information from reliable sources during this time.  Social media is inundated with a wide variety of information on the virus.  Much of this information, especially from sites such as the TN Department of Health and the CDC, is extremely factual.  However, there are a number of other sources which may not present information that is balanced, accurate or beneficial.  Members of this Task Force will be some of the first individuals who will receive any new information about our situation in Hamblen County.  Please ensure you vet any information and its source before accepting it as truth. 


Please take a moment to review the following: 


1.         COVID-19 is a novel new corona virus.  Medical professionals and researchers are constantly discovering new information about the virus.  We will update you and revise our recommendations as new information is revealed.  Regardless of the new information presented, the most important factor which has remained constant since we began this journey has been the practice of social distancing.   Areas which have been committed to social distancing have fared much better than those who have allowed free travel and open interactions.  We don’t need to become panicked but we do need to take this virus seriously and maintain a strict social distancing policy.  Please keep in mind that this not only protects you but it protects those around you.  It is clear that some of our younger and more healthy individuals seem to think they are immune to the virus and that symptoms will be mild if they actually contract COVID19.  While this may be true to some degree, it doesn’t stop you from spreading the disease to those you love.  Maintain at least 6 feet between you and anyone around you. 


2.         Stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to be out of your house.  State-wide data has indicated we are increasing our movement throughout the state and our community.  At a time in which all of the research indicates that we should stay home, we are actually moving around more than ever.  This is not just about a state mandate by the Governor to stay home.  Staying home is one of the most effective ways we can protect our families, our friends, and our self.  Please take this stay-home order seriously and remain in your house.


3.         Of course, there will be some essential businesses and programs which must continue for our community to thrive.  Essential county and city services such as trash collection, law enforcement, water and sewage services, electrical, internet, and other infrastructure will continue.  However, virtually all municipal and educational offices are closed to the public but they will remain staffed to serve our community.  Individuals should attempt to contact these organizations via the phone or internet. We encourage you to be patient during these times because we are receiving a large number of calls and we will respond as soon as we can.  Email or on-line applications may be your best option to process transactions at this time. 


4.         The Governor’s Order allows essential business and programs to continue operations.  Many of those businesses and programs were listed in his Executive Order 22.  Some individuals has asked if they need to carry a letter stating they are traveling to an essential business when they leave their home.  We are recommending that essential businesses provide a simple letter to employees stating that individual is working in an essential business or simply require the employee to have his or her identification card with them while traveling to work.   At this time, letters of an essential business or identification cards are not required but would be advisable.  This would help to eliminate a future issue if such cards or letters are required in the future.  


5.         All businesses should refer to the Governor’s Executive Order 22 to determine if your business is considered to be essential or not.  Of course the Order is not absolute and many businesses would be questionable. However, specific businesses are listed as essential while other are clearly considered to be non-essential.  Individuals should close any business which is clearly listed as non-essential in Executive Order 22.  Remaining open would be a violation of the law and there are consequences for non-compliance.  Our local governmental agencies and law enforcement don’t want to have to issue citations and warnings for non-compliance.  Be socially responsible, help our local officials, and close all businesses that are non-essential.  Your compliance will help us prevent the spread of the virus. 


6.         Daycare for essential businesses has been determined to be essential.  The Daycare program at Hillcrest, or the Extended School Program, will remain in operation.  However, it is important to note that the program will be closed April 10 for Good Friday.  We will continue to operate as long as we have sufficient personnel to staff the program. 


7.         Community feeding programs are also considered essential.  To our knowledge all community feeding sites will remain open.  The Hamblen County School Food Service Program will continue to serve meals at our five school sites and the 17 designated sites listed at the end of this broadcast.  We have discussed the possibility of preparing multiple lunches for students so parents could pick up 3 lunches on Monday which would enable them to have food through Wednesday.  At this point, we don’t have the staff, or the food stock, to prepare more than a daily lunch and breakfast.  We are disseminating nearly 8,000 lunches and breakfasts per day.   We would be forced to dramatically increase the number of workers needed to produce multiple lunches on one day.  We are concerned this would cause unsafe working conditions and prevent us from having appropriate social distancing. 



8.         The Morristown Police Department has issued the following statement concerning enforcement of the Governor’s Executive Order.  Governor Lee issued Executive Order No. 23 on April 2nd to address the continued community spread of COVID-19 in our state.  The significance of the governor’s order is that is strengthens the language of the previous order which urged citizens to stay home when not engaging in essential activity or services to an order to stay at home unless they are traveling for the purposes of engaging in essential activity or service.  The definition of an essential activity or service did not change.  Activities targeted in this order include traveling for social gatherings or other non-essential activities prohibited in previous orders.


As formerly stated, if we become aware of violations of executive orders, to include the new stay-at-home order, we will make efforts to educate the individual and ask for voluntary compliance.  If the person still refuses to comply, depending on the violation, they could be charged with a Class A or Class B misdemeanor under state law.  The Morristown Police Department will continue to take measured, reasonable actions necessary to enforce the law and increase community safety. 


MPD Chief Roger Overholt stated, “We request everyone follow the new executive order and encourage you to plan your travel to reduce the number of trips needed to engage in essential activities or services”.


9.         Individuals can still travel for essential business.  Some activities such as picking up medication, getting groceries, taking care of relatives, and attending doctor’s appointments are clearly essential.  Others activities are not as clearly defined as essential and should be avoided. 


Please keep in mind these restrictions will not last forever.  The order expires on April 14.  We fully understand this will be an inconvenience for many of our citizens.  However, these precautions may save us from even greater tribulations and discomfort in the future.   Sometimes we are asked to conduct heroic acts which place us in harm’s way to protect our family and nation.  Nearly 80 years ago, we asked a generation of young men and women to leave the safety of their homes and fight for our nation in various places around the globe.  Americans were dropped on the beaches of Normandy, on the Island of Iwo Jima, and in numerous other places they had never known existed before they left their home towns. Over 400,000 Americans gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation in World War II.   Today, we are asked to protect our nation, our family, and our friends.  We have not been required to take up arms and place our self in harm’s way.  We have been asked to stay home.  You and others around you are safer at home during this time.  Let’s all do our part to keep our family, state and nation safe.   Stay at home.