Video #4 transcript 03/20/2020

Good evening Hamblen County Citizens.  Today is March 20, 2020.  We hope this broadcast will keep you updated on important information regarding the status of the Coronavirus in Hamblen County.


First, we have discovered that we have our first confirmed case of COVID 19 in Hamblen County and Mayor Brittain is releasing an official statement on this.  As of yesterday, there were154 cases in Tennessee as of March 19. Virtually all of these cases involved an individual who had traveled out of the state of Tennessee.  Traveling out of the state seems to increase the likelihood a person will contract the virus.


Second, a Hamblen County Teacher, Mrs. Paula Mowery, is translating each of the videos into sign language for our deaf and hard of hearing citizens.  You can find this translation on this website.  Thanks to Mrs. Mowery for doing this for our community. 


Third, school officials have reviewed multiple factors concerning the possible spread of the virus, declarations of school closures from the state level, concerns expressed by medically comprised staff returning to work, and parents with medically fragile children.  School officials do not see any possible way we could return to school immediately after spring break.  We are always reluctant to close schools but we don’t think we have many options at this point.  Also we want to provide our parents and industry leaders with as much advanced notice as we possibly can when we are forced to close.   We will be closed through Friday, April 10.  We will return on Monday, April 13, if possible.  It is very likely we could be out for an extended period of time.  It would be our intent to return as soon as possible but safety must drive every decision we make.  


Fourth, the Board of Education office will operate on an abbreviated schedule after spring break.  Beginning March 30, we will be open 8:00 a.m. through 1:00 p.m.   Please contact us during this time if you need anything.  This will include all departments.  Please check with your immediate supervisor if you have a reason to change this time period. 


Fifth, many groups and organizations within the county have come together to collect food for our community.  We sincerely appreciate these efforts and it demonstrates the spirit of this county.  After this week, it may be better to coordinate our efforts and collect food at a central location.  Likely, our response to the coronavirus is going to be a long process.  I am concerned we will have tremendous support at the beginning but there may be a diminishing of effort after a few weeks.  Creating a reserve of food at one central location will help to ensure we have a constant supply as we move into the more difficult days.  At this point, we would store all food items in the East High School dining area and stage our efforts to feed the county from there.  This may enable us to more efficiently and effectively disseminate food throughout the county.     Please contact Kellie Smith for details. 


Sixth, please remember the school district is providing free breakfast and lunch to all children in Hamblen County who are 18 years old or younger starting March 23.  Please come by Hillcrest Elementary School to pick up these meals.  We will be open at 10:00 a.m. and cease at 1:00 p.m.  We will begin taking meals to our community via bus routes on March 30.


Seventh, the Hamblen County Health Department is now offering participants of the WIC programs the option of receiving their program services and benefits over the telephone, rather than reguiding coming in for an appointment.  If you are interested in this option, or want more information, please call the health department at 423-586-6431 and press option 0. 


Eight, the Regional Health Office has created an information line for local residents and health care providers to call with questions or concerns related to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. Tennessee Department of Health employees and Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will take calls starting Thursday, March 19.  The information line is 865-549-5343, and is designed to provide callers with trusted information related to COVID-19. Residents with medical questions will be referred to their health care provider. TDH has additional information available at the second website listed at the end of this presentation. The CDC has updated information and guidance available online at the website listed at the end of this broadcast. The information line will be open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time.


Ninth, county residents who are struggling with electric bills may contact Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for potential assistance.  Pease contact them at 423-318-6933 to determine if you are eligible for these services. 


Tenth, many have asked about what to do if a staff member was working close to another staff member who was sent home because he or she had a fever, cough and shortness of breath.  Employers were questioning whether those co-workers should be sent home if they were potentially exposed but were not demonstrating any signs of the virus.  At this point, health officials are not recommending those individuals be sent home.  They should be allowed to continue to work unless they demonstrate signs of the virus. 


Eleventh, we had a questions concerning who should the elderly, the medically comprised, or other mobile-impaired individuals contact if they were struggling with getting food or medication.  Please contact Mrs. Kellie Smith and we will take care of that need. 


Twelfth, a parents called about the possibility of various parents creating small daycare centers in their homes to help other parents during these difficult times.  Unfortunately, we are unable to help coordinate any of those activities because of the liability issues.  All daycare centers must be approved by the state and we have no authority to recommend personal home day care for children.  


The task force met yesterday to collaborate on our efforts to combat the coronavirus.  Dr. Tom Thompson, Hamblen County Chief Medical Examiner shared a story about a Vietnam Prisoner of War, who wrote a book.  In that book he talked about which prisoners had the right personality to survive long periods of brutal captivity.  He stated those with a pessimistic attitude normally gave up and didn’t make it.  Also, there were those who had an overly positive attitude with unrealistic expectations and were too optimist and the didn’t make it either.  It took someone with balance to survive.  Prisoners who maintained hope throughout the process they would be okay in the end but also understood it was going to be a long difficult journey survived.  Perhaps this is a good lesson for us during this time.  Individuals can’t simply ignore the virus and act as if it means nothing because those individuals are likely to become infected and will infect others.  Those who panic and give up will not fare well either.  We need to be balanced in our approach to this pandemic.  Respect the potential danger of the virus but don’t become dysfunctional.   Follow the basic health guidelines advocated by the CDC and the TN Department of Health, maintain social distancing, and monitor interactions with others.  We will all fare better if we maintain this balance.  Thank you for your attention to this broadcast.