Lintz encourages vaccinations

As active cases of COVID-19 continue to rise – up more than 150 cases in two weeks – Hamblen County officials are encouraging residents to get vaccinated.

“We are seeing an increase in COVID cases within our community and hospital,” said Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System CAO Gordon Lintz said. “While some believe the sickest COVID patients are among the elderly, a majority our most recent ICU COVID cases are among adults in their late 30’s to late 50’s. Most are unvaccinated. We strongly encourage everyone to receive the COVID vaccine. Even if you are young and healthy, you can still transmit the virus to others.”

Hamblen County vaccination numbers have stalled in recent weeks. Despite doses of the vaccine readily available at area pharmacies and the Hamblen County Health Department, the number residents getting the vaccine has remained relatively stagnant.

In Hamblen County, as of Thursday afternoon, 33.79% of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine while 30.58% are fully vaccinated.

“I don’t want for us as a community to return to the days when COVID was at its peak or going strong several months ago,” Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain, chairman of the Hamblen County COVID-19 Task Force, said earlier in the week.

Last year, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a law that allowed county mayors to declare mask mandates in their respective counties. Brittain decreed a mandate starting in August of 2020 and renewed it each month into the spring.

Lee has since revoked that power and the ability to impose a mask mandate in the counties that do not have their own independent health departments remain with the governor.

“What we’re trying to do is tell people to research the vaccines so they’ll be comfortable getting a vaccine,” Brittain said.

According to the Associated Press, in places where the virus is surging, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that vaccinated people return to wearing masks in public indoor places.

The CDC recently announced the updated guidance, citing new evidence that vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections could carry enough virus in their noses and throats to infect others.

COVID-19 vaccines greatly reduce the chance of severe illness and death and remain effective against variants, including the now predominant delta variant. But it’s still possible to get infected.

Masking could prevent the spread of the virus to children too young for vaccination and people with weak immune systems.

In short, the vaccine protects you. A mask protects others in case you are carrying the virus without knowing it.

Since the pandemic began, Hamblen County has had 175 deaths due to COVID-19.