The number of active cases in Hamblen County has surpassed 500 after the state reported an increase of 86 cases over the weekend.
The number of active cases in Hamblen County is currently 505, levels not seen since the end of the last peak in January and comparable to the first peak of active cases last summer.
Officials indicated there were three COVID related deaths - and one from influenza- over the weekend, but those deaths have not yet been reflected in the state totals.
The increase in cases has led to the reopening of the East Tennessee Regional Health Office COVID hotline and for courts districtwide to enact the same COVID protocols that were in place during the height of the pandemic.
Circuit Court Judge Alex Pearson said Monday that all courts in the district – Circuit, Criminal, Chancery and Juvenile – will go to 50% capacity, six-foot social distancing, temperatures being taken before coming into the courtroom and masks be worn at all times –vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
“We’re going to go back to the same protocols we previously had,” he said.
He said this order will be in effect until Aug. 31 and judges will reevaluate at that time. Previously, a May order had allowed a higher capacity in courtrooms without masks and three feet of social distancing.
Pearson said the decisions came after several lawyers and courtroom staff members across the district, which includes Hamblen, Greene, Hancock and Hawkins counties, tested positive.
Within Hamblen County schools, the school system reported 19 students positive and two staff members positive on Monday.
Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said there is concern about having enough staff members to be able to instruct students, but he said a significant number of staff members have been vaccinated.
The school system began its new school year on Thursday.
“This year, it appears the highest number of our cases are not staff member, but students,” he said.
Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health, said last week that the number of pediatric cases, which is being fueled by the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, could fill all pediatric hospital beds in Tennessee by the end of the week. At the same time, there is also another respiratory disease impacting children, reports said.
Perry said he knows of no Hamblen County students hospitalized.
“To our knowledge, we have not had any students put in the hospital for COVID-related illness,” he said.
He said the school system continues to monitor the situation and there is no consideration of mask mandates or closing schools at this time.
“Every single day, I have a heightened awareness about the safety and health of every student,” he said. “But, I also have a heightened awareness of concern if we have to close school.”
The number of active cases of COVID-19 has skyrocketed in the last few weeks, going from a little more than 30 active cases three weeks ago to more than 500 cases. The numbers come as Hamblen County shows a lower vaccination rate than most neighboring counties and well below the U.S. average.
State records show that the number of people who have had at least one dose of vaccination in the county sits at 35%, an increase of 2% from last week.
Anyone with questions concerning COVID-19 can call the East Tennessee Regional Health Office COVID hotline at 865-549-5343.