Hamblen Task Force discusses outreach to Hispanic community

As active cases of COVID-19 slowly tick back up, the overall number of active cases dipped dramatically since Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain issued a mask mandate on Aug. 4, records show.

Brittain showed that information through a graphic during the Hamblen County COVID-19 Task Force meeting Wednesday afternoon.

“I think that’s some pretty substantial information,” Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent said.

State records show a dramatic decrease in new cases since the mask mandate was enacted, but officials note there has also been an uptick over the last week of new cases within Hamblen County.

The figures come as the state changed two weeks ago how it tracks active cases and has now gone to tracking new cases per week.

On July 27, the county experienced its peak in new cases when 125 positive tests were recorded. On Sept. 8, the county recorded two positive tests, the lowest point of positives. At the height, the county was averaging 51.1 new cases per week, while at the lowest, Hamblen County recorded 4.1 cases per week.

During the peak, the county also experienced a 16% positivity rate.

Perry said during the meeting that he thought that information was valuable for the public to see the results of the mandate.

“Nothing was particularly going good until you took that action,” Perry said.

But, state records show that since schools reopened on Sept. 8, the number of cases have been ticking upward.

The recorded active cases were 57 on Friday and the state reported 74 active cases on Wednesday.

According to state records, the county averaged 14 cases per day on Wednesday compared to a low of four cases per day on Sept. 8. That is still well below the peak on July 29 when the county averaged 51 cases per day, records show.

Brittain told the task force he had been on a call with Gov. Bill Lee this week with other county mayors.

Lee’s order allowing county mayors to exercise authority for mask mandates ends on Sept. 30. Brittain said Lee made no indication during the meeting on whether he would continue the order.

Perry told the task force that the school system has been “relatively calm” since reopening a week ago.

He said there have been a lot of unfounded rumors across the county regarding the school system and school officials are working diligently to put the rumors to rest.

Perry said there are no plans to go completely virtual at this time unless absolutely necessary.

“There is no more funding for virtual,” he said.

He also updated the task force that most new cases arising in the school system do not seem to be community spread within the school system.

“We don’t think anything has originated from school,” he said.

School officials are conducting contact tracing and Perry said the majority of cases seem to be coming from high school students intermingling with college students.

Health officials said they are also encouraging everyone to get a flu shot this year.

Dr. Tom Thompson, Hamblen County medical examiner, said with COVID already spreading, that makes flu vaccinations vital to keep the spread of two diseases down.

“It makes it more important,” he said.