Hamblen County Task Force discusses Hispanic outreach efforts

At its meeting Wednesday, the Morristown-Hamblen Coronavirus Task Force learned the number of hospitalizations is on the rise, likely due to rising positive cases at long-term care facilities.

The task force met virtually Wednesday afternoon to get updates on how COVID-19 is impacting the community. The meeting came as positive cases have begun to increase in the last few weeks.

The number of deaths in Hamblen County rose by three Wednesday from 31 to 34, state records show. The Tennessee Department of Health reported 173 active cases.

This comes after area long-term care facilities in the region have reported increases in cases and deaths over the last month. Facilities in Hamblen, Jefferson and Greene counties have reported more than 200 infections and several deaths.

The increase in positive cases has also come after Labor Day and the reopening of schools.

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, reported that the school system numbers have been good so far.

He said there were a total of 18 active cases system-wide on Wednesday. He said with a system that has 10,000 students and 1,500 staff members those numbers are extremely low.

But, Perry told the task force that he also had some concerns.

“I’m really concerned we’re going to hit a major spike here soon,” Perry said.

He said if things do not radically change and including better adhering to social distancing guidelines, the virus could follow a similar path as in July and August when there was a major outbreak that led to Hamblen County being labeled a hot spot by state and federal authorities.

“We tend to play with fire all the time until the woods catch fire, then we realize it’s a problem,” Perry said.

Sherrie Montgomery, Hamblen County Health Department director, also reported that cases are staying at high levels and said on Monday they tested a total of 233 people at the health department.

She said they had also received tents from the state with sides on them so healthcare testers would be protected with the winter months coming up. She also said they received portable heaters.

Montgomery also announced there would be a drive-through testing event held Saturday on South Cumberland Street.