Hamblen County Task Force discusses Hispanic outreach efforts

The number of deaths and active cases of COVID-19 has substantially risen in Hamblen County over the last two weeks, state records show.

The state reported 40 deaths and 246 active cases of the coronavirus Monday, a significant increase since the beginning of the month.

On Sept. 30, the state reported 130 active cases and 28 deaths in Hamblen County from COVID-19. A month ago, the state reported Hamblen County had recorded 22 deaths from the virus.

“The deaths concern me, of course,” said Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain, chairman of the Hamblen County COVID-19 Task Force. “The virus is getting to our vulnerable population, and that’s the worst case scenario.”

Several deaths have been reported at the Heritage Center as the virus entered the facility and infected dozens of patients. As of Friday, Life Care Centers of America, the owner of the facility, reported 14 deaths, according to media reports.

Overall, the number of new cases in the county continue to climb.

According to state records, the seven-day average of new cases is now at 37.6 per 100,000 residents per day, creeping up to peak numbers in the summer when for several days the county saw almost 51 residents per day infected.

Over the last seven days there has been a 9.5% positive test rate and there have been 112 people in Hamblen County hospitalized, state records show.

Brittain issued a mask mandate for county residents on Aug. 4 and since then numbers of active cases dropped, even as the state altered how it reported active cases, causing another drop.

But, as schools reopened, the numbers are starting to climb once more and Brittain said there was some feeling on the task force it could be expected. He said more people are becoming active, as well, so that could be contributing to the increase.

He said he does not expect shutting down once more like in March in April to be an option on the table and he does not support that solution. He said the only options at this point is to wear a mask, socially distance and wash hands frequently.

“We still have to do what we’ve been preaching the last six months,” he said.

Sherrie Montgomery, Hamblen County Health Department director, said there is some worry about the latest numbers coming out.

“I think it’s concerning to all of us,” she said.

She said testing continues to be frequent at the health department with no lulls.

Montgomery said they are also trying to encourage flu shots and to not forget about other aspects of their health.

She said she did anticipate one thing early on from the coronavirus that proven to be true.

“I anticipated we would need to stay vigilant for a long period of time,” she said.