TCAT postpones graduation

The Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Morristown has postponed its summer graduation due to a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The college had planned to hold its graduation ceremony next Tuesday.

“We want to be overly cautious concerning our students and staff and, certainly, our parents,” TCAT President Jerry Young said. “It’s out of an abundance of caution.”

Instead, the college will schedule the graduation for a later date.

Young said the college is not mandating masks. They are requesting students and staff to wear masks when indoors and the college is also not limiting visitors.

“We want to try to protect the people around us and if that means I have to wear a mask then I will to protect the people around us,” he said.

The postponement comes just after another event was postponed this week. The Food Truck Fest, scheduled to be held in Talbott on Aug. 21, was also postponed by organizers this week due to rising COVID-19 cases.

The rise in cases come as the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19 has spread across the southern United States. The number of active cases in the Lakeway Area have risen significantly from the single digits at the start of July to triple digits now.

State records show that on Tuesday there were a total of 578 active cases of COVID-19 reported in Hamblen County, an uptick of four. On Monday, the state had reported more than 600 active cases, the most active cases in the county reported since January when the coronavirus was at its highest peak.

Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare Systems officials also said this week that the number of new cases of COVID-19 is stressing the emergency room, causing delays. Hospital officials said that 80% of the cases coming in are from those who are not vaccinated.

Hamblen County has recorded one of the lowest vaccination rates in the Lakeway Area with only Hancock County being lower. The county currently has 35% of residents who have received at least one dose of vaccination, well below the national average.

Nationally, 60% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose. In Tennessee, the state reported 49% of residents have had one dose.

The Hamblen County Health Department did record a slight uptick in the number of vaccinations given at their facility. There were 120 doses given last week compared to a low of 52 vaccinations given the week of July 12.

That is still significantly lower than the high at the end of March when the health department administered more than 1,500 vaccinations.