Jefferson leaders discuss coronavirus

Jefferson City Mayor Mitch Cain, left, and Dandridge Mayor George Gantte keep their distance following a joint press conference to inform county residents of steps their respective municipalities are taking to handle the coronavirus outbreak at City Hall in Jefferson City Tuesday night.

Jefferson County’s mayors met Tuesday night at City Hall in Jefferson City for a joint press conference as a unified voice to address concerns about COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus.

Jefferson City Mayor Mitch Cain and Dandridge Mayor George Gantte each spoke on issues such as health information concerning the virus, economic vitality and community service opportunities for the public. The theme of Jefferson County is “Community Comes Together 2020,” and Cain said it is an appropriate slogan considering the circumstances.

“You’re going to see that on a lot of things coming and going, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Cain said. “It is ‘Community Coming Together 2020,’ and that’s why we’re here tonight.

“The issues that face us face all of us, and we are a community.”

Jefferson County Mayor Mark Potts was requesting emergency funds through Second Harvest from the County Commission during the press conference, and Gantte said it was going to take the cooperation of all city and country officials to weather the storm of the virus.

“The top priority is to take care of our citizens to the best of our ability,” he said.

Gantte also thanked the churches of the county, employees of the New Market Fire Department, Jefferson City employees and White Pine employees, as well as the Dandridge Ministerial Association for preparing food boxes for the less fortunate in the area.

Bush Brothers, along with 2020 Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Scott Schroeder chipped in by allowing Bush’s Café to cook the daily hot meals for residents in need.

“During this time, the cooperation of all the individuals above and all city and county officials has been outstanding,” Gantte said.

Dandridge has split up its workforce in the water and public works departments in the event an employee tests positive for COVID-19 to ensure that services will still be provided. The town is also working on a new budget which would provide basic services through the year.

“Dandridge is blessed to have over $2 million in our general fund account which will allow the town to operate on basic service, if necessary, in the coming budget year,” Gantte said. “Our fire department and our police department have been working with EMS and other agencies in our county to plan on medical responses when – and if they are needed.

“Mayor Potts and all city mayors have been in contact on a daily basis with (Gov. Bill Lee) and his office, planning for the entire state and our local communities.”

Both mayors thanked the business community for enacting safety measures to protect the public during an uncertain period by taking phone orders, offering curbside service and using drive-thru windows only. They urged residents to continue patronizing those businesses while taking precautions to protect themselves, such as social distancing, refraining from non-essential travel and staying from public gatherings of more than 10 people.

“Jefferson City is still open for business. We still need your help,” Cain said. “Eat lunch with these folks, and eat dinner with these folks by using their drive-thru windows. Please continue to do business in Jefferson City and Jefferson County, because our community needs you.”

“I want to thank the citizens of our community for staying home as much as possible to protect everyone in our community,” Gantte said. “I would like to thank every business that has modified the operations of their business to protect the consumer, as well as their employees.

“I would especially like to thank Dandridge Hardware for being very proactive.”

Cain also urged residents to check on friends and loved ones who might be socially isolated during this period.

“Please conversate with your families and friends during this time, and give them a call,” he said. “Offer to pick up groceries when you can. Volunteer with your church, or any other organizations.”

White Pine Mayor Glen Warren was unable to attend the press conference, but Cain said he shared the same concerns and his town has been just as proactive as the other towns in the county. The mayors of Baneberry and New Market were also invited.

“(Warren) would have said the same things if he could have made it,” Cain said. “He would have wanted to talk about White Pine, and how his town and its residents are keeping themselves safe. We talk a lot, and we work a lot together.”

Both mayors also said fear and misinformation have gripped the area – as well as the nation. Each person has their own way of dealing with those issues.

“As a Christian, I put it at the Lord’s feet. I listen to my pastor, and I trust in my faith that things will turn around,” Gantte said.

“I trust in my faith, like George said,” Cain said. “Rely on your faith. Check on your neighbors. Check out the (Centers For Disease Control) website.

“All of those things will take away most of those fears.”