Hamblen coroner releases annual report

Hamblen County Coroner Eddie Davis has released the 2020 statistics for his office, and while the pandemic did add significant numbers to the county’s death toll, there were some encouraging numbers. The number of deaths have fallen in categories including heart disease, cancer, suicide and others.

“I think people are taking better care of themselves,” Davis said.

The coroner’s office responded to 622 calls in 2020, compared to 594 in 2019. COVID-19 contributed 113 calls, 18% of the total.

Davis hasn’t heard if the newer variants are impacting Hamblen County, but he wants people to remain vigilant.

“I’m just wanting what we’ve got to get out of here,” he said, “I heard on the news that up north they’ve got a real problem and I’m scared to death it’s going to come back here. I’m still wearing my mask and I’ve had the injections.”

Davis said there is still some skepticism about COVID-19.

“I’m here to tell you it’s real and I’m still seeing it almost daily. January was unreal. We set a record and had more calls than ever in January,” Davis said.

There were 57 COVID related deaths in January.

Davis said that the number of smoking related deaths has gone up.

“Smoking drives me crazy,” he said, “I’m not saying there’s new people starting to smoke, but it’s catching up with older smokers. The older someone is the more damage smoking causes. I’m having 70 and 80 year olds that have smoked all their lives and it’s killing them now.”

Dr. Eric Delay, an internal medicine and family medicine specialist with HealthStar Physicians in Morristown, said that quitting smoking is the right move regardless of age.

“Obviously, the sooner you quit the better it is for you,” he said, “It’s going to be better for your health if you quit at 30 than if you quit at 70, but there’s still a lot of benefit for cardiovascular health, stroke prevention and lung function at any age.”

Delay said that if an older person quits smoking these physical benefits will increase their longevity and also improve their quality of life.

“They’re going to feel better, have more energy- they’re going to feel like doing things,” he said, “Financially they’re going to have more money to do the things they want to do. It definitely helps you in a lot of different ways.”

Davis said he was proud to see overdose deaths remain low compared to the high numbers a decade ago.

“Overdoses are such a waste of life,” he said, “I want everybody to stay on this earth and enjoy it as long as they can.”