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Times News Blog: Latest on local impact of COVID-19

Staff reports • May 23, 2020 at 12:16 AM

The Times News staff is working to provide the latest updates on schedule changes, local decisions and news related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. If your church, business or agency has community announcements related to coronavirus concerns and prevention, please email us at [email protected]

Monday, May 25

News updates


🔹 Ballad Health announced Monday that it will begin lifting some of the visitation restrictions put in place in March out of precaution for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Effective Tuesday, May 26, Ballad Health’s latest visitation policy and patient guidelines will allow: One visitor at a time per inpatient, who has not tested positive for COVID-19. The visitor will be allowed during limited hours each day, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; one designated visitor to accompany patients in the emergency department or pediatric emergency department; one designated visitor or support person for each patient receiving an inpatient procedure or surgery; one support person for laboring and obstetric patients; and two parents or guardians will be permitted in the NICU, PICU and in rooms with a pediatric patient. Hours of visitation are not restricted in these areas. Ballad Health will continue to maintain its policy of not allowing visitors under 18 unless they qualify for an approved extenuating circumstance. Additionally, no visitation of COVID-19 positive patients or patients who are under investigation, except during end-of-life situations, will be permitted. The no visitation policy will continue to apply to behavioral health patients, long-term care patients undergoing outpatient testing, unless that patient needs special assistance.

Sunday, May 24

Read more

Priscilla’s recovery, a “new normal” and healthcare workers’ stress

Washington County adds new COVID-19 case

Wedding industry struggling as pandemic continues

Saturday, May 23

Schedule changes

🔹 The 2020 Josh Dobbs Football Camp, originally scheduled for June 25 at Dobyns-Bennett High School, has been postponed, according to an email from the D-B athletics department.

🔹 The Unicoi Farmers Market and Community Yard Sale will open June 2 in a new home under the Buffalo Pavilion at the Unicoi Visitor Center. Completed only a month ago, the pavilion was designed specifically for the market and will be a treat for vendors in the coming months. The market is held every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Tourist Information Center at exit 32 (off 1-26), June through October. New COVID-19 regulations will be in place to protect the public. For more information or to become a vendor, email [email protected] or contact Patricia Bennett at (423) 735-0517.

Read more

Forest Service reopens some SW Va. recreation sites for Memorial Day weekend

Photo gallery: Cross the Finish Line

Four more COVID-19 cases reported in Northeast Tennessee

Graduation 2020 planning continues in Southwest Virginia

Northam to White House: Virginia has already let churches reopen

Ben Franklin's sales booming as people embrace arts and crafts during pandemic

Friday, May 22

Schedule changes

🔹 The United Way of Greater Kingsport announced Week of Caring, normally held in June, has been rescheduled to Sept. 28-Oct. 2.

🔹 Bristol, Tennessee City Manager Bill Sorah has announced plans for municipal buildings and facilities to reopen to the public. Effective Tuesday, May 26, public access to city offices, including those located in City Hall and the Ewell L. Easley Municipal Annex, will resume. The reopening comes just over nine weeks after buildings were initially closed in response to the then-relatively-new coronavirus outbreak. All visitors to city buildings will be subject to a health screening, which includes a temperature scan and questions related to potential COVID-19 exposure or symptoms. Visitors are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask when entering city buildings, and they will be available for individuals who do not have their own. Members of the public are also encouraged to continue utilizing electronic or other alternate methods of conducting business with the city whenever possible. Payments for utility bills, citations, and current property taxes can be processed online at www.bristoltn.org/paynow. The Nature Center at Steele Creek Park and the administrative offices at Slater Community Center will also reopen on Tuesday; however, exercise facilities at Slater will remain closed. The State Street Farmer’s Market will officially open for the season on Saturday, June 6. Shelter rentals will resume beginning July 1.

🔹 The George L. Carter Railroad Museum on the campus of East Tennessee State University has canceled the 5th Annual Big Train Show for the health and safety of patrons, vendors and model railroad enthusiasts. The train show was originally scheduled for June 5-6 in the ETSU Mini-Dome. Plans are underway to hold the event in the same venue next year. The tentative dates are June 4-5, 2021. For the safety of museum volunteers and weekly visitors, the George L. Carter Railroad Museum remains closed to the public. Dr. Fred Alsop, director for the museum, anticipates a gradual opening with limited visitors allowed to enter the museum at one time.

🔹 The Memorial Day Service at Cumberland Square Park in Bristol has been canceled due to the governor’s restrictions on public gatherings of more than 10 people. The Veteran’s Council will lay a wreath in the park in honor of the military men and women who have given their lives serving in the Armed Forces. Members of the public are invited to visit the park on Memorial Day, in small groups in accordance with the governor’s restrictions, to pay their respects. Believe in Bristol also announced this year's July 4th Star Spangled Celebration has been canceled and the Border Bash Summer Concert series will transition to a virtual platform on the Border Bash Facebook page.

🔹 George Washington and Jefferson National Forests officials will reopen many recreation sites for day use beginning the weekend of May 23, 2020. The decision to reopen recreation areas is being done on a case-by-case basis. All openings will consider health and safety recommendations, employee safety and the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and trained personnel, as reflected in CDC, state and local guidance. Site closures and modified operations may occur, as needed, to protect public health and safety. Campgrounds, and most facilities and day-use areas within campgrounds, will remain closed pending further evaluation. All restrooms will remain shut down. Visitors are responsible for providing their own PPE (including hand sanitizer), and must pack out what they pack in as trash service may not be available. For a complete list of recreation sites and their status, visit fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation.

News updates

🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is offering a program called Museum From Home, and it includes online tours of the museum's permanent exhibits, fun and educational activities for kids, and an exploration of the current special exhibit, Real Folk: Passing on Trades & Traditions through the Virginia Folklife Program. Museum From Home virtual tours can be accessed online at BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org/bcm-at-home. The museum is currently following guidelines in accordance with mandates passed down from the state of Virginia. A reopen date has yet to be established.

Read more

Editorial: Be smart when visiting Kingsport Farmers Market

Photo gallery: Diploma Distribution 2020

Two more COVID-19 cases in Northeast Tennessee

Summer in the Park to begin next week with new safety measures

With a new name, Super 19 honors academics, baseball standouts

Luau marks end of school year at Ketron

Three share Super 22 player of the year honor

Thursday, May 21

Schedule changes

🔹 The Joy of Soccer camps at Tusculum University in Greeneville have been rescheduled. The Coed and ID Camp, originally slated for June 21-25, will now be held July 12-15. It will be a day camp for boys and girls, ages 13 and under. It will run from 2-8 p.m. Sunday, and  9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Wednesday (with lunch provided). Cost is $130 per camper. The camp will be held in conjunction with the Girls High School Team and ID Camp (also that week), but training will be separate. Girls ages 14 and older are invited to join the ID Camp and those high school teams for a full overnight camp experience. The cost is $215 per camper. Call (423) 636-7321 or email [email protected]

🔹 Heritage Alliance’s History Happy Hour was set to launch for a fourth season in March. Due to public closures related to the coronavirus, the first two meetings were cancelled. The May program, originally scheduled for May 21, has been pushed back to May 28 and is going to be offered online through the Zoom platform. Go to the Chester Inn Museum Facebook page for the link to the meeting room and for the password to login. You can also access this information via the Heritage Alliance’s website, www.heritageall.org.

🔹 Wilderness at the Smokies officials announced today that their resort will be reopening on Thursday, May 28. The resort has been working with state and county guidelines to create a Safer at Play Program that outlines in detail all of the safety precautions in place at the resort. For more information on this program visit https://bit.ly/3e2YWGd. Another safety precaution that the resort is implementing is that no day passes will be sold at this time in order to keep waterpark occupancy manageable. Only guests of the resort will be able to use the waterparks.

News updates

🔹 By Executive Order Number 34 issued by Gov. Bill Lee on May 6, 2020, the Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold a special called meeting and regularly scheduled work session electronically on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 6 p.m. There will be no access permitted to the public at the physical location of the work session. The work session will be conducted electronically, and members of the public can attend and listen to the work session electronically via www.k12k.com - Homepage - Latest News or watch live on the KCS Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/KptSchools). Alternatively, the audio archive of the work session will be available at www.k12k.com - Board - Board Schedule & Notes within two business days of the work session.

🔹 Two heavily-trafficked areas in Tri-Cities, Boone Beach and South Holston Dam, will have portajohns onsite by the Memorial Day weekend. Permanent restrooms, large-group pavilions and playgrounds at TVA recreation sites will remain closed.

🔹 A majority of Tennesseans will seek out a COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available, but not everyone will be “among the first” to get vaccinated, according to the most recent Tennessee Poll conducted by the Applied Social Research Lab at East Tennessee State University. The poll, which surveyed 618 Tennesseans from April 22-May 1, 2020, asked respondents where they go for news they can trust on the coronavirus and how quickly they would get vaccinated if a coronavirus vaccine became available.

🔹 The USDA Forest Service will open a series of trailheads and access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail on May 22. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests in Georgia, Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina, Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia will participate in the coordinated reopening. The Triple Crown in Virginia will remain closed, which includes Dragon’s Tooth trailhead. To recreate responsibly outdoors, avoid congregating at parking areas, refrain from gathering in large groups and maintain a 6-feet distance from others, especially when passing other hikers.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released new data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 16, 2020. Statewide, 28,692 new claims were filed, along with 314,487 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 872 new claims were filed.

🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. This is to test for current virus infection and is not antibody testing. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling, and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.

Read more

AAA predicts pandemic will suppress Memorial Day travel

Business recovery fund issues first grants

New COVID-19 cases in Wise, Scott, Sullivan

Miller Perry fifth grade graduation a drive 'bye' affair

New COVID-19 confirmed cases in far Southwest Virginia

Church Hill honoring VHS Class of 2020 with May 29 parade, community celebration

Northam: Pandemic highlights other long-term public health emergencies

Bucs might be back on campus June 1

Wednesday, May 20

Schedule changes

🔹 To replenish blood supplies that have been affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Marsh Regional Blood Center has resumed its community-wide blood drives. Donors will receive individualized directions to maintain proper physical distancing measures, including a new requirement for donors to make an appointment before giving at any of its collection centers and many of its mobile drives. For more information, visit www.marshblood.com.

News updates

🔹 East Tennessee State University’s Reece Museum and Mary B. Martin School of the Arts and community supporters are expanding the geographic boundaries of artists’ residency for a special collection of art reflecting the current times. These entities have joined in an initiative to purchase artwork created in 2019 or 2020 for “Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic,” which will be housed in the Reece Museum’s Permanent Collection. Originally defining “local art” as artwork made by artists living and/or working in Johnson City and Washington County, initiative administrators have broadened that definition to include artwork made by artists living and/or working in Tennessee’s First Congressional District. This district includes Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties. All other criteria for eligibility remain as previously announced. Guidelines and more information can be found on the Reece Museum website at www.etsu.edu/cas/cass/reece/pandemic.php.

🔹 Tennessee continues to advance the state’s reopening plan under the Tennessee Pledge, as the Economic Recovery Group issued updated guidelines today for restaurants and retail, along with new guidelines that enable attractions and larger venues to reopen with social distancing and capacity restrictions on or after May 22. The State continues to meet the White House gating criteria with a downward trend in case growth, increase in testing capability and sufficient hospital capacity. The updated guidelines enable restaurants and retail to increase capacity as long as social distancing protocols remain in place. Restaurants should continue to space tables 6 feet apart, or install physical barriers where adequate separation isn’t possible. Bars remain closed unless used for seated, in-restaurant dining where there is 6 feet of separation between customer groups. Live music is permissible with appropriate precautions, which include maintaining at least 15 feet of separation between performers and audience in order to reduce potential exposure. Large, non-contact attractions and venues including concert and performance venues, amusement and water parks, auditoriums, theaters and dinner theaters, zoos, large museums and more can also reopen safely under new Tennessee Pledge guidelines.

🔹 Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee received a donation of more than $10,000 from the employees of Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS). “We have been fortunate that our doors have remained open, and all of our employees have continued to work,” said John A. Stewart, NFS president. “Many of our friends and neighbors in Unicoi County have not been as fortunate.” Stewart learned about the challenges facing Unicoi County residents and coordinated the Feeding Our Friends fundraiser. NFS employees opened their hearts, giving more than $10,000 in a week’s time. The funds will be dedicated for use in Unicoi County. The need for food assistance is at an all-time high due to the effects of the pandemic. Food bank officials are asking for the community’s continued support through monetary donations.

🔹 TriPride is pleased to announce a partnership with GLSEN Tennessee and other Tennessee-based organizations to celebrate LGBTQ+ graduating seniors and graduating eighth graders. The private, virtual graduation ceremony and celebration is scheduled to take place on June 6, 2020, at 2pm CST, 3pm EST. Participants will be given a private URL to view and participate in the ceremony, but friends and family will be invited to watch. LGBTQ+ students anywhere in Tennessee are encouraged to go to www.glsen.org/event/graduate-pride and submit their information. To participate, the student must be part of the graduating class of 2020 from any Tennessee high school or middle school, regardless if the school is public, private, or homeschooling. Graduating students are asked to post a picture from their senior year on Twitter or Instagram with #gradPRIDEtn to be shared and highlighted during the event. Additionally, photos may be emailed to [email protected]

🔹 A free weekly webinar for local businesses focusing on reopening strategies begins Thursday, May 21, at 4 p.m. “Recover Together: Reopening Discussion and Best Practices” will be moderated and presented by Mark Bays, director for the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at East Tennessee State University, and Aundrea Y. Wilcox, TSBDC senior business counselor and KOSBE executive director. Attendees will gain insight from local business owners on how COVID-19 has influenced their future business strategies. Pre-registration is required. For more information or to register for the webinar, contact Mark Bays, TSBDC director, at (423) 439-8505 or [email protected]. To learn about upcoming “Recover Together” webinars, visit www.tsbdc.org/etsu.

🔹 The University of Tennessee System’s COVID-19 task force has released a report that provides guidance, recommendations and best practices to reopen its campuses in the fall. Campus-specific plans will be released in the coming days and weeks. The systemwide report focuses on education regarding COVID-19, managing the campus environment and its facilities, student transitions on and off campus, re-imagining classes and recommendations around student health. The UT System’s task force report, along with comprehensive information regarding COVID-19, can be accessed at tennessee.edu/coronavirus.

🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that households in 13 new states – Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia – will soon be able to purchase food online with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Once operational, online purchasing will be available in 36 states and the District of Columbia, home to more than 90% of SNAP participants. In addition, Secretary Perdue also announced an expansion of independently owned and operated retail stores beyond those included in the original pilot. Soon more SNAP authorized retailers, under multiple store banners, will be accepting SNAP benefits online. “We are expanding new flexibilities and innovative programs to make sure Americans across this country have safe and nutritious food during this national emergency,” said Secretary Perdue. “Enabling people to purchase foods online will go a long way in helping Americans follow CDC social distancing guidelines and help slow the spread of the coronavirus. USDA is mandated with the noble goal of feeding Americans when they need it most, and we are fulfilling that mission with new innovative programs during this national emergency.”

🔹 The Virginia Cave Board released a statement, citing Gov. Northam’s Executive Order Sixty-One, discouraging caving during the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement cites likely breaks in social distancing guidelines and potential for human-to-bat transmission of COVID-19 among other hazards present in caves and during caving. While the executive order eases restrictions on campgrounds and other businesses, social distancing guidelines are still in place and must be maintained. Caves, in their nature, have poor ventilation and tight, enclosed spaces that make compliance with these guidelines difficult among members of a caving team.

🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced Kentucky, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia have been approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) signed by President Trump, which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures. For the 2019-2020 school year, Tennessee had approximately 663,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or approximately 66% of children in participating schools.

Read more

Rogersville's Memorial Day service incorporates COVID-19 safety

Author’s Corner: New children’s book helps young readers understand COVID-19

Northeast Tennessee reports two new COVID-19 cases

Memorial Day event planned at Kingsport Veterans Memorial

Canned soups sustain during the pandemic

Tuesday, May 19

Schedule changes

🔹 After being closed for two months due to the the COVID-19 pandemic, WonderWorks Pigeon Forge announces that it will be reopening on May 22, 2020. The new COVID-19 safety protocols that have been adopted include reduced capacity and hours, enhanced cleaning efforts, social distancing measures, hand sanitizer stations, employee health screenings and employee personal protective equipment (PPE). The attraction also has a few interactives closed for the time being, including the ropes course and the rock wall. Guests are encouraged to review all safety rules prior to their visit on the web page devoted to COVID-19: https://www.wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/covid-19.

News updates

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today shared new resources to protect Virginians from eviction and support individuals who have lost their job or income due to COVID-19. These tools include StayHomeVirginia.com, a new website to help Virginians navigate housing programs, services, and resources. The website offers guidance on working with landlords, financial institutions, and other organizations to use eviction and foreclosure protections during this health crisis. Resources include relief for private mortgage holders, multifamily complexes, and tenants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

🔹 BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will waive Medicare Advantage member costs for doctor’s office and virtual visits to in-network primary care and behavioral health care providers from May 19 through September 30, 2020. “Many Tennessee seniors may have been following safety protocols and postponing health care visits over the past few months,” said Todd Ray, senior vice president and general manager of senior products. “We hope this enhanced coverage will bring peace of mind, help remove barriers and encourage people to seek the routine and preventive care they need.” In addition to these efforts, BlueCross has invested in a number of advancements to support better health for Tennesseans impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. These include continuing to pay the full costs of COVID-19 testing and paying full treatment costs for COVID-19 care, including hospitalizations, through May 31, 2020. For additional information on the BlueCross response to COVID-19, visit BCBSTupdates.com.

🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced the final distribution of $10 million in Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants to support smaller hospitals that are facing financial strain due to the ongoing response to COVID-19. Local recipients include Franklin Woods Community Hospital ($136,545), Hawkins County Memorial Hospital ($250,000), Johnson County Community Hospital ($500,000), Sycamore Shoals Hospital ($136,545), and Unicoi County Hospital ($136,545).

🔹 The Fairfax Health District has confirmed a case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. This is the first case of MIS-C reported in Virginia. The child was hospitalized on May 5 and has since been discharged and is recovering at home. To protect privacy, no other patient information will be disclosed.

🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need. Beginning May 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses. Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap.

Read more

Masks, absentee ballots and local politics: COVID-19 election goes on

Motorists to see cheapest Memorial Day gas prices in nearly two decades

Washington County posts only COVID-19 increase in region

Intangible benefits of truly local shopping

VHSL working on reopening plans for fall athletics, activities

Mount Carmel's proposed 2020-21 budget showing $255K surplus

Back to the beach: Virginia Beach a test case for expanded Virginia reopening

Kingsport Farmers Market to open next week

How has COVID-19 affected Big Coal?

SW Virginia voters to go to polls today amid pandemic

Monday, May 18

Schedule changes

🔹 Nickelsville Days, originally scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, has been canceled, with plans to perhaps hold the event later in the year.

🔹 Duffield Daze, held annually on Labor Day weekend, has been canceled.

🔹 Camping is scheduled to reopen at Natural Tunnel State Park on May 22, and the chair lift is scheduled to be operational. Park guests are still asked to observe the 6-feet distance rule, with group sizes limited to 10 people. Cabins will open at a later date. The visitors center and camp stores will remain closed. In addition, the Cove Ridge Center, John Anderson Wilderness Road Blockhouse and the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center will continue to be closed. Tunnel programming will resume at a later date.

🔹 Live music scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday evenings as part of the annual Sounds of Summer series sponsored by Bristol, Tennessee’s Department of Parks & Recreation has been canceled for the months of June and July. A decision about August and September events will be made later in the summer, said Coordinator Angie Rutherford. Now in its 24th season, the Sounds of Summer is the longest running concert series in downtown Bristol, often attracting hundreds to the stage under the iconic country music mural at Downtown Center. City leaders are basing decisions on guidance from regional health officials.

News updates

🔹 East Tennessee State University is offering high school seniors in Tennessee a new opportunity to attend their first year tuition-free. “The COVID-19 crisis is causing financial burdens on families that we could have never anticipated, and we do not want to see high school seniors, many of whom have already missed out on traditional milestones, to also miss out on the opportunity to attend a four-year university,” said Dr. Joe Sherlin, vice president for Student Life and Enrollment at ETSU. More information is available at www.etsu.edu/free. Students may visit the website to fill out a form expressing their interest in Free Freshman Tuition, and a member of ETSU’s Undergraduate Admissions Office will contact each student directly. Questions about ETSU Free Freshman Tuition should be directed to [email protected].

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD) has completed building the third pandemic unemployment program provided through the federal CARES Act signed into law by President Donald Trump. TDLWD is now processing Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), in addition to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). Individuals who have exhausted their Tennessee Unemployment Compensation claim, or their benefit year has ended, need to refile to obtain the additional weeks of benefits provided through PEUC. Claimants can refile their claim by accessing their account on Tennessee’s workforce development website, www.Jobs4TN.gov.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced a diverse set of education stakeholders participating in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Work Group to help chart a path forward for determining how schools can safely reopen later this year. The group is comprised of representatives from Virginia’s public and private early childhood, K-12, and higher education systems, and includes teachers, superintendents, parents, college presidents, state agency personnel, special education advocates, museum directors, and student perspectives.

🔹 To support America’s small businesses as they help restart the economy, Spectrum today announced it will provide one month of free services to any new customer that signs up for Spectrum Business as their connectivity provider. Local businesses interested in the offer, which applies to all of the company’s internet, phone and TV services, can learn more at Business.Spectrum.com/reopen or by calling 1-833-537-0730. The offer for a free month of Spectrum Business services is available immediately throughout Tennessee.

Read more

Holston Electric, TVA donate $20K for COVID-19 relief

Level weekend for COVID-19 cases in region

TGA tweaks state tournament schedule

Back in play: NET schools to open practice facilities June 1

Scott Rotary donates nearly $2K to county food pantry

Kingsport cancels Summer Program, offers alternatives

Sunday, May 17

Schedule changes

🔹 The first of six Downtown Cruise-Ins will be held Friday, May 22, in Rogersville. Main Street will be closed Friday beginning at 4 p.m. and the cruise-in will take place from 6-9 p.m. Organizers encourage owners of classic vehicles from 1989 and earlier years to participate. Live music will be provided by Ivy Road, and downtown stores and restaurants will stay open longer to accommodate cruise-in traffic. Participants are asked follow social distancing guidelines, and anyone who is sick should stay home.

Read more

Virginia Creeper Trail reopens, but social distancing regulations apply

Harvick wins at Darlington as NASCAR returns to racing

Testing fires racers' anticipation of new season at Kingsport

Rogersville cruise-in scheduled for Friday; Fourth of July fireworks pending

Pandemic triggers surge in bicycle sales

Saturday, May 16

Schedule changes

🔹 The Kingsport Farmers Market will open Saturday, May 23, according to a Facebook post from market manager Jim LaFollette. “The market will look different than what you are use to. There will be signs telling which way to go thru the market. We will observe the social distance rule. We will be there for you so please be patient. Thank you in advance.” All market programs, including Saturdays with the Chef, Evening with the Market and the Homegrown Gardening series, have been suspended until further notice. Anyone who needs to redeem SNAP benefits may do so at the market kiosk. Wednesday markets will begin on June 3. To learn more about the Kingsport Farmers Market, please visit kingsportfarmersmarket.org.

🔹 The Town of Unicoi’s annual Freedom Fest, scheduled for July 4, has been canceled to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The decision comes after Johnson City announced the cancelation of its Fourth of July celebration a few weeks ago and the CDC continues to encourage social distancing. While larger events like Freedom Fest won’t be held this year, Shelton confirmed that the Unicoi Farmers Market & Community Yard Sale will begin June 2 as previously scheduled.

🔹 Ober Gatlinburg will be following the guidance of Gov. Lee’s Economic Recovery Group by reopening The Aerial Tramway and Mountain Activities on May 22. Ober Gatlinburg will be implementing protocols under the guidance of the state government and health organizations that encourage employees and guests to take responsibility for the safety of others around them.

Read more

Proposed MLB rules: shower at home, don't spit

Strength coach working from afar to keep Bucs in shape

COVID-19 cases hold steady throughout region

MECC graduates more than 570 virtually

Eastman Foundation giving $1 million in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Virginia takes step forward into reopening businesses

Friday, May 15

Schedule changes

🔹 Natural area preserves differ from Virginia State Parks and have very small parking areas for 10 or so vehicles. Because of overuse, the Channels Natural Area Preserve in Washington and Russell counties is now closed to public access through at least June 10. Anyone planning to visit a natural area preserve should: Check www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/nap-covid-19 before leaving home for the latest information on closures; have alternate plans in case the small parking area is full upon arrival. (Parking areas hold only 10 or so vehicles. If it's full, visitors should wait for a space to open, act on their alternate plan or come back later. Do not park elsewhere); stay on marked trails; leave no trace; and practice social distancing. No groups greater than 10 are permitted. If you're sick, stay home. All preserves are routinely monitored by staff and local law enforcement.

🔹 The second annual Bristol Burnout presented by Mycroft Signs has been postponed to Saturday, Aug. 29, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced today by officials from the Bristol Motor Speedway Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities. The high-intensity workout competition showcases area athletes who are competing to support more than 100 child-based agencies throughout the Appalachian Highlands region. Fitness enthusiasts can form two-person teams for the chance at victory. Numerous CrossFit facilities from the region are also joining in and will bring multiple teams. Crossfit superstar and three-time Crossfit Games champ Matt Hewett, who made his Bristol Burnout debut last year, is expected to return to the competition. The event will be held at the BMS South Building, located just inside the South Entrance of the Speedway off Volunteer Pkwy / Hwy 11E. To learn more, visit SCC Bristol Burnout.

🔹 The Kingsport Parks and Recreation department has made the difficult decision to cancel its Summer Program for 2020. While the decision is one out of caution for the safety and health of summer program participants, staff have come up with unique and fun ways kids can still get involved and have fun this summer. For more information, visit www.kingsportparksandrecreation.org.

🔹 Haynesfield Aquatic Center will not open this summer, and all organized activities that had been planned at the Bristol, Tennessee, pool have been canceled for the 2020 season, Director of Parks & Recreation Terry Napier announced Friday. The City also has canceled a series of nature camps that were scheduled at Steele Creek Park and a summer youth program sponsored by the Bristol, Tennessee Police Department. Napier said the public will not be able to rent paddle boats at Steele Creek Park or ride the Steele Creek Express, a small train that runs through park, this summer either because the City did not hire seasonal staff to operate these attractions. No decision has yet been made regarding the opening of Steele Creek’s Splash Pad or picnic shelter rentals, which are currently on hold.

🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music has canceled this year’s Pick Along Summer Camps. “We are so proud of our kids and will miss them more than anything this summer!” a statement reads. “We encourage parents to keep their children’s curiosity of music alive in the meantime with free YouTube music lessons. Post videos of home performances on social media and tag the Museum (Instagram: @birthplaceofcountrymusicmuseum | Facebook: Birthplace of Country Music Museum) so we can see their progress!”

News updates

🔹 Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group announced today it will lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and retail to instead focus on social distancing best practices effective May 22 and issue guidelines to facilitate the safe reopening of larger, non-contact attractions on or after May 22. New Tennessee Pledge guidelines will be released early next week. Six counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – may continue to follow individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with state and local health departments.

🔹 More than 100 new students previously admitted to TCAT Elizabethton will report for student orientation on Monday, May 18. The students will follow the same novel coronavirus protocols established for existing students who reported on May 4, according to Patricia Henderson, student services coordinator. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, online instruction began at TCAT on March 23. With some restrictions, TCAT Elizabethton resumed in-person classroom instruction after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowed prohibitions to expire on April 30. College President Dean Blevins said instructors were given the option to continue online classroom if they so desired Among restrictions that still apply, Blevins said all people arriving on campus will be asked questions related to COVID 19 symptoms.

🔹 Patrons of Sullivan County Public Library will be able to return any checked out items to the drop boxes at each location beginning Monday, May 18th at 9 a.m. Patrons may return books in the blue drop boxes and audio/video materials in the tall silver drop boxes in front of each location. Contact your local branch if you have items to return that will not fit in the drop box slots. Return of Wi-Fi hotspots will be by appointment only. No donations are being accepted at this time. Patrons with holds on items they no longer want to check out should call their local branch location to cancel the holds so other patrons can check the items out. Library buildings are not open to the public at this time, and there is currently no curbside pickup. Call your local branch library with any questions.

🔹 East Tennessee State University’s Reece Museum, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts and community supporters are building a special collection that will be housed in the Reece Museum’s Permanent Collection titled “Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic.” The purpose of the joint initiative is to purchase artwork created in 2019 or 2020 from artists who live and/or work in Johnson City or Washington County. Artists must be at least 18 years of age and live and/or work in Johnson City or Washington County, Tennessee. There is no entry fee to participate, and each artist may submit only one entry. The deadline for submissions is June 19. All artists whose work is selected will receive an equal dollar amount of at least $200 based on the number of artists juried into the “Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic” special collection. To obtain guidelines for submission or artwork, to make a financial gift to support this effort, or for more information, visit the Reece Museum website at https://www.etsu.edu/cas/cass/reece/pandemic.php.

🔹 Recognizing the needs of the people and the communities where we operate, Eastman Foundation has committed $1 million toward supporting global response organizations in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Eastman Foundation will provide funding to organizations for food, shelter, medical personal protective equipment for frontline workers and community support.

🔹 Across the Appalachian Highlands, resilient workers, makers and volunteers are dedicated to supplying the personal protective equipment health care professionals need to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. One such example is a regional effort underway to manufacture face shields. Production of several types of the emergency face shields, including one designed by faculty at East Tennessee State University, began in March when Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission issued a statewide request for personal protective equipment. Dr. Keith Johnson and Bill Hemphill from ETSU’s Department of Engineering, Engineering Technology and Surveying immediately went to work developing a prototype that would be comfortable to wear. They used copolyester previously donated by Eastman as well as other materials commonly available at hardware stores. Meanwhile, STREAMWORKS, an educational program in Kingsport, began producing 3D printed headbands for face shields in its STEM Gym. Both groups had almost everything they needed to begin manufacturing, with the exception of one very important piece – the clear copolyester for the actual face shield. Eastman Polymer Technology Division teams quickly turned out rolls of PETG, a material typically used for medical devices. Nearly 5,000 emergency face shields designed by ETSU have been donated thus far. The university has worked alongside the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Northeast Tennessee Healthcare Preparedness Coalition, ETSU Health and Ballad Health to deliver the face shields as well as donations of supplies and personal protection equipment to health care facilities across the region and state.

🔹 The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) Family of Companies today announced that it will provide a special Thank You Pay to hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates to acknowledge their dedication to maintaining safe, clean and stocked stores. The one-time Thank You Pay, which will be $400 for qualified full-time associates and $200 for qualified part-time associates, will be paid out in two installments on May 30 and June 18. As part of its ongoing investment in associate and customer safety, the Kroger Family of Companies also announced today that it will continue its COVID-19 Emergency Leave guidelines to provide paid time off to associates most directly affected by the virus or experiencing related symptoms.

🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. This is to test for current virus infection and is not antibody testing. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling, and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.

🔹 As Tennessee gradually reopens with new safety guidelines for businesses, the state is conducting some of the best levels of COVID-19 testing in the nation, according to a new Harvard Global Health Institute study. Harvard notes that Tennessee is conducting thousands of tests per day to better track and contain the spread of COVID-19 statewide.

🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the extension of three nationwide waivers, giving child nutrition program operators the flexibility they need to continue to feed children while promoting social distancing and keeping families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, schools and local program sponsors have used flexibilities provided by USDA to find creative ways to feed kids, such as setting up drive-thru pick-ups and delivering meals on bus routes. With the extension of these waivers, these innovative models can continue, without interruption, while state and local social distancing orders remain in place.

Read more

Only one new COVID-19 case in region

118-year-old J.C. Penney files bankruptcy

Editorial: City shouldn’t be too quick to tap rainy day fund

KPD finds new way to honor fallen officers during period of social distancing

SoCon cost-savings plan: Fewer teams in conference tourneys

Dems push $3T coronavirus relief bill toward House OK

Sullivan County Sheriff's Office to honor fallen officers in virtual service

Flexibility key for football’s return, says ETSU’s Carter

Kingsport Aquatic Center reopens with conditions on Monday

Wise County schools, county administration look at pandemic budget plans

Thursday, May 14

Schedule changes

🔹 The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden Show has been postponed until October 1, 2020. The annual gardening event, which takes place at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson, was previously scheduled for July 9, 2020, but will be delayed due to health and safety concerns for employees and visitors. Due to limited personnel available in October, outdoor garden talks, exhibitor booths and the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic will not be included on the program.

News updates

🔹 Piccadilly Kingsport notified customers Thursday afternoon that it will not reopen. The email reads: “We are so grateful to be able to be part of the Kingsport - Tri-Cities community over the years. Unfortunately, we will not be reopening this location. We love you Kingsport. Please consider visiting our other locations across the South in your future travels.”

🔹 Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians (GSCSA) announced it will be selling Girl Scout Cookies by way of a drive-through cookie booth from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 6, at the Johnson City Girl Scout Service Center, 1100 Woodland Avenue. In the interest of youth safety, the booth will be manned only by adult volunteers.

🔹 This year, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Fallen Officer Memorial Service is being conducted virtually. This is due to the coronavirus pandemic and the precautionary measures that have been recommended by the CDC and health officials. The virtual service will be streamed on Friday, May 15, at 6 p.m. on the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. 

🔹 Are you at home and needing something fun to do in order to kill the time? Want to learn more about how you can reduce waste and give new life to your garbage and recyclables while making art? Join AmeriCorps member Lilith Erbach for the McKinney Center's free Reusing Everything, Making Art, Keeping Engaged (R.E.M.A.K.E.) program. The program aims to educate and inform individuals in a fun and engaging environment where their creativity can thrive. This service-learning initiative is perfect for adults and teenagers, and can be modified for children. The project is a perfect summer learning opportunity for those ninth grade and above. Some of the projects featured will consist of making tin can planters, weaving with magazine pages, making mini jar terrariums, and creating jewelry out of plastic bottles. Each meetup is designed to utilize items attendees can find in their own home. The program will begin on May 23 and will be held every second and fourth Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. until July 11. The classes will be held via Zoom in order to make the class more accessible, and to protect the health and well-being of all attendees, volunteers and staff members involved. To register for the first event, visit mckinneycenter.com, click register, and find Tin Can Planters under featured events.

🔹 Virginia State Parks plans a gradual reopening of some facilities as the commonwealth slowly eases public health restrictions put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19. Statewide and park-specific operational plans have been developed to comply with group size limitations and social distancing requirements. Anyone planning to visit Virginia State Parks for the remainder of spring and through summer should anticipate changes to normal park operations. Some facilities remain closed, and other amenities will not be available. Park guests are encouraged to recreate at parks close to home. Strict social distancing requirements will remain in place. Group sizes are limited to 10 people. Guests must keep at least 6 feet apart from other guests. Anyone who is sick or has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should stay home. Guests should check www.virginiastateparks.gov for the latest information about individual parks before they leave home. As of May 14, trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use, boat ramps and picnic tables and grills (for groups fewer than 10) will open at most facilities. Opening for Memorial Day weekend are: restrooms, campgrounds (except at Twin Lakes), camping cabins and yurts, boat and bike rentals (varies by park) and the chairlift at Natural Tunnel (on a limited schedule). All swimming pools will remain closed through the 2020 summer season.

🔹 In Tennessee, motor vehicle registration renewals due in May have been extended to June 15, 2020. Gov. Bill Lee extended the deadline for obtaining these renewals through Executive Order No. 36. To avoid any unnecessary face-to-face contact amid COVID-19, the department strongly encourages motorists to renew their registration online at tncountyclerk.com. If you do not have online access or your county does not have online renewals, you can find your local county clerk’s address on the tncountyclerk.com website and mail in your renewal.

🔹 Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee released a statement recommending that the government increase SNAP benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent survey of the Feeding America network, every single one of the 200 member food banks reported a significant increase in need for food assistance in their communities, with an average 60 percent increase in demand. “We believe SNAP benefits should be increased by 15 percent so we can help feed families who are already and newly struggling against hunger,” the statement reads. “SNAP is proven to help safeguard the food security of people in times of need and its strength is unparalleled. In fact, for every meal the Feeding America network provides, SNAP provides nine.” For more information on Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, visit www.netfoodbank.org or Facebook.com/netfoodbank, or call (423) 279-0430.

🔹 House Commerce Committee Chairman Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) today announced a $500,000 grant for the Johnson County Community Hospital through the Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grant program. Established in partnership with the Department of Economic & Community Development (TNECD) and the Department of Finance & Administration, the Rural Hospital Readiness Grant program is designed to support small and rural facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. All funds are capped at $500,000 per hospital; they provide temporary resources for facilities facing a financial strain related to patient declines because of the COVID-19 pandemic and while federal funds are still being processed and allocated to health facilities.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 9, 2020. Statewide, 29,308 new claims were filed, along with 325,095 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 1,101 new claims were filed.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that April revenue collections fell 26.2%, primarily due to the extension of individual and corporate income tax deadlines until June 1 to provide relief to Virginians amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The governor deferred individual and corporate income tax payments due between April 1 and June 1, until June 1, 2020. The extension applies to taxable year 2019 final payments and extension payments, and the first estimated payment for taxable year 2020.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Health today released testing data broken out by PCR (diagnostic) and antibody (serology) tests. Antibody tests make up less than nine percent of overall tests. When these tests are removed from total results, there is minimal change in the percent positive of tests and no difference in overall trends. The Virginia Department of Health defines a case as confirmed when there is a positive PCR test. A goal in monitoring the number of testing encounters and the percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive is to gauge the capacity of the healthcare system to perform COVID-19 testing. In the past three weeks the number of antibody tests being utilized has increased in Virginia. Due to this change, going forward the Virginia Department of Health will provide a breakdown of the COVID-19 test data by all test types and by only PCR tests.

Read more

Northeast Tennessee sees six new COVID-19 cases

Public invited to listen in on Monday's Hawkins County Commission meeting

BMS to host NASCAR races on May 30-31

Schaus faces challenges in first year as SoCon commissioner

Both 'unofficial' Hawkins proms set for the third weekend in July

Sullivan seniors to cross finish line at Bristol track

Walker on Domtar: 'We're just being very hopeful for them'

Decision on restarting NET high school athletics expected next week

Virginia reopens in “small step” Friday – except for Northern Virginia

NSCC students recognize 11 faculty members for online teaching excellence

Wednesday, May 13

Schedule changes

🔹 The Kingsport Aquatic Center will begin a phased, limited reopening on May 18. Some operations have changed to comply with the Tennessee Pledge. The KAC’s priority is safeguarding both guests and its team, so it is following guidelines from the CDC, the White House, the state of Tennessee and the Sullivan County Regional Health Department. At the direction of the SCRHD, the KAC can allow no more than 10 people in the indoor pool area at any time for lap swim and individual exercise in a lap lane. Pool time must be reserved in advance by calling the front desk at (423) 343-9758 to ensure ample pool space and social distancing protocol. At this time, the KAC plans to open the warm pool and new outdoor lap pool for lap swim and individual water exercise on June 1. Swim team practice and aerobics classes are projected to resume in mid-June.

🔹 Alcatraz East Crime Museum will be reopening, following the COVID-19 closure, on May 15, 2020. The museum, located at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is taking new safety measures to help keep visitors safe and healthy. To help “police” these new safety rules, the museum is introducing their mascot, “Doc” (law enforcement abbreviation for Department of Corrections). Guests will see various signage and friendly safety reminders from Doc throughout the museum. Museum changes will include reduced hours and capacity, heightening cleaning efforts, spatial distancing protocols, employee health screening and employee PPE. Guests are encouraged to review all safety rules prior to their visit on the museum web page devoted to COVID-19: https://www.alcatrazeast.com/covid-19/.

News updates

🔹 The LENOWISCO Health District will schedule community testing sites for COVID-19 at locations across Lee, Scott and Wise counties during the month of May. Those who are uninsured or underinsured, as well as those with symptoms of illness are encouraged to call for an appointment. Testing resources are limited, and only those pre-screened and approved for testing will be admitted, and only by appointment. For the most accurate and up to date information, please visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lenowisco/.

🔹 The Cumberland Plateau Health District will schedule community testing sites for COVID-19 at locations across Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties during the month of May. Those who are uninsured or underinsured, as well as those with symptoms of illness are encouraged to call for an appointment. Testing resources are limited, and only those pre-screened and approved for testing will be admitted, and only by appointment. For the most accurate and up to date information, please visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/cumberlandplateau.

🔹 Marsh Regional Blood Center is experiencing an urgent need for blood donations and encourages all eligible donors to come out and give. COVID-19 does not pose any known risk to blood donors during the donation process or by attending blood drives. Marsh Regional always takes steps to prevent team members and donors who are not feeling well or who have a fever from reaching the donor area, and they are now taking additional social distancing precautions wherever possible. Plus, Marsh Regional continues to take appropriate measures to reduce donors’ potential exposure to COVID-19, as well as extra disinfection and sanitization efforts. To make an appointment, call (423) 408-7500.

🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, May 19, between 3 and 5 p.m. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.

🔹 The city of Bristol, Tennessee will continue distributing free, reusable face masks to city residents on Saturday morning as part of a statewide plan to equip all Tennesseans with personal protective equipment. Masks will be given out in the parking lot of the Bristol, Tennessee Municipal Building, 801 Anderson St., from 9 a.m. until noon, on Saturday, May 16. Please remain in your vehicle and drive around to the distribution site. Supplies are limited, and you must be present to receive a mask.

🔹 Tennesseans are closely following news about the COVID-19 pandemic. They express concern about themselves or a loved one being infected and they are making choices accordingly, finds the most recent Tennessee Poll. The Applied Social Research Lab (ASRL) at East Tennessee State University surveyed 618 Tennesseans from April 22-May 1, 2020, about their thoughts, concerns and actions related to COVID-19. This field period was uniquely situated as the statewide stay-at-home order expired and Tennessee entered into phase one of its reopening plan.

🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.

Read more

Southwest Virginia sees new COVID-19 case, fourth death

UVA-Wise chancellor: College plans for fall semester on campus

More exciting NASCAR could emerge from shutdown

United Way providing rent, utility assistance during pandemic

Northeast graduates 1,497 in virtual ceremony

Kingsport school board recommends more than $80.1 million general purpose budget

Far SWVA sees new COVID-19 case, fourth death

Venable extends Sullivan state of emergency

Tuesday, May 12

Schedule changes

🔹 The Virginia Creeper Trail will reopen effective Tuesday, May 12, at 5 p.m.; however, facilities and services along the trail will remain closed. The Center for Disease Control’s guidelines related to social distancing will be required for use of the trail during the COVID-19 pandemic along with other steps aimed at protecting public health. All visitors should plan to bring their own water and hand sanitizer. Most trash receptacles will not be available so trail users should plan to “pack-in and pack-out.” Routine trail maintenance will be limited. For more information, visit vacreepertrail.org.

🔹 Tennessee Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA) campgrounds are now open to leisure camping after a statewide lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Locations are adhering to guidelines and recommendations from local health organizations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most KOAs have chosen to responsibly invite guests by altering cleaning procedures, offering unique social distancing activities, offering contact-free check-in and more. Visit KOA.com to learn more and make reservations.

News updates

🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order Nos. 36 and 37, extending the state of emergency declaration from May 18, 2020 to June 30, 2020, in order to extend certain provisions facilitating the State’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The full orders can be found here.

🔹 Despite the temporary closure, Hands On! Discovery Center employees have been working hard to create educational opportunities for the children and families in our region. Over the past several weeks, the Discovery Center has produced Facebook Live videos each weekday at 1:30 p.m. The videos, which feature programs that can be done at home, focus on art and different areas of science. Families can learn about basic chemistry, biology, and physics, among many other topics. Each program is designed to complement what students are learning in their virtual classrooms. The videos are also recorded and uploaded to the Discovery Center's YouTube channel, along with Tennessee curriculum standards. Additionally, Hands On! is now offering several exciting Discovery Kits that allow families to have an art or science programmatic experience in their own home. Two types of kits are available, both providing fun and interactive learning opportunities for students. Discovery at Home Kits include topics such as bubbles, the solar system, engineering, and sculpture. Discovery Rental Kits may be rented for one week and include exciting subjects like the laws of motion, density, and magnets. Also available for rent are kits that include fossils, miniature Imagination Playground Blocks, and Keva Planks. Most kits are $10 each and are currently available for local pick-up. More information can be found at visithandson.org.

🔹 Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) are leading a nationwide study to determine the rate of novel coronavirus infection in U.S. children and their families. The study, named the HEROS (Human Epidemiology and Response to SARS-CoV-2) study and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), aims to gain insight into how many children ages 1 to 21 have been infected, the percentage of those infected who develop symptoms of COVID-19 and any differences in immune responses to the virus between children and adults within the same household. It will also examine whether infection rates differ between children who have asthma or other allergies and children who do not, including the impact of topical steroids used to treat asthma and allergies.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today issued Executive Order Sixty-Two, allowing specific localities in Northern Virginia to delay entering Phase One of the “Forward Virginia” plan to ease restrictions on certain business operations that were put in place in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Northam has said that Virginia as a whole may enter Phase One on Friday, May 15, as outlined in Executive Order Sixty-One, based on achieving certain health metrics. Executive Order Sixty-Two allows the Northern Virginia localities to delay implementation of Phase One until midnight on Thursday, May 28, to allow those localities more time to meet the health metrics.

🔹 First Horizon National Corp. (NYSE:FHN) today announced that First Horizon Bank has helped more than 13,000 small businesses secure loans totaling approximately $2.1 billion through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These PPP loans will help sustain nearly 300,000 jobs at businesses in communities across its network. In addition, approximately 22% of the loans secured went to women-owned, minority-owned and low- to moderate-income tract designated businesses.

🔹 Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley today announced that revenues for April were less than the monthly revenues from the previous year. Overall state revenues for April were $1.3 billion, which is a negative growth rate of 39.75% compared to last year and $693.8 million less than the state budgeted. “The signs of economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic have begun to appear in Tennessee’s April tax receipts,” Eley said. “April sales tax revenues, reflecting March taxable sales activity, were weakened as the state began to withdraw from its usual patterns of consumer spending by mid-month. Franchise and excise tax receipts, along with Hall income and business taxes are also notably reduced due to filing extensions that will allow individuals and businesses to report their taxable activity later in the year.” The Tennessee Department of Revenue extended the due date for certain taxes on April 6, 2020; those can be found at https://www.tn.gov/revenue/news/2020/3/31/tennessee-extends-certain-tax-deadlines-due-to-covid-19.html.

🔹 Borden Dairy was awarded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) largest contract through its new Farmers to Families Food Box Program as part of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program (CFAP). The contract will enable Borden to supply 700 million servings of fresh fluid milk for free to qualifying 501(c)3 organizations starting this Friday, May 15. Borden will supply milk to consumers in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest regions, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Non-profit organizations interested in receiving a production donation from Borden should email [email protected].

Read more

Editorial: Keep live-streaming government meetings

Dentsply Sirona temporarily lays off 52

Revised graduation plan moves Cherokee, Volunteer events to consecutive Saturdays

New Vision Youth honors a special nurse

Girls on the Run invites community to join virtual 5K

Area administrators consider plan to restart high school athletics

Sullivan County courts reopening within social distancing guidelines

Kingsport facing tough budget year in 2021

Northam: Most of Virginia still on track for Friday reopening

Alexander in self-quarantine after staffer tests positive

Monday, May 11

Schedule changes

🔹 The Cherokee National Forest will reopen developed recreation sites beginning May 15 using a site-by-site approach, including assessment of facility cleanliness, maintenance status, and health and safety of recreation areas. Expect reopenings to not be quick or permanent. Some day-use sites, such as shooting ranges, picnic areas and small campgrounds, are currently scheduled to reopen on May 15. Additional sites and campgrounds are schedule to open May 24. Most remaining campgrounds will likely open the first week of June. Projected opening dates may vary depending on circumstances, and it may be necessary to not open or to close areas again if conditions change. Most boat launches, trails and the general forest area, including river corridors, have remained open to hiking, biking, boating, dispersed camping, hunting, fishing, etc. For information on the projected schedule of Cherokee National Forest recreation site opening dates and locations by Ranger District, visit www.fs.usda.gov/cherokee.

🔹 The George L. Carter Railroad Museum announces that the Annual East Tennessee State University Train Show, scheduled for Memorial Center on Friday, June 5, and Saturday, June 6, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The university has decided not to hold any public gatherings on campus through June, necessitating the show’s the cancellation. The organizers wish to thank those vendors who had committed to the show and express their disappointment to both vendors and attendees over the cancellation. Plans are already underway for the show’s return in June 2021.

🔹 The Town of Unicoi’s annual Freedom Fest, scheduled for July 4, has been cancelled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision comes after Johnson City announced the cancellation of its Fourth of July celebration a few weeks ago and the CDC continues to encourage social distancing. While larger events like Freedom Fest won’t be held this year, the Unicoi Farmers Market & Community Yard Sale will begin June 2 as previously scheduled. The programs department is working to create new guidelines and procedures similar to other regional farmer’s markets and will announce those within the coming weeks.

News updates

🔹 The Heritage Alliance will host its first Virtual Field Trip Day on Monday, May 18. Throughout the day, the Alliance will offer tours and activities online for students learning from home. The day will include a look at its one room schoolhouse Oak Hill School, an interactive tour of Main Street Jonesborough, a tour of the third-floor bedroom of the Chester Inn Museum, an interactive artifact exploration and much more. The Heritage Alliance will be streaming and posting content for students from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The day will also include visits to the Christopher Taylor House, the Chuckey Depot Museum and the Old Jonesborough Cemetery, with some surprises thrown in. To help cover expenses, the Heritage Alliance suggests a donation of $5-7, which covers the normal fee for a student during a field trip. Donations can be made online at www.heritageall.org.

🔹 Tennesseans’ thoughts related to the COVID-19 pandemic are the primary focus of the latest statewide Tennessee Poll conducted by the Applied Social Research Lab (ASRL) at East Tennessee State University. ASRL will release a series of poll results from the Tennessee Poll 2020 poll beginning later this week. The poll surveyed 618 Tennesseans from April 22-May 1, 2020, via telephone and has a margin of error of +/- 3.9%. Results will be provided for topic areas by likely voter status, as well as other key demographic characteristics. In addition to questions pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Poll asked a series of questions related to the current state of Tennessee and the nation, as well as citizens’ voting preferences for the fall 2020 elections.

🔹 Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN Tri-Cities makes its first virtual match in May. The organization is still working to match children in our region who need a mentor. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, email [email protected] or visit www.tennesseebig.org.

🔹 Federal guidelines the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development follows to administer the Tennessee Unemployment Compensation (TUC) program state an individual must be willing and able to work to receive unemployment benefits. Not returning to work when there is available employment may be considered a “refusal of work” and could potentially disqualify claimants from receiving TUC benefits. The federal CARES Act provides provisions for individuals who have traditionally been ineligible for state unemployment benefits, but those provisions do not apply to employees apprehensive about returning to work because of health concerns. Under federal law, workers who have been placed on a temporary layoff related to COVID-19 who can work, and do not qualify for any other Unemployment Insurance provisions through the state or under the CARES Act, must return to work if called back. Employees and employers can find answers to commonly asked questions about returning to work on the Department’s website, www.tn.gov/workforce.

🔹 The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced a $3.75 million grant to Appalachian Community Capital (ACC) for the ARC-ACC Emergency Business Response Assistance Program to strengthen and stabilize the Region's Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other mission-driven development finance lenders serving small businesses impacted by COVID-19 related losses. Through this partnership, the ARC-ACC Emergency Business Response Assistance Program will help designated community-based lenders cover operational costs and offset some of the income they are losing by suspending or reducing payments from their borrowers during the COVID-19 crisis. Lenders will be able to use the funds for operational support and for direct technical assistance to Appalachian small business and non-profit borrowers. ARC anticipates 400 businesses will be served; $15 million in leveraged private investment will be attracted; and 200 jobs will be retained across the 13-state Appalachian Region. ACC will administer the program, supervise progress, and monitor implementation. To participate, CDFIs or other mission-driven development finance lenders serving the Appalachian Region must either be a member of Appalachian Community Capital or previously funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. ACC expects to deploy the initial funding later this month.

🔹 Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) today announced a commitment of more than $3.3 million for Operation #SmilesMatter, a grant program to help Tennessee dentists acquire much needed supplies, equipment and technology as they prepare to reopen their practices following COVID-19-related closures. Delta Dental will be funding a $1,000 “allowance” or credit available to all dentists in Tennessee, regardless of whether they participate in Delta Dental’s network, to purchase dental products. Dentists can learn more about participation in Operation #SmilesMatter at https://tennessee.deltadental.com/ppe.

Read more

Gas prices rise for first time in weeks as demand grows

Hawkins awarded federal funding for emergency food and shelter programs

Sullivan County awarded emergency food, shelter funds

Support available locally for businesses grappling with federal loan process

Far SW Va. COVID-19 cases level for 10th straight day

Kingsport bracing for $5.4 million shortfall this year

Sunday, May 10

Read more

Local family creates its own Quarantine Olympics

Tennessee reports nearly 15,000 cases of COVID-19

Small business owners discuss challenges of reopening

Planned summer baseball league has roster questions

'It's a challenging time for people faced with that grief'

Scott County nurse on front lines of COVID-19 pandemic in New Jersey

Kingsport outlines plan for reopening facilities

Saturday, May 9

Schedule changes

🔹 The 72nd annual Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon has been canceled. In a statement posted on Facebook, organizers said, “Over the past several weeks we have monitored the COVID-19 pandemic very closely to fully understand how it might impact our 2020 summer festival. We have already put an incredible amount of effort and expense into planning, modifying operations and modeling out every precautionary measure possible to ensure the safety of our staff, artists and attendees. In the end, we found that we are unable to safely hold the 72nd annual Virginia Highlands Festival this summer as scheduled (July 24-August 2). Although there will be statements later this week and plans for reopening arts and entertainment venues throughout Virginia, the uncertainty of what will be safe for our artists and audiences, as well as our financial position, necessitated making a decision now. Over the next few days, we will be in touch with our artists, vendors, sponsors, advertisers and patrons to issue refunds, transfer reservations to next summer, and continue work on our Plein Air Abingdon festival, which will take place Oct. 8-10.”

🔹 Based on state guidance and what we believe to be best practices for public events at this time, all Bristol Dragway May events are postponed. We will continue to monitor the situation while our team develops new guidelines for racing operations to ensure the safety of all. Updates will be provided on the Bristol Dragway website and social channels.

News updates

🔹 Northeast State Community College announced it will soon start disbursing to students the federal emergency financial assistance provided under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently approved by the U.S. Congress. Northeast State has received $2.2 million to help college students cover costs related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These may include eligible expenses such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The College will distribute 90 percent of the funds to eligible students (as outlined below) and 10 percent through special payments to students with additional needs, through an application process. Students eligible for payments are degree-seeking students who were enrolled full- or part-time on or after March 13 for the Spring 2020 semester. Students who have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are eligible. Students who have not filed a FAFSA but who are eligible to file also may receive emergency fund grants. These student populations are not eligible for emergency funds: students who initially enrolled exclusively in distance education courses as of March 13, 2020; high school dual-enrollment students; non-degree-seeking students, and employees in special-industry training programs at the College. Northeast State students may set up direct deposit at https://www.northeaststate.edu/Admission/Business-Office/Student-Account-Suite/ by clicking the “Set up Electronic Refunds” button. Then click on the Student and Staff button and log into the account with a current student ID number and password. From there, enter banking information for electronic refunds.

🔹 East Tennessee State University conferred more than 2,200 degrees today during its Virtual Commencement Ceremony at 10 a.m. The ceremony included special congratulatory remarks from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and country music superstar Dolly Parton, as well as special music from the ETSU Chorale. A link to each college ceremony is available at www.etsu.edu/classof2020.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Sixty-One and presented a detailed framework for the first phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. The Phase One guidelines will be implemented when the data meets the public health criteria outlined by the Commonwealth. Phase One guidelines for specific sectors are available at virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia.

Read more

Do your part to stay safe as businesses reopen

VIDEOS: ETSU awards 2,247 degrees in Class of 2020 virtual commencement

What a difference a year and a pandemic make: UVA Wise holds virtual commencement

Hawkins director of schools reaching out to students to improve graduation plan

Third COVID-19 case reported at Wallens Ridge (plus state numbers)

iRacing opens up new world for NASCAR

Words of Comfort: Faith is a deliberate choice

Want to honor your graduate? We can help

Friday, May 8

Schedule changes

🔹 This year’s annual Rhododendron Festival at Roan Mountain has been canceled. The organizer of the event, the Roan Mountain Citizens Club, announced the closure on the club’s Facebook page on Thursday

🔹 In the interest of public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nashville Symphony has extended the suspension of all concert activity at Schermerhorn Symphony Center through July 3, 2020. The orchestra has also postponed two scheduled performances at Ascend Amphitheater and has cancelled the entirety of its Community Concerts series in June. The list of postponed or canceled Nashville Symphony concerts can be found at NashvilleSymphony.org/coronavirus.

🔹 Following the guidelines from the State of Tennessee and Knox County Health Department, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame will reopen on June 1, 2020. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame closed on March 16, 2020, in support of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The WBHOF will follow Knox County Health Department guidelines for 50% capacity, and 10 guests per event. Our team will be tested prior to work to ensure they are not sick, and we ask that guests do not come to the WBHOF if they are sick or have been in contact with a COVID-19 patient. Safe social distancing, 6 feet apart, will be practiced by WBHOF staff and visitors. The WBHOF team will be wearing masks and will ask that visitors wear masks while at the hall. Only one entrance from the parking lot on Hill Avenue to the WBHOF will be utilized.

News updates

🔹 With so many individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, Kingsport runners decided to hold a virtual event they call "Virtually Crazy: Kingsport's First Socially Distant 8K." During the month of July, runners from around the Tri-Cities will compete virtually against each other, while raising money for local businesses, nonprofits and individuals affected by the pandemic. Unlike traditional races, runners won’t gather at a start line — instead they'll follow social distancing guidelines, select a route and run at their own convenience, tracking their time with popular apps like Garmin and Strava to see how they stack up to the competition. During the month of July, the runners will also be able to nominate and vote for the organizations and individuals they believe most deserving of the funds raised. With the entire event being run by volunteers, and with overhead costs covered through donations of time and money by Kingsport residents, all money raised will go directly to the people who need it most. Details at https://virtuallycrazy.run.

🔹 Hawkins County has been awarded CARES Funds made available through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program. CARES is short for Coronvirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Hawkins County has been chosen to receive $30,807 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county. Hawkins County has also been awarded Federal Funds made available through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program. Hawkins County has been chosen to receive $21,608 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county.

🔹 Erwin Utilities is proud to announce that it has partnered with the United Way of Unicoi County and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to help Unicoi County residents during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Erwin Utilities and the United Way of Unicoi County will collectively match up to $10,000 in donations from the community. Additionally, TVA will match up to $10,000 through its COVID-19 Community Care Fund, which helps local power companies, like Erwin Utilities, meet immediate needs in their communities related to COVID-19. To reach this collaboration’s maximum potential, a communitywide minimum goal of $10,000 in donations has been established. Those who are interested in donating are asked to mail a check to the United Way of Unicoi County at P.O. Box 343, Erwin, TN 37650 or contribute through the United Way of Unicoi County PayPal account at www.e-u.cc/info/relief/. The PayPal site will accept credit card, debit card, or PayPal contributions.

🔹 The U.S. Department of the Treasury and IRS today announced that nearly 130 million Americans have received Economic Impact Payments, worth more than $218 billion, in less than five weeks. These totals do not include the more than $2.5 billion delivered to U.S. territories for payment to territory residents. Individuals in Tennessee have received 2,881,709 Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) worth $4,980,110,718.

🔹 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced grants totaling $1,044,387 to HRSA-funded community health centers for expanded testing through funding made available by the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. Individual award recipients in Northeast Tennessee were $192,454 – East Tennessee State University, $243,409 – Rural Medical Services, Inc., and $608,524 – Rural Health Services Consortium, Inc.

🔹 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded $1,603,213 to Community Health Centers in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District to expand coronavirus testing. Local providers receiving funding include Clinch River Health Services Inc. in Dungannon ($138,814) and St. Charles Health Council Inc. in Jonesville ($356,074).

🔹 East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy celebrated the Class of 2020 with a Virtual Hooding and Commencement for its 68 graduates on Friday, May 8. The Class of 2020 is the 11th graduating class of Gatton College of Pharmacy, and the first class at the college to celebrate its commencement virtually.

Read more

Scott supervisors extend continuity of government ordinance

SAC may play fewer games in response to COVID-19 pandemic

SW Va. reports third COVID-19 death, second in Scott

Sullivan high school graduations tentatively set for July 31, Aug. 1

Photo gallery: YMCA opens

Virginia Phase I reopening details revealed

Far SWVA reports third COVID-19 death

The epidemic a recurring theme in Rogersville National Day of Prayer observance

Graduatin' the way it oughta be: Sullivan seniors may cross finish line at Bristol race track

Thursday, May 7

Schedule changes

🔹 The VHSL Executive Committee during its May meeting today voted (31-0-1) to cancel all spring sports and activities for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. “This extremely difficult decision was made knowing the great disappointment our student-athletes, academic activity participants, coaches, administrators, parents, and their communities will experience. We share those same feelings as well,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun. “We especially grieve with those senior athletes and activity participants who will not have an opportunity to represent their school or wear their school jersey one final time after years of hard work and dedication.”

🔹 A plan has been approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court to reopen courts in Sullivan County. Most courts within Sullivan County plan to reopen the week of May 11. The maximum number of individuals allowed in each courtroom will be 10 exclusive of judges, necessary court personnel and court security. Video hearings are strongly recommended and will be utilized as much as possible. For all in-person hearings, everyone entering the courtroom will be screened to be sure they do not have any symptoms of illness and elevated temperature taken by infrared thermometer. It is suggested the attorneys, clients and witnesses bring and wear an appropriate mask.

🔹 Appalachian Orthopedics has resumed elective surgery, or scheduled nonemergency surgery, for its patients. Since the state has eased restrictions preserving the stocks of health care resources, including personal protective equipment, ventilators, etc., Appalachian Orthopedics will offer elective and emergency surgical treatment.

🔹 As large summer conferences and mass gatherings remain in doubt amidst continued social distancing recommendations from public health officials, the Tennessee Valley Corridor announced today it is shifting its Annual Summit and 25th anniversary celebration to a series of special online events this summer. Originally scheduled to be held July 15-16 at Milligan College in Johnson City, the Corridor's Annual Summit will instead convene participants online for a series of weekly Summit sessions beginning Thursday, July 16, for five consecutive weeks. Each session will highlight many of the same speakers, topics and organizations, but the new virtual format aims to maximize participation during the continued COVID-19 crisis. For more information about the Tennessee Valley Corridor and the National Summit, visit www.TennValleyCorridor.org or email TVC Executive Director Darrell Akins at [email protected]

 News updates

🔹 The LENOWISCO Health District has activated drive-up testing sites for COVID-19 at each local health department in Lee, Scott and Wise counties. Testing is being conducted in the parking lot of each health department Monday through Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. by appointment only, after being screened on the phone by a nurse. In order to be approved for testing, you must call in advance for a screening interview. Those that are approved for testing will receive an appointment time. You must bring a valid ID to the testing site. To avoid lengthy wait times, please come to the site at your appointed time and bring your documentation with you. To request a screening, please call: Lee County Health Department at (276) 346-2011; Scott County Health Department at (276) 386-1312; and Wise County/City of Norton Health Department at (276) 328-8000.

🔹 The Cumberland Plateau Health District has activated drive-thru testing sites for COVID-19 at each local health department in Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties. Testing is being conducted in the parking lot of each health department Monday through Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. by appointment only, after being screened on the phone by a nurse. In order to be approved for testing, you must call in advance for a screening interview. Those that are approved for testing will receive an appointment time. You must bring a valid ID to the testing site. To avoid lengthy wait times, please come to the site at your appointed time and bring your documentation with you. To request a screening, please call: Buchanan County Health Department at (276) 935-4591; Dickenson County Health Department at (276) 926-4576; Russell County Health Department at (276) 889-7621 and Tazewell County Health Department at (276) 988-5585.

🔹 The City of Bristol, Tennessee, will begin providing free face masks to city residents on Friday, May 8, as part of Gov. Bill Lee’s plan to provide all Tennesseans with personal protective equipment. Beginning at 1 p.m on Friday, May 8, the city will be distributing the reusable, cloth masks in the parking lot on the Alabama Street side of the Ida Stone Jones Community Tennis Center. Supplies are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. You must be present to receive a mask. For additional information, please contact the Department of Community Relations at (423) 764-4171 or [email protected]

🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 35, amending Executive Order No. 30 to allow for the reopening of small group, non-contact entertainment, and recreational venues according to new Economic Recovery Group guidelines. Read the full text here.

🔹 Yesterday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 34, extending Executive Order No. 16 to allow for government bodies to hold meetings remotely until June 30 to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Tennessee.

🔹 Dr. Robert Pack, executive director of East Tennessee State University’s Addiction Science Center, will moderate a panel discussion, via webinar, on how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting efforts to address the opioid crisis. The webinar, which is part of the 2020 Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) Virtual Annual Meeting, will be held on Friday, May 8, from 1-2 p.m. For more information or to register, visit www.aspph.org/aspphevents/2020virtualannualmeeting/.

🔹 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded $9,365,606 to 29 health centers in Tennessee, to expand COVID-19 testing. For a list of award recipients, visit https://bphc.hrsa.gov/emergency-response/expanding-capacity-coronavirus-testing-FY2020-awards.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has released data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 2, 2020. Statewide, there were 37,319 new claims filed and 321,571 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 1,781 new claims were filed.

Read more

VHSL pulls plug on spring sports

Johnson City Omnium postponed until August

No new COVID-19 cases reported in SW Va. in seven days

Virginia students getting post-school food aid

The root of the problem: Hair salons way behind after two-month shutdown

Northam: Localities may choose to keep stricter limits during Virginia reopening

Past updates

🔹 To view the Times News COVID-19 blog for March 11-May 6, click here.

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