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State now offering digital review of REAL ID paperwork

Tennessee is offering a new service to help state residents verify the essential records they need to apply for a REAL ID.

The state is now providing a digital review of the personal documents Tennesseans must provide to obtain a REAL ID card. The idea is to spare residents from having to spend time in a long line only to be told they don’t have all the necessary paperwork with them to qualify for the designation.

REAL ID is a federal identification that people must have for boarding domestic flights, and for visiting nuclear facilities and specified federal buildings beginning in October. The start date for the REAL ID program was extended last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal law requires applications for a REAL ID credential to be made in person. The designation can be added to driver’s licenses in Tennessee.

That means Tennessee residents can apply for a REAL ID at Driver Services Centers operated by the state. The center in Sullivan County is at 3769 U.S. Highway 11-W, Blountville. The Johnson City center is at 4717 Lake Park Dr.

You will need to present the following documents when applying for a REAL ID:

• Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal presence.

• Proof of a full Social Security number.

• Two proofs of Tennessee residency.

Applicants should also be prepared to provide documentation of any name changes that may have occurred. All documents must be originals or certified. Photocopies will not be accepted.

State officials announced a program this month that allows new and existing customers to upload required identity documents to be pre-vetted and added to the customer’s profile before they visit a Driver Services Center.

“This new service will reduce the number of potential visits and cut down transaction time at the Driver Services Center with our staff by pre-vetting the customer’s uploaded documents,” state Public Safety Commissioner Jeff Long said. “One of the biggest frustrations we see for customers visiting a Driver Services Center is finding out they don’t have the correct documents with them when they arrive.”

Customers wanting to apply for a REAL ID, a first-time driver license or a state ID card are eligible to use this service.

To begin the document upload process, visit www.tn.gov/safety/driver-services/online and navigate to e-Services.

Existing customers will enter the required information fields and select “Upload Documents” from their service menu.

New residents or first-time applicants will click “Apply for a Tennessee permit, license, or ID” to begin the application and document upload process.

Customers who complete the online document upload process will receive an email notification of their document review status.

Customers should allow up to five business days for their documents to be reviewed. Once approved, customers can visit any Driver Services Center, where their approved uploaded documents must be presented in-person.

Shepherd's hooks projects to serve area nursing home, assisted living residents

KINGSPORT — Spring plants, birdhouses and wind catchers on shepherd’s hooks are starting to brighten the days of area nursing home and assisted living residents.

A local home health and hospice business is trying to get 500 shepherd’s hooks donated and installed for residents of those facilities, helping them during the waning days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In cooperation with the Kingsport Neighborhood Commission, Smoky Mountain Home Health and Hospice has set that goal and to date has 178 hooks, including ones installed on Wednesday at Holston Manor in Kingsport.

The effort covers Sullivan and Washington counties and their cities.

“We’re up to 178 at this point,” said Shannon Morelock, community educator with Smoky Mountain HH&H. During Wednesday’s installation at Holston Manor in Kingsport, “a couple of residents came to the windows” but could not be photographed because of federal health privacy regulations.

Morelock said the project has been extended until the first day of summer, Sunday, June 20.

“Too many of our seasoned citizens in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been held hostage by the COVID pandemic,” Morelock said. He said the flowers and other plants and birdhouses can “bring a bit of joy back into their lives” even as visitation restrictions remain.

He said the hooks and what they hold can lift spirits and give hope to residents of such facilities, which makes the job of nurses and certified nursing assistants easier in taking care of the residents.

Morelock quoted from the Bible, Psalm 23, pertaining to a shepherd’s hook: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me.”

He said a shepherd in Biblical times often would use his staff with a large hook at the end to rescue lambs and the older adult sheep from the dangers and perils of life.

Morelock is seeking new and good used shepherd’s hooks, as well as flowers, other plants, birdhouses, wind catchers and other appropriate items as donations.

The items can be dropped off during regular business hours at the Smoky Mountain Home Health and Hospice office at 106 Ferrell Ave., Suite 1, Kingsport, 37663, across from Perkins in Colonial Heights.

The phone number is (423) 246-1005 or (800) 516-6371.

Morelock said he would come pick up donated items.

Morelock can be reached at shannonm@smokeyhhc.com for more information.

top story
Washington County active COVID-19 infections rise by 21
  • Updated

Washington County reported an increase of 21 in its active COVID-19 case count on Wednesday, bringing its total to 275.

That’s 100 below Sullivan County’s region-leading number.

Overall, Northeast Tennessee saw a net increase of five active cases from Tuesday, with most reported in Washington County. Hawkins (8) and Johnson (1) counties were the only other counties in the region to see an increase in their active case counts.

There are 1,013 active cases in the region, 37.6% higher than the low of 736 on March 10.

Washington County has seen substantial growth in its active case count over the past two weeks, growing from 163 on March 10 to 275 on Wednesday — a 68.7% increase, second-highest behind Johnson County’s (29 active cases) 141.6% increase over the same time. Washington County has seen the largest numeric increase since then, however, its count growing by 112.

The county also added the most new cases in the region on Wednesday with 39, bringing its seven-day total to 201. Sullivan (249 cases in the past seven days) and Washington counties account for 62.3% of the region’s new cases over the past week, slightly more than their share of the region’s population (56.1%).

Ballad reports drop in hospitalizations

Ballad Health’s COVID-19 inpatient census fell by eight from Monday, dropping to 83 with 18 (-2) people in intensive care and 11 (+3) on ventilators.

The 83 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across Ballad’s facilities matched the total reported last Friday, but remained above last Monday’s 67 hospitalizations — the lowest reported since September. The 91 reported on Monday were the most since Feb. 17.

vaccine eligibility

The Northeast Regional Health Office expanded vaccine eligibility to all adults on Wednesday, allowing everyone 16 and older to seek a vaccine in the region.

The move to expand vaccine eligibility comes after Gov. Bill Lee announced on Monday that every adult in the state would be eligible no later than April 5.

The Sullivan County Regional Health Department expanded eligibility on Wednesday.

Visit vaccinate.tn.gov to schedule an appointment, or call (423) 979-4689 if you need assistance. The NRHO oversees health departments in Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties.

Ballad vaccine events

Ballad also announced a change to the location for Saturday’s vaccination events in Kingsport and Norton. The walk-in events will now be held at:

  • 2205 Pavilion Drive, Kingsport.
  • 310 3rd St. NE, Norton.

The vaccination events are open to anyone 16 and older, and will be held this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

NET by the Numbers

Cases: 52,059 (+93). Past seven days: 722

New cases by county: Carter 4, Greene 6, Hancock 0, Hawkins 18, Johnson 2, Sullivan 22, Unicoi 2, Washington 39.

Active cases: 1,013 (+5)

Active cases by county: Carter 94, Greene 80, Hancock 5, Hawkins 125, Johnson 29, Sullivan 375, Unicoi 30, Washington 275.

New tests: 693 (10.25% positivity rate)

New hospitalizations: 4. Past seven days: 16

Deaths: 1,021 (+1). Past seven days: 6

Tennessee By the numbers

Cases: 804,492 (+1,388)

New tests: 17,926 (5.55% positivity)

Deaths: 11,792 (+45)

Active cases: 13,548 (+11)

Current hospitalizations: 830 (+60)

Ballad Health Scorecard

COVID-19 inpatients: 83 (-8)

Patients under investigation: 2

Admissions: 15

Discharges: 13

Patients in intensive care: 18 (-2)

Patients on a ventilator: 11 (+3)

Designated beds available: 29 (-4)

First-dose vaccines administered: 35,530 (+549)

Second-dose vaccines administered: 29,610 (+390)

Ballad has a 21-county service area in Tennessee and Virginia. Ballad issues scorecards on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.


All Northeast Tennessee counties are now vaccinating those 55 and older, as well as those in phase 2 of vaccination. Sullivan County is also vaccinating all adults, age 16 and older.

Not sure if you’re eligible? Tennesseans can determine their vaccine eligibility and request an appointment by visiting bit.ly/2YcVMcT and highlighting their county of residence. Additionally, you can call (866) 442-5301 for more information.

To register for a vaccine, visit bit.ly/2ZVJS8c. Ballad Health is also offering vaccine appointments to all adults at its Elizabethton and Kingsport locations, which you can register for by visiting bit.ly/3e1ru5Y. Ballad also has vaccine centers in Abingdon and Norton. To find other vaccination sites, such as pharmacies and grocery stores, visit covidvaccinefinder.org.

The Sullivan County Regional Health Department is vaccinating people at Whitetop Creek Park and the Kingsport Civic Auditorium by appointment only. Call (423) 279-2777 to schedule an appointment and check bit.ly/3a6ZVoc for the latest information and to pre-download and fill out the vaccine paperwork.

COVID-19 in SWVA: LENOWISCO district daily cases below 10

The LENOWISCO Health District’s daily number of new COVID-19 infections dropped below 10, according to Wednesday’s state data report, with more than 600 residents vaccinated.

The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus) said the LENOWISCO district reported nine COVID-19-related cases and no deaths for totals of 7,229 and 192 deaths during the pandemic.

Scott County saw three cases for 1,673 and 50 deaths.

Wise County had three cases for 2,954 and 92 deaths.

Norton saw two cases for 247 and six deaths.

Lee County had one case for 2,353 and 44 deaths.

In the LENOWISCO district, 31,110 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given since they became available in Virginia — 631 new vaccinations since Tuesday’s VDH report.

The number of people in the district receiving the recommended two doses is 10,820 — 12.51% of the district’s population of 86,471.

Statewide, 2,140,673 doses have been given and 1,167,307 people have received two doses — 13.53% of 8.63 million state residents fully vaccinated.

VDH reported 1,470 new cases and six deaths statewide in the prior 24 hours, for a pandemic total of 608,704 cases and 10,143 deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Wednesday’s VDH report was 8,207,717 of 8.63 million residents, or 95.11%. For nasal swab testing only, 6,356,719 people have been tested to date, or 73.66%.

In the LENOWISCO district, 42,819 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 49.52%.

The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Wednesday’s report dropped from 6.3% to 6%. The statewide seven-day positivity rate remained at 5.6%.

Red Onion State Prison remained at 61 inmate cases and one staff/contractor infection on Wednesday, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap remained at 20 inmate cases and one active staff/contractor case. Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 24 inmate cases and no active staff/contractor cases.


To preregister for COVID-19 vaccinations, go online to vaccinate.virginia.gov or call the VDH pre-registration call center at (877) VAX-IN-VA (829-4682)

Contact numbers for local health districts are:

• Lee County (Jonesville) — (276) 346-2011

• Scott County (Gate City) — (276) 386-1312

• Wise County and Norton (Wise) — (276) 328-8000

Where to be tested

Do you think you might have COVID-19? Local health departments provide free testing.

The LENOWISCO Health Department, which covers Norton and Lee, Wise and Scott counties, posts regular updates on testing sites across the district and offers free COVID-19 tests at its county offices.

Those seeking a test must call in advance for an appointment.

Contact numbers for the county offices are:

• Lee County (Jonesville) — (276) 346-2011

• Scott County (Gate City) — (276) 386-1312

• Wise County and Norton (Wise) — (276) 328-8000