A1 A1
Demand continues to outpace supply for COVID-19 vaccine in Sullivan County

BLOUNTVILLE — By noon on Thursday, the Sullivan County Regional Health Department closed the gates to the line to its drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Bristol Dragway because the more than 1,000 doses the department had were expected to run out once those already in line and on the property received shots.

Department officials told the Times News a second clinic at the Bristol Dragway remained scheduled for Friday, but whether it takes place will depend on the department receiving more vaccine.

As of 8 p.m. on Thursday, nothing more had been announced. Pending vaccine availability, the clinic will open at 9 a.m.

Also on Thursday, the department announced all available appointments for vaccine clinics scheduled at Kingsport’s Civic Auditorium next week have been filled.

Those eligible for the vaccine under 1a1 or 1a2 phases of distribution, and anyone age 75 or older, can begin calling on Monday, Jan. 11, to try to secure appointments for the week that begins Monday, Jan. 18.

Sullivan County residents are the primary target for these clinics, as distribution of the vaccine across the state is based on population. But Dr. Stephen May, medical director of the health department, said no one will be turned away as long as they are eligible either under 1a1 or 1a2, or are age 75 or older.

If you go

The daily schedule is subject to change pending vaccine availability; please check the Sullivan County Regional Health Department website, www.sullivanhealth.org, for the latest information.

Vehicles will enter at the Bristol Dragway entrance off Highway 394, make an immediate right and follow the service road to Copperhead Road. At Copperhead Road, vehicles will make a left, go over the hill and follow the line to the vaccination registration point. All individuals will receive the vaccinations in their vehicles and must remain in their vehicles at all times during the vaccination process. Once vaccinated, individuals will be directed to a waiting area before being released.

May said those with low risk for adverse reactions to the vaccine will be asked to wait 15 minutes, and those with higher risk to adverse reactions will be asked to wait up to 30 minutes.

Bring identification of some kind and verification, if you have something (like an employee badge), to show what makes you eligible under phases 1a1 or 1a2. Driver’s licenses are a typical identification used to verify age.

Expect to wait in line (in your vehicle).

There are no restrooms available once you enter the line. Plan accordingly.

Everyone must remain inside their vehicle at all times while in line and during the wait afterward.

Are you eligible?

In addition to anyone over age 75, the following are eligible for the vaccine during the current phase of distribution (1a2, and inclusive of those eligible in 1a1): Hospital/free-standing emergency department staff with direct patient exposure and/or exposure to potentially infectious materials; home health care staff; COVID-19 mass testing site staff; student health providers; staff and residents of long term care facilities; skilled nursing facilities, assisted living centers, homes for the aged, DIDD residential centers, group homes; first responders with direct public exposure; individuals 18 years or older who cannot live independently due to a serious chronic medical condition or intellectual or developmental disability; primary care providers and staff; outpatient specialty providers and staff working with acute patients; pharmacists and staff; patient transport; outpatient therapists; urgent visit center providers and staff; environmental services; oral health providers; behavioral health providers; outpatient laboratory staff working with COVID-19 specimens; and funeral/mortuary workers with direct decedent contact.

Rogersville Heritage Association approves optimistic 2021 schedule of events

ROGERSVILLE — After a year when most of its events were canceled due to the pandemic, on Thursday the Rogersville Heritage Association released an optimistic schedule of events for 2021 featuring old favorites and a few new creations.

Not all RHA events were canceled last year, including the annual Heritage Days in October, as well as a new mini Heritage Days in July called the Vintage Market.

However, all of its Christmas events were canceled, including the highly anticipated inaugural Dickens of a Christmas festival that was scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

These events are important For two main reasons

RHA Director Melissa Nelson told the Times News on Thursday her board of directors approved an optimistic 2021 slate of events in hopes that the pandemic gets under control and life can get somewhat back to normal.

If the virus is still a problem when the time comes, events will again be canceled, which would be unfortunate because they are important for two main reasons.

First, they’re fun for the community and help promote the beauty and history of Rogersville.

But they’re also necessary fundraisers.

The RHA’s primary function is maintaining and restoring historic properties under its control — including the Hale Springs Inn, Crockett Creek Park, Rogers Tavern and the Rogersville Depot.

COVID-19 stalls some RHA projects

Currently, the restoration of the Rogers Tavern remains stalled thanks to state grant funding being put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Rogersville Heritage Association also wants to install lighting at Crockett Creek Park to help with security and also so the public can enjoy the park at night.

The Rogersville Depot is in need of repairs, particularly to an area of the exterior that was damaged by water due to a faulty gutter.

And there is work needed at the Hale Springs Inn, including HVAC repairs and preservation of the patio.

“Contributing to the preservation of our historic town”

“We’ve had some issues with the heating and cooling at the inn that we were not prepared for, and that’s a hefty charge,” Nelson said. “Thank goodness for our great members who supported us throughout the year and keep us going. But we really do depend on these events to assist.”

Nelson added, “Of course we want people to get out and enjoy our beautiful city, and we’re doing this for them, but we also need these events. The idea is for everyone to get out and have fun, while at the same time contributing to the preservation of our historic town.”

There is sometimes confusion about who is responsible for Rogersville’s festivals and events.

The RHA is one of a handful of organizations that organize events and festivals in town.

The Chamber of Commerce/Main Street Program is responsible for some events, including monthly Cruise-Ins during the summer and early autumn, the annual motorcycle Bike Night, the Halloween Trunk-Or-Treat, the Christmas parade and a variety of other, smaller downtown events.

The Rogersville Arts Council organizes a handful of arts and entertainment events each year.

As for Rogersville’s annual Fourth of July Celebration at the City Park, an independent committee raises money and does the organizing for that event.

Here’s the RHA’s schedule of events for 2021

Feb. 13: Valentine’s Dinner at the Hale Springs Inn. Reservations are suggested.

March 20: Wine tasting at the Hale Springs Inn. Reservations are suggested.

April 12: Salad Luncheon RHA fundraiser at the Hale Springs Inn.

April 22: Earth Day cleanup at Crockett Springs Park.

May 22: Historic Places and Spaces tour of historic Rogersville homes, businesses and other locations.

June 19: Vintage Market on Main Street followed by a benefit concert at the Hale Springs Inn with proceeds to help increase the longevity of the inn’s patio with some type of “historically aesthetic” cover.

July 17: Margaritaville at the Hale Springs Inn. Dinner, drinks and DJ. Reservations only.

Aug. 21: Roaring ’20s Gala and Auction. Catered by the Hale Springs Inn, but event location and cost to be determined.

Oct. 8-10: The annual Heritage Days festival.

Nov. 8: Soup & Sandwich Luncheon at the Hale Springs Inn.

Nov. 19-20: Decorating for Christmas to begin at the Hale Springs Inn.

Nov. 27: A Dickens of a Christmas presents a Merry Little Christmas Town daylong festival with performers in Charles Dickens-era attire, and a day of live entertainment, storytelling, caroling and Christmas arts and crafts.

Dec. 1-25: Gingerbread House Contest at the Hale Springs Inn.

Dec. 4: Breakfast with Santa at the Hale Springs Inn. Reservation only.

Dec. 11: Rogersville Christmas Tour of Homes.

Dec. 18: Tacky Sweater Contest at the Hale Springs Inn.

Trump finally faces reality — amid talk of early ouster

WASHINGTON — With 13 days left in his term, President Donald Trump finally bent to reality Thursday amid growing talk of trying to force him out early, acknowledging he’ll peacefully leave after Congress affirmed his defeat.

Trump led off a video from the White House by condemning the violence carried out in his name a day earlier at the Capitol. Then, for the first time on camera, he admitted his presidency would soon end — though he declined to mention President-elect Joe Biden by name or explicitly state he had lost.

“A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” Trump said in the video. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

The address, which appeared designed to stave off talk of a forced early eviction, came at the end of a day when the cornered president stayed out of sight in the White House. Silenced on some of his favorite internet lines of communication, he watched the resignations of several top aides, including two Cabinet secretaries.

And as officials sifted through the aftermath of the pro-Trump mob’s siege of the U.S. Capitol, there was growing discussion of impeaching him a second time or invoking the 25th Amendment to oust him from the Oval Office.

The invasion of the Capitol building, a powerful symbol of the nation’s democracy, rattled Republicans and Democrats alike. They struggled with how best to contain the impulses of a president deemed too dangerous to control his own social media accounts but who remains commander in chief of the world’s greatest military.

“I’m not worried about the next election, I’m worried about getting through the next 14 days,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s staunchest allies. He condemned the president’s role in Wednesday’s riots and said, “If something else happens, all options would be on the table.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that “the president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America.” She called him “a very dangerous person who should not continue in office. This is urgent, an emergency of the highest magnitude.”

Neither option to remove Trump seemed likely, with little time left in his term to draft the Cabinet members needed to invoke the amendment or to organize the hearings and trial mandated for an impeachment. But the fact that the dramatic options were even the subject of discussion in Washington’s corridors of power served as a warning to Trump.

Fears of what a desperate president could do in his final days spread in the nation’s capital and beyond, including speculation Trump could incite more violence, make rash appointments, issue ill-conceived pardons — including for himself and his family — or even trigger a destabilizing international incident.

The president’s video Thursday — which was released upon his return to Twitter after his account was restored — was a complete reversal from the one he put out just 24 hours earlier in which he said to the violent mob: “We love you. You’re very special.” His refusal to condemn the violence sparked a firestorm of criticism and, in the new video, he at last denounced the demonstrators’ “lawlessness and mayhem.”

As for his feelings on leaving office, he told the nation that “serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime” while hinting at a return to the public arena. He told supporters “our incredible journey is only just beginning.”

Just a day earlier, Trump unleashed the destructive forces at the Capitol with his baseless claims of election fraud at a rally that prompted supporters to disrupt the congressional certification of Biden’s victory. After the storming of the Capitol and the eventual wee-hours certification of Biden’s win by members of Congress, Trump released a statement that acknowledged he would abide by a peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20.

The statement was posted by an aide and did not originate from the president’s own Twitter account, which has 88 million followers and for four years has been wielded as a political weapon that dictates policy and sows division and conspiracy.

Trump couldn’t tweet it himself because, for the first time, the social media platform suspended his account, stating that the president had violated its rules of service by inciting violence. Facebook adopted a broader ban, saying Trump’s account would be offline until after Biden’s inauguration.

Deprived of that social media lifeblood, Trump remained silent and ensconced in the executive mansion until Thursday evening. But around him, loyalists headed for the exits, their departures — which were coming in two weeks anyway — moved up to protest the president’s handling of the riot.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao became the first Cabinet member to resign. Chao, married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the lawmakers trapped at the Capitol on Wednesday, said in a message to staff that the attack “has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos followed. In her resignation letter Thursday, DeVos blamed Trump for inflaming tensions in the violent assault on the seat of the nation’s democracy. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” she wrote.

Others who resigned in the wake of the riot: Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger; Ryan Tully, senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council; and first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham, a former White House press secretary.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former chief of staff-turned-special envoy to Northern Ireland, told CNBC that he had called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to let him know I was resigning. ... I can’t do it. I can’t stay.”

Mulvaney said others who work for Trump had decided to remain in their posts in an effort to provide some sort of guardrails for the president during his final days in office.

“Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they’re worried the president might put someone worse in,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney’s predecessor in the chief of staff job, retired U.S. Marine Corps general John Kelly, told CNN that “I think the Cabinet should meet and have a discussion” about Section 4 of the 25th Amendment — allowing the forceful removal of Trump by his own Cabinet.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined Pelosi in declaring that Trump “should not hold office one day longer” and urged Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to act. But Chao’s departure may stall nascent efforts to invoke the amendment.

Staff-level discussions on the matter took place across multiple departments and even in parts of the White House, according to two people briefed on the talks. But no member of the Cabinet has publicly expressed support for the move — which would make Pence the acting president — though several were believed to be sympathetic to the notion, believing Trump is too volatile in his waning days in office.

In the West Wing, shell-shocked aides were packing up, acting on a delayed directive to begin offboarding their posts ahead of the Biden team’s arrival. The slowdown before now was due to Trump’s single-minded focus on his defeat since Election Day at the expense of the other responsibilities of his office.

Most glaringly, that included the fight against the raging coronavirus that is killing record numbers of Americans each day.

Few aides had any sense of the president’s plans, with some wondering if Trump would largely remain out of sight until he left the White House.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany read a brief statement in which she declared that the Capitol siege was “appalling, reprehensible and antithetical to the American way.”

But her words carried little weight. Trump has long made clear that only he speaks for his presidency.


Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed reporting from Washington.

Six new COVID-19 deaths, 470 new cases reported in Northeast Tennessee

The latest COVID-19 numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health’s daily report, for Thursday, Jan. 7:


• 111 new deaths and 9,000 new cases.

• Pandemic totals are 7,492 deaths and 634,237 cases.

• 88% of case totals were listed as “inactive/recovered.”

• New deaths by age: 35 in the 81-plus group; 44 in the 71-80 group; 23 in the 61-70 group; five in the 51-60 group; two in the 41-50 group; and two in the 31-40 group.

Northeast Tennessee

• Six deaths and 470 new cases for the eight-county region.

• New deaths by county: four in Carter; one in Hawkins; and one in Johnson.

• New cases by county: 134 in Sullivan; 86 in Washington; 73 in Hawkins; 73 in Greene; 59 in Carter: 18 in Johnson; 17 in Unicoi; and 10 in Hancock.

• Active cases by county: 1,181 in Washington; 1,152 in Sullivan; 769 in Greene; 550 in Hawkins; 517 in Carter; 161 in Unicoi; 114 in Johnson; and 47 in Hancock.

Positive rates

• Statewide: 19.87% of the 39,767 new test results reported by the Tennessee Department of Health.

• Ballad Health: 32.8% over the past seven days, for the health system’s 21-county service area, including Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

COVID-19 in SWVA: LENOWISCO daily cases near 70

Far Southwest Virginia tallied three COVID-19 deaths and almost 70 new cases, according to Thursday’s state data report.

The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus) said the LENOWISCO Health District reported 69 COVID-19-related cases and the three related deaths for totals of 5,356 and 133 deaths during the pandemic.

Wise County saw 41 cases and two deaths for totals of 2,249 and 63 deaths. Lee County had 19 cases and one death for 1,632 and 32 deaths.

Scott County had eight cases for 1,293 and 37 deaths. Norton added one case for 182 and one death.

The VDH reported 5,379 new cases and 49 deaths statewide in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 382,679 cases and 5,275 deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Thursday’s VDH report was 5,388,813 of 8.63 million residents, or 62.44%. For nasal swab testing only, 4,463,768 people have been tested to date, or 51.72%.

In the LENOWISCO district, 33,844 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 39.14%.

The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Wednesday’s report decreased from 30.7% to 28.3%.

The statewide seven-day positivity rate rose from 16.7% to 16.8%.

Red Onion State Prison added one case for 26 inmate cases and decreased one case to 13 cases active staff/contractor cases on Thursday, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap remained at one inmate case and dropped a case to 11 active staff/contractor cases.

Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 24 inmate cases and no active staff/contractor cases.

According to Thursday’s VDH pandemic measures dashboard, daily case incidence in the far southwest region of Virginia — including the LENOWISCO Health District — was ranked as fluctuating after a 10-day increase in daily case rates.

The far southwest region ranking for percent positivity of COVID-19 testing results was classed as fluctuating based on an overall six-day decrease in that measure.

All four school systems in the LENOWISCO district were ranked as highest-risk based on the 14-day case incidence rate in the district. For seven-day case incidence, Wise, Lee and Scott counties schools were ranked highest-risk with Norton City schools lowest-risk.

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

Additional testing and COVID-19 precaution information can be found at the LENOWISCO Health District’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Lenowisco.

In Southwest Virginia, online resources are available to help evaluate whether residents might be infected and where to get a COVID-19 test.

The Virginia Department of Health’s COVIDCHECK (https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covidcheck/) can walk a user through symptoms they may be experiencing and help direct them to their local health department office or other available testing sites.