A1 A1
Health-care
Eight new COVID-19 deaths, 89 more cases reported in Northeast Tennessee

Northeast Tennessee accounted for eight more COVID-19 deaths and 89 new cases as reported by the state on Friday. However, the eight-county region’s death toll increased by only seven net from 282 to 289, because Carter County’s total deaths decreased by one compared to numbers released a day earlier.

That shift is a reminder that daily reports from the state on new cases, total cases, and deaths are all inclusive of confirmed and probable COVID-19 infections.

The eight deaths reported on Friday in Northeast Tennessee: three in Washington County; three in Unicoi County; and one each in Johnson County and Greene County.

The 89 new cases by county: 44 in Sullivan; 14 in Washington; 13 in Greene; seven in Hawkins; three each in Carter, Unicoi and Johnson; and two in Hancock.

Statewide, 32 new deaths and 1,373 new cases brought Tennessee’s pandemic totals to 3,541 deaths (3,324 confirmed as COVID-19 and 217 probable) and 273,144 cases (256,845 confirmed as COVID-19 and 16,299 probable). By far the majority of cases, 246,392, were listed as “inactive/recovered.”

The new case numbers were based on 11,027 new test results statewide, compared to the day before, with a positive rate of 11.41%.

The 32 new deaths reported statewide, by age group: 15 in the 71-80 group; eight in the 81-plus group; six in the 51-60 group; and three in the 61-70 group.

Northeast Tennessee’s total deaths, by county, as of Friday: 75 in Washington; 61 in Sullivan; 59 in Greene; 37 in Carter; 30 in Hawkins; 14 in Johnson; 10 in Unicoi; and three in Hancock.

Northeast Tennessee’s 16,045 cases, by county, as of Friday: 4,409 in Sullivan; 4,282 in Washington; 2,156 in Greene; 1,892 in Carter; 1,379 in Hawkins; 1,255 in Johnson; 544 in Unicoi; and 128 in Hancock.

Source: Tennessee Department of Health, daily COVID-19 report, Nov. 6, 2020.


Local-news
featured
What is the future of Fire Station No. 2?

KINGSPORT — The oldest fire station in the city is definitely showing its age.

Built in 1942, Fire Station No. 2 (located on Crescent Drive) has a number of limitations, from the small size of the truck bays, to a lack of separate quarters for men and women, to issues deal- ing with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Times have changed when it comes to the firefighting industry, and the building just isn’t what it needs to be.

That’s why city and fire officials are exploring what to do with the facility.

Options currently on the table include renovating it to meet the needs of the Kingsport Fire Depart- ment, demolishing it and building a state-of-the-art facility, and leaving the structure intact and constructing a new station in the same general area of town.

The three options were discussed at a recent Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session.

FIRE FACILITIES PLAN

The issue regarding the physical condition of Fire Station No. 2 came out of a Fire Facilities Plan conducted in 2016. The capital improvement plan for the KFD outlines and prioritizes projects and purchases over a 10-year period.

Overall, it’s a $4.4 million plan that to date has accomplished a number of things: repairing the heaving balcony at Fire Station No. 2, repairing roofs at three stations, installing emergency telephone lines at all stations and purchasing much-needed cardiac monitors.

Now city and fire officials are looking at next year’s priorities. Atop the list is Fire Station No. 2. Other items include building classroom space at the KFD’s training grounds off Wilcox Drive and taking a harder look at Fire Station No. 4, which was built in 1965 and is starting to show its age, said Chief Scott Boyd.

THE FUTURE OF STATION 2

When fire trucks are inside a station and running, there’s a hose that attaches to the vehicle and lets the exhaust blow out of the building. At Fire Station No. 2, 100% of that exhaust is not being captured. Plus, the firefighters sleep directly above the bays.

Boyd said this is just one of the issues with that building. There are ADA problems, a lack of female quarters, and half of the vehicles — including a ladder truck — won’t fit inside the station.

According to information provided to the BMA, the estimated cost to renovate Fire Station No. 2 is $880,000. The cost to build a new station has not been determined, but for reference, Kingsport spent $1.7 million on the Rock Springs station in 2010 and $2.5 million on the New Beason Well Road station in 2012.

Another thing city and fire officials are keeping in mind when considering the future of Fire Station No. 2 is the historical aspect of the building.

“It’s an older building and is ingrained in the fabric of the neighborhood. People have grown up with that station,” Boyd said. “For a lot of folks, that’s where they went for tours and public education. It’s right in the middle of the Fourth of July parade and Fun Fest. It’s part of that community.”

City Manager Chris McCartt said the next step in the process is to determine whether Kingsport should renovate, rebuild or build new on a different site. More information will be provided to the city and the BMA in the coming months, and a decision will likely be made next spring, McCartt said.


Politics
AP
The count goes on — with Biden on the cusp of presidency

WASHINGTON — Democrat Joe Biden stood on the cusp of winning the presidency Friday night, three days after Election Day, as the long, exacting work of counting votes widened his lead over President Donald Trump in critical battleground states.

High turnout, a massive number of mail-in ballots and slim margins between the two candidates all contributed to the delay in naming a winner. But Biden held leads in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia, putting him in an ever-stronger position to capture the 270 Electoral College votes needed to take the White House.

There was intense focus on Pennsylvania, where Biden led Trump by more than 27,000 votes, and Nevada, where the Democrat led by about 22,000. The prolonged wait added to the anxiety of a nation facing historic challenges, including the surging pandemic and deep political polarization.

Trump stayed in the White House and out of sight, as more results trickled in and expanded Biden’s lead in must-win Pennsylvania. In the West Wing during the day, televisions remained tuned to the news amid trappings of normalcy, as reporters lined up for coronavirus tests and outdoor crews worked on the North Lawn on a mild, muggy fall day.

Biden, for his part, addressed the nation Friday night near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and acknowledged the sluggish pace of the count “can be numbing.” But he added, “Never forget the tallies aren’t just numbers: They represent votes and voters.”

He expressed confidence that victory ultimately would be his, saying, “The numbers tell us a clear and convincing story: We’re going to win this race.”

Standing alongside his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, and against a backdrop of flags, Biden wasn’t able to give the acceptance speech his aides had hoped. But he hit notes of unity, seemingly aimed at cooling the temperature of a heated, divided nation.

“We have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total unrelenting, unending warfare,” he said. “No, the purpose of our politics, the work of our nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to give everybody a fair shot.”

Trump’s campaign on Friday was mostly quiet — a dramatic difference from the day before, when officials held a morning call projecting confidence and then a flurry of press conferences announcing litigation in key states. But it was touched once again by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief of staff Mark Meadows contracted the virus, according to two senior White House officials not authorized to publicly discuss private matters. A campaign aide, Nick Trainer, also tested positive.

Trump’s handling of the pandemic has been the defining issue of the campaign. The president, first lady Melania Trump and several other members of the White House staff and Trump’s campaign team have fallen ill.

A handful of states remained in play Friday evening — Georgia, North Carolina too early to call along with Pennsylvania and Nevada. In all four states the margins between Trump and Biden were too narrow and the number of ballots left to be counted too great for the AP to declare a victor.

In Pennsylvania, officials were not allowed to begin processing mail-in ballots until Election Day under state law. In Nevada, there were a number of provisional ballots cast by voters who registered on Election Day, and officials had to verify their eligibility. And recounts could be triggered in both Pennsylvania and Georgia.

With his pathway to re-election appearing to greatly narrow, Trump was testing how far he could go in using the trappings of presidential power to undermine confidence in the vote.

On Thursday, he advanced unsupported accusations of voter fraud to falsely argue that his rival was trying to seize power. It was an extraordinary effort by a sitting American president to sow doubt about the democratic process.

“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room.

He took to Twitter late Friday to pledge further legal action, tweeting that “Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!”

Trump did claim that he won late on Election Night. He also tweeted that he had “such a big lead in all of these states late into election night, only to see the leads miraculously disappear as the days went by,” although it was well known that votes cast before Tuesday were still being legally counted.

Biden spent Thursday trying to ease tensions and project a more traditional image of presidential leadership. After participating in a coronavirus briefing, he declared that “each ballot must be counted.”

“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” Biden said. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”

Trump’s erroneous claims about the integrity of the election challenged Republicans now faced with the choice of whether to break with a president who, though his grip on his office grew tenuous, commanded sky-high approval ratings from rank-and-file members of the GOP. That was especially true for those who are eyeing presidential runs of their own in 2024.

Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, a potential presidential hopeful who has often criticized Trump, said unequivocally: “There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before.”

But others who are rumored to be considering a White House run of their own in four years aligned themselves with the incumbent, including Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who tweeted support for Trump’s claims, writing that “If last 24 hours have made anything clear, it’s that we need new election integrity laws NOW.”

Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity, saying it would seek a recount in Wisconsin and had filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.

On Friday evening, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito approved a GOP request ordering county boards to comply with state guidance to keep the late ballots separate from those received before or on Election Day. However, Alito did not direct election officials to stop counting the ballots, as the Republicans had also sought.

But judges in three states quickly swatted down legal action. A federal judge who was asked to stop vote counts in Philadelphia instead forced the two sides to reach an agreement without an order over the number of observers allowed.

“Really, can’t we be responsible adults here and reach an agreement?” an exasperated U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond said during an emergency hearing Thursday evening. “The whole thing could (soon) be moot.”

The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in Arizona, where votes were also still being counted, including in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area. The AP has declared Biden the winner in Arizona and said Thursday that it was monitoring the vote count as it proceeded.

“The Associated Press continues to watch and analyze vote count results from Arizona as they come in,” said Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor. “We will follow the facts in all cases.”


News
SW Va. adds 41 COVID-19 cases, two deaths

Far Southwest Virginia saw 41 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths, according to Friday’s state health data, as Lee County Schools added another case.

The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus) reported that the state had 1,366 new cases and 11 additional deaths in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 187,202 cases and 3,682 deaths. The death toll was adjusted down by two in Friday’s VDH report.

The LENOWISCO Health District added 41 cases and two deaths for totals of 1,974 and 29 deaths during the pandemic. Wise County saw 20 cases and one death for totals of 787 and 11 deaths. Scott County had 13 cases for 512 and seven deaths.

Lee County saw six cases and one death for 616 and 11 deaths, while Norton’s case total increased by two for 59 and no deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Friday’s VDH report was 2,960,868 of 8.63 million residents, or 34.31%. For nasal swab testing only, 2,743,229 people have been tested to date, or 31.79%. In the LENOWISCO district, 20,521 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 23.73%.

Pandemic-wide testing rates by locality were:

• Lee County, 6,363 of 23,423, or 27.17%

• Norton, 2,003 of 3,981, or 50.31%

• Wise County, 7,657 of 37,383, or 20.48%

• Scott County, 4,462 of 21,566, or 20.69%

Red Onion State Prison remained at 20 inmate cases and dropped to no active staff/contractor cases, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections COVID-19.

Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap remained at no inmate cases, but added two cases for four active staff/contractor cases. Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 16 inmate cases and decreased from five to two active staff cases.

Lee County Schools officials, in a letter to parents Friday, reported one student or staff case at Thomas Walker High School, with the infected person last on campus Oct. 29. Schools are remaining open as education and health district officials conduct contact tracing.

One new educational setting outbreak was reported in the LENOWISCO Health District Friday for six such outbreaks and 31 total outbreaks during the pandemic.

In the VDH’s weekly Friday school outbreak report, two outbreaks were reported as closed: Union Middle School in Wise County with an unspecified number of cases, and St. Charles Elementary School in Lee County, also with an unspecified number of cases. An outbreak is in progress at Gate City Middle School in Scott County with an unspecified number of cases. Outbreaks are pending closure at Lee High School in Lee County with 10 cases and Union Primary School in Wise County with an unspecified number of cases.

The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Friday’s report dropped from 15.5% to 14.7%. The statewide positivity rate increased from 5.8% to 5.9%.

According to Thursday’s VDH pandemic measures dashboard, cases in the far southwest region of Virginia — including the LENOWISCO Health District — were ranked as rising after a 46-day increase in cases. The far southwest region ranking for percent positivity of COVID-19 testing results remained increasing based on a 26-day increase in that measure.

All four school systems in the LENOWISCO district — Wise, Lee and Scott counties and Norton — were ranked as highest-risk based on the 14-day case incidence rate in the district. Norton City Schools was ranked highest-risk for percent change in seven-day case incidences. Wise County Schools and Lee County Schools were ranked higher-risk and Scott County 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.

The Health Wagon will partner with the Virginia Department of Health to offer 17 sessions of free drive-thru testing at Food City in St. Paul through Dec. 31. Call (276) 328-8850 for an appointment.

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.


Leave leftover seeds in their original packet whenever possible and store in an airtight container for next season.