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Sullivan mask order extended


BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s face mask order, which would have expired today, has been extended through Feb. 27.

Mayor Richard Venable, along with Dr. Stephen May, medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, issued the extension Wednesday.

According to the order:

• Effective at 12 a.m. on Dec. 31, all businesses, organizations, or venues open to usage by members of the public in Sullivan County shall require the use of face coverings or masks by their employees and members of the public while inside their premises in areas accessible by the public.

NOTE: Cloth face coverings or masks should NOT be worn by children under two or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

• Places of worship are exempt from the requirements of the order, pursuant to Gov. Lee’s Executive Orders.

• This order does not require businesses, organizations, or venues to supply face coverings or masks to members of the public.

• Use of face coverings or masks shall not be required by members of the public while seated for the purpose of dining in any restaurant or business that provides food and/or drink for on premises consumption or other business as defined by The Tennessee Pledge.

• Sullivan County continues to be governed in all other aspects by the Executive Orders issued by Gov. Lee.

• This order shall remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 27, unless otherwise modified or withdrawn by future Orders or by the State of Tennessee.

A pet is not a toy: Shelter officers urge care in adopting animals

WISE — Beverly Grigsby has seen the fallout of many holiday gifts from her position as Wise County’s animal control officer.

Grigsby and her deputy, Scott Wells, say the weeks after Christmas usually mean an influx of puppies and kittens that did not turn out to be the perfect holiday gift. While the Wise County Animal Shelter was not at capacity Tuesday, Grigsby said that will change soon.

As Grigsby talked about the routine as the shelter operates during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wells went outside to meet an unexpected visitor. A pet owner brought two cats to surrender because feeding them had become too expensive.

“Our problem has been so many surrenders,” Grigsby said. “A lot of it has been because of the pandemic as businesses close and people lose their jobs. It’s heartbreaking for them having to give up their pets.”

As Grigsby and Wells took the two cats, well fed and shy, Grigsby said local animal rescue groups like PAWS of Wise County and Appalachian Feline Friends help by taking cats and dogs and assisting with spays, neuters and adoptions.

“If it weren’t for the volunteers and rescues that step up, we’d be in a lot worse position,” Grigsby said.

Christmas pets that did not work out still put seasonal stress on the shelter.

“The first time a puppy uses the bathroom in the house or barks all night and some people realize that having a pet is more than a Christmas present,” Wells said.

“Winter is a really tough time to take on a new pet,” Grigsby said. “It’s better for the pet and for they owner if you adopt in the summer and can be outside more at first and get used to each other.”

Sometimes potential adopters come to the shelter looking for a dog, Grigsby said, and may not realize whether an older dog or particular breed might be a good fit with younger children or in their household.

People seeking to adopt a dog or cat from the county shelter have to fill out an application and commit to spaying or neutering their pet, Grigsby said.

The application also includes questions on whether the adopter has owned other pets and for references. The application helps people consider what sort of commitment a pet will be, she added.

Animals are not adopted out to breeders, Grigsby said, and adopters have to commit to returning the animal to the shelter if they are unable to care for it.

If an adopter does take the time to prepare and choose carefully, the effort will be worth it, Wells said.

“With a shelter dog, it’s like they have that innate ability to know if they’re going to go to a good home,” Wells said.

“We get a lot of requests, and one thing I always recommend is to do your research,” Grigsby said. “A pet is not a toy. It’s a lifetime commitment.”

The Wise County Animal Shelter is now running on an appointment-only basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information or to set up an appointment, call (276) 679-6750.

COVID-19 in NET: Daily cases near 500, new deaths at nine


The latest COVID-19 numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health’s daily report, for Wednesday, Dec. 30:


• 100 additional deaths and 8,220 new cases reported Wednesday.

• Pandemic totals are 6,810 deaths and 580,809 cases.

• 86% of case totals were listed as “inactive/recovered.”

• New deaths by age Wednesday: 45 in the 81-plus group; 30 in the 71-80 group; 13 in the 61-70 group; eight in the 51-60 group; four in the 41-50 group.

Northeast Tennessee

• Nine new deaths and 494 new cases Wednesday for the eight-county region.

New deaths by county: One in Hawkins County (56); two in Sullivan County (177); two in Washington County (164); two in Carter County (86); one in Greene County (92); one in Unicoi County (40).

No new deaths were reported in Johnson County (28) or Hancock County (five).

New cases by county: 105 in Washington; 59 in Greene; 62 in Carter; 194 in Sullivan; 46 in Hawkins; 19 in Unicoi; six in Johnson; and three in Hancock.

Active cases by county: 1,194 in Washington; 1,243 in Sullivan; 792 in Greene; 532 in Hawkins; 556 in Carter; 196 in Unicoi; 95 in Johnson; and 39 in Hancock.

Positive rates

Statewide: 23.68% of the 11,429 new test results reported Wednesday by the Tennessee Department of Health.

Ballad Health: 30.4% over the past seven days, for the health system’s 21-county service area, including Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

COVID-19 in SWVA: Daily cases fall below 50


Far Southwest Virginia’s daily number of new COVID-19 cases fell below 50, but one county saw three new deaths, according to Wednesday’s state data report.

The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus) said the LENOWISCO Health District reported 45 cases and the three deaths for totals of 4,784 and 122 deaths during the pandemic.

Wise County saw 26 cases for totals of 1,983 and 58 deaths. Lee County had 14 cases for 1,439 and 29 deaths.

Scott County had five cases and three deaths for 1,199 and 34 deaths. Norton remained at 163 cases and one death.

The VDH reported 4,048 new cases and 64 deaths statewide in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 344,345 cases and 4,984 deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Wednesday’s VDH report was 5,047,950 of 8.63 million residents, or 58.49%. For nasal swab testing only, 4,220,943 people have been tested to date, or 48.91%. In the LENOWISCO district, 32,269 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 37.32%.

The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Wednesday’s report rose from 22.5% to 24.3%. The statewide positivity rate rose from 12.2% to 12.7%.

Red Onion State Prison had 25 inmate cases and dropped two cases to 21 active staff/contractor cases Wednesday, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap had one inmate case and added one case for 12 active staff/contractor cases. Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 24 inmate cases and one active staff/contractor case.

According to Wednesday’s VDH pandemic measures dashboard, daily case incidence in the far southwest region of Virginia — including the LENOWISCO Health District — was ranked as decreasing after a 15-day drop in daily case rates. The far southwest region ranking for percent positivity of COVID-19 testing results was classed as fluctuating based on a three-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 and Lee county schools were ranked moderate-risk and Scott County and 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.

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.