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A breakdown of Kingsport's COVID-19 relief funding

By MATTHEW LANE

KINGSPORT — The Model City received just over $249,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) funding last year, with a majority of the money spent so far going toward helping the homeless.

The CARES Act was a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that struck the nation last spring. The act included $300 billion in one-time payments to individual Americans, $260 billion in unemployment benefits, $669 billion in small business loans, $500 billion in loans for corporations and $340 billion to state and local governments.

According to Jessica McMurray, the community development planner for the city, Kingsport received $249,332 through a round one grant to assist in addressing the impact of the pandemic. To date, approximately $170,000 of those funds has been earmarked or spent, with roughly $76,000 left unallocated.

Here’s a breakdown of how the money has been allocated/spent:

• $100,000 to provide hotel rooms for up to 15 weeks for street homeless in an effort to help contain and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This took place during the summer at Americourt Hotel. According to McMurray, that money has been spent.

• $25,000 to cover the cost of meals for the homeless staying at the hotel and for those staying overnight at the Salvation Army. McMurray said the money has been set aside and will be used to reimburse the Salvation Army for these expenses.

• $25,000 to Second Harvest Food Bank, which provides more than 4,000 meals each month to people living in the greater Kingsport area. According to city records, the food bank also provides meals to schoolchildren in the area, given how schools were shut down during the pandemic.

— $20,000 for personal protection equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies as needed to homeless people and homeless service providers in town. This allocation was recently approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its December meeting.

Jessica Harmon, the assistant to the city manager, said these funds will be spent on an as-needed basis beginning after the first of the year.

“We did a public notice, ran it in the newspaper and we let the United Way know we have this money,” Harmon said. “As they get contacted about COVID cases, (organizations) needing help with cleaning, they’ll direct those agencies to us.”

Homeless service providers can also go straight to the city and request a reimbursement for PPE and cleaning supplies, Harmon said.


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Bookstore goes brick-and-mortar in Norton

By MIKE STILL

NORTON — While the COVID-19 pandemic has made things tight for many small businesses in Southwest Virginia, Carlie and Lloyd Tomlinson saw the pandemic as a reason to expand theirs.

The Tomlinsons kicked off 2021 by moving their online bookselling business, Appalachian Books, into brick-and-mortar quarters on Park Avenue, with a ribbon cutting with City Council members and full shelves for New Year’s Day browsers.

“This has fulfilled my dream to be able to cut a ribbon with a giant pair of scissors,” Carlie said with a laugh as Appalachian Books officially opened in a former florist’s shop.

The Tomlinsons, who met as graduates of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, had moved to West Virginia as Lloyd completed his doctorate in history. They found themselves moving back to the area after Carlie was furloughed from her job at West Virginia University last May.

“We sat down and essentially asked what we wanted to do,” Carlie said. “I looked at Lloyd and said I wanted to do this.”

“It was a conversation and she wanted this,” Lloyd added.

Carlie said that a librarian friend at WVU also stirred her interest in a bookselling business along with the possibility of selling rare books.

From those conversations, Appalachian Books began as an online bookseller, Lloyd said.

“Our website had a quiz that customers could answer, and we’d select books for them based on their answers,” Lloyd said. “Answer the quiz, pay your money and in a few days you’d get a book and a care package of bookmarks and stickers.”

Carlie said the idea of an actual store grew stronger as they realized Wise County and Norton had gone from two or three bookstores in recent years to none as locally owned shops in Big Stone and Coeburn closed.

Carlie said that a friend and coworker at UVA Wise encouraged her to take the leap to being a bookstore owner.

“If it wasn’t for her, we probably wouldn’t have done it,” Carlie said.

While the quiz model of selling books has passed on, the Tomlinsons have acquired a variety of titles thanks to friends’ donations.

The shelves at Appalachian Books, however, are not piles of old paperbacks.

“We have sections for science fiction, history, religion, food, rare books, fiction, classics, romance, textbooks and Appalachian-Southern literature,” Carlie said.

“We plan to make an area in the back for workshops, book clubs, sewing circles and general craft groups.”

“We’ve got a pretty good children’s section and a healthy young adult section too,” Lloyd added.

Carlie said that Appalachian Books will even deliver orders to customers in Wise County and Norton.

“We’ve got reading tables and free tea and coffee too and we socially distance,” Carlie said. “Masks are required, and we have those too.”

Carlie said that the bookstore fills a niche that Norton Mayor Joe Fawbush mentioned at the ribbon cutting.

“For young people to have things to do, we figured that we as young people had to move back here,” Carlie said.

Appalachian Books is open Wednesday-Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., Sunday from 1-5 p.m. and closed Monday and Tuesday.

For more, visit the store’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AppalachianBooks, or the online store at shopbookwise.com.


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COVID-19 in NET: Daily cases average over 500 for Friday-Saturday

By STAFF REPORT

The latest COVID-19 numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health’s daily report, for Saturday, Jan. 2:

Statewide

• 63 new deaths reported Friday-Saturday; 17,330 new cases reported.

• Pandemic totals are 6,970 deaths and 604,132 cases.

• 87% of case totals were listed as “inactive/recovered.”

• New deaths by age Friday-Saturday: 30 in the 81-plus group; 17 in the 71-80 group; eight in the 61-70 group; three in the 51-60 group; four in the 41-50 group; one in the 31-40 group.

Northeast Tennessee

• Five new deaths and 1,118 new cases Friday-Saturday for the eight-county region.

New deaths by county: Three in Sullivan County (181); one in Carter County (87); one in Greene County (93).

No new deaths were reported in Washington County (165); Hawkins County (56); Johnson County (28); Unicoi County (40); or Hancock County (five).

New cases by county: 319 in Washington; 196 in Greene; 123 in Carter; 244 in Sullivan; 147 in Hawkins; 36 in Unicoi; 39 in Johnson; and 14 in Hancock.

Active cases by county, Saturday: 1,212 in Washington; 1,167 in Sullivan; 746 in Greene; 532 in Hawkins; 551 in Carter; 180 in Unicoi; 95 in Johnson; 44 in Hancock.

Positive rates

Statewide (Saturday): 21.63% of the 35,328 new test results reported Saturday 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.


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COVID-19 in SWVA: over 100 cases in LENOWISCO

By MIKE STILL

Far Southwest Virginia’s number of new COVID-19 cases pushed above 100, according to Saturday’s state data report.

The Virginia Department of Health said the LENOWISCO Health District reported 101 COVID-19-related cases and two related deaths for totals of 5,054 and 126 deaths during the pandemic.

Wise County saw 54 cases and one death for totals of 2,105 and 60 deaths. Lee County had 25 cases and one death for 1,531 and 30 deaths.

Scott County had 17 cases for 1,244 and 35 deaths.

Norton added five cases for 174 and one death.

The VDH reported 3,989 new cases and 36 deaths statewide in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 358,755 cases and 5,117 deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Saturday’s VDH report was 5,199,016 of 8.63 million residents, or 60.24%. For nasal swab testing only, 4,337,939 people have been tested to date, or 50.27%. In the LENOWISCO district, 33,078 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 39.07%.

The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Saturday’s report rose from 28.7% to 31.8%. The statewide seven-day positivity rate rose from 14.3% to 14.8%.

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

Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap remained at one inmate case and 14 active staff/contractor cases. Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 24 inmate cases and one active staff/contractor case.

According to Saturday’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 an 18-day drop in daily case rates. The far southwest region ranking for percent positivity of COVID-19 testing results was classed as increasing based on an overall 18-day increase 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 County Schools were ranked highest-risk with Scott County Schools moderate-risk and Lee 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.

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.


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