A1 A1
United Way hits 87% of fundraising target despite challenging year
  • Updated

KINGSPORT — The United Way of Greater Kingsport announced the results of its 2020 fundraising campaign Thursday morning, and as you might expect, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact.

Brent Mullins, chair of the fundraising effort, announced the United Way had raised just over $2.6 million, or about 87% of the nonprofit organization’s $3 million goal. The announcement was live-streamed from the Kingsport Farmers Market.

“The challenges this year we’ve all acknowledged, but it’s pretty amazing considering the challenges we were presented with,” Mullins said. “To be able to give at that level and know that’s going out to support all of those organizations and programs is a huge accomplishment.

“And the fight is not over. There’s still more dollars coming in.”

The United Way’s annual fundraising drive runs from mid-August through late November. Dollars raised through the campaign stay in the greater Kingsport area and go to support 43 programs and 31 member agencies. These agencies sustain positive impacts on the health, education, and financial stability of everyone within our community.


This year’s campaign theme is “United We’re Strong,” which focuses on the Greater Kingsport community’s collective power to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. The dollars raised improve the lives of more than 1,400 people on any given day, said Keith Parker, board president of the United Way.

“Every day in our community, people are struggling with different personal situations and different needs. This is not a fight they can take on alone,” Parker said. “We at the United Way believe our entire community united ... is strong and because of that we’re able to help, bound together and come up with ways to help different folks in their individual situations.”

Chad Austin, the vice-chair of this year’s campaign, explained why he volunteers for the United Way.

“I do it because it helps people. It helps people I don’t know and it helps people I know,” Austin said. “Each month we have a campaign cabinet meeting, and we invite one of our member agencies to speak, and almost every month I have a tie to that agency. That’s why I do the things I do for the United Way.”


The UWGK supports 43 programs through 31 agencies, such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc., Hope House, the Literacy Council and Meals on Wheels. Programs supported fall into four focus areas: helping children and youth succeed, promoting self-sufficiency, ensuring safety and stability and supporting aging with choices.

Through these agencies and initiatives, the UWGK improves the lives of more than 1,400 locals every day, by tackling early-grade literacy, breaking the cycle of poverty, confronting access to effective healthcare, supporting the needs of senior citizens, and battling the opioid addiction in our region.

Contributions can be made by texting “uwaykpt” to 404-03 or by mailing a check to UWGK, 301 Louis St., Suite 201, Kingsport, TN 37660. Easy-to-give online options are also available at www.uwaykpt.org/give. For more information, call (423) 378-3409, ext. 14.

Santa Train gift distributions scheduled for Saturday
  • 1 min to read

KINGSPORT — Santa Train gift distribution events are scheduled at four Food City locations on Saturday.

The drive-thru events will take the place this year — the Santa Train’s 78th — of the traditional running of the train on its 110-mile trek from Shelbiana, Kentucky, to downtown Kingsport, distributing cheer and 15 tons of gifts at 14 stops.

To best ensure the safety of the communities served by the Santa Train, its sponsors made the tough decision this year to reimagine the event amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The train typically draws dense crowds at each stop along the rails, with Santa’s helpers mingling among them to distribute gifts.

This year, gifts will be handed out at drive-up events from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at four Food City locations.

The distribution sites are:

• Shelbiana Food City #475 — 2138 S. Mayo Trail, Pikeville, Kentucky

• Clintwood Food City #892 — 410 Chase St., Clintwood, Virginia

• St. Paul Food City #897 — 16410 Wise St., St. Paul, Virginia

• Weber City Food City #820 — 3004 U.S. 23, Weber City, Virginia

Local community members will be able to pick up children’s gifts from cars to minimize physical contact. Santa’s elves at each site will wear masks while handing out gifts, and attendees are encouraged, but not required, to wear a mask while in their vehicle at the pickup locations.

Through its social media accounts, Team Santa Train shared the following pointers:

• “Please stay in your vehicle the entire time and follow the instructions from our elves on where to go.”

• “Please wear a mask when talking to one of our elves, or if you visit the store after receiving gifts.”

• “Have fun and take photos! Although this year looks a little different, we still want to see your Santa Train experience.”

Other aspects of this year’s event, including contests and special guest appearances, are available online via social media. Earlier this week, for example, video messages from some of Santa’s past special guests have debuted on the Santa Train’s Facebook page. Naomi Judd, Thompson Square, and Marty Stuart each shared comfort and cheer. The page also has been featuring “hometown heroes” from along the train’s traditional route. And photos were shared of the packing event that readied this year’s gifts for distribution.

The Santa Train is sponsored by CSX, Food City, Appalachian Power, Soles4Souls and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.

More information about the event and gift pickup locations will be announced on the Santa Train’s social media pages. Attendees along the route can follow @SantaTrain on Facebook for periodic updates.

Northeast Tennessee reports record number of COVID-19 deaths; active cases rise
  • Updated

Northeast Tennessee reported 22 new novel coronavirus-related (COVID-19) deaths on Thursday, a single-day record for new deaths as the region’s toll continues rising — with a third of all reported deaths in the region having been reported since Nov. 1.COVID-19: Interactive charts and graphs

Northeast Tennessee by the numbers

  • 314 new cases in the upper eight counties for a total of 19,931.
  • 22 new deaths in Northeast Tennessee for a total of 374.
  • 241 new projected inactive cases for a total of 16,923.
  • 2,634 estimated active cases in Northeast Tennessee.
  • New cases by county: Carter 64, Greene 30, Hancock 3, Hawkins 11, Johnson 4, Sullivan 116, Unicoi 6, Washington 80.
  • Active cases by county: Carter 377, Greene 377, Hancock 10, Hawkins 235, Johnson 67, Sullivan 777, Unicoi 114, Washington 677.

Local data analysis

The region reported a record number of new deaths on Thursday with 22, six higher than the previous high set on Nov. 10.

The three highest single- day death totals have been reported since Nov. 1, with 126 new deaths reported in that time — 33.68% of the region’s total.

New deaths were reported in Carter (+3), Hawkins (+2), Sullivan (+10), Unicoi (+4) and Washington (+3) counties. Sullivan County nearly drew even with Washington County, which reported three more deaths on Thursday to make its total 92. Sullivan County has reported 89 deaths.

More than 300 new cases were reported regionwide despite the region reporting fewer than 1,000 new tests. The 314 new cases reported on 892 tests is the most new cases reported on a day with fewer than 1,000 new tests, barely topping the record of 306 on 807 tests on Nov. 12.

Active cases, meanwhile, increased by 41 across the region to 2,634 — 55.2% of which are in Sullivan (777) and Washington (677) counties.

Greene (-9), Hawkins (-10), Johnson (-1) and Unicoi (-10) reported drops in active cases.


Ballad Health reported a record decrease in the number of COVID-19 inpatients on Thursday, falling by 21 to 225. Of those hospitalized, 45 (+4) were in intensive care and 34 (+5) on ventilators — a record number of ventilated patients. There were nine others awaiting test results.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Ballad officials said they’re still expecting a rise in hospitalizations in the coming weeks — particularly after Thanksgiving, with the hospital system on track to surpass 300 hospitalized patients by mid-December.

“Through the end of November to mid- December, we expect that we’ll get to 350 (hospitalizations),” said Ballad Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton, “so that will be about a hundred more inpatients than we have today just in the next three weeks or so.”

There were 22 new hospitalizations reported across the region, the third-highest single-day total reported. All three of the highest days have been reported in the past week. New hospitalizations were reported in Carter (+2), Greene (+2), Hawkins (+1), Sullivan (+11), Unicoi (+2) and Washington (+4) counties.

School-age children

There were 36 new cases reported among school-age children on Thursday in Carter (+5), Greene (+4), Sullivan (+17), Unicoi (+1) and Washington (+9) counties.


ETSU’s active case count continued to rise on Thursday, increasing by three to 36, with 30 students and six staff currently infected.

There were eight new cases reported for a total of 27 so far this week, the fifth-highest week reported but the fourth week of decline — seven below last week’s total with one day remaining.

There were 21 (no change) quarantined in ETSU housing.

In total, 429 have been infected and 393 are considered inactive.

Mountain Home VA

The Mountain Home VA’s active case count tied its previous record number of active cases at 120 on Thursday, rising by 37 since Tuesday.

As of Thursday, there were 915 (+18) total cases attributed to the facility, of which 120 (+11) were active cases and 750 (+7) inactive. Forty-five (no change) have died.

Novel coronavirus in Tennessee by the numbers

  • 2,887 new cases for a total of 328,088 since tracking began in March.
  • 80 new deaths reported for a total of 4,128.
  • 3,854 new inactive cases for a total of 283,785 inactive cases.
  • 2,003 hospitalizations as of Wednesday. Hospitalization data lags by one day.
  • 16,937 new tests for a total of 4.19 million.
  • 40,175 active cases

Nine COVID-19 deaths reported in Wise County

Wise County reached another single-day high in COVID-19-related deaths, according to Thursday’s state data report.

The Virginia Department of Health said the LENOWISCO Health District saw 37 cases and nine deaths for totals of 1,954 and 55 deaths during the pandemic. Wise County had 13 cases and accounted for all of the nine deaths for totals of 1,079 and 32 deaths.

The previous high mark in single-day deaths for Wise County was in Wednesday’s report, with six deaths. The county’s number also represents one-quarter of the statewide deaths reported on Thursday.

Scott County saw 15 cases for 659 and 12 deaths. Lee County added seven cases for 777 and 11 deaths.

Norton tallied two cases for 65 cases and no deaths.

The VDH reported that the state had 1,954 new cases and 36 additional deaths in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 210,787 cases and 3,896 deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Thursday’s VDH report was 3,255,995 of 8.63 million residents, or 37.73%. For nasal swab testing only, 3,007,461 people have been tested to date, or 34.85%. In the LENOWISCO district, 22,265 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 25.75%.

Pandemic-wide testing rates by locality were:

• Lee County, 7,015 of 23,423, or 29.95%

• Norton, 2,096 of 3,981, or 52.65%

• Wise County, 8,358 of 37,383, or 22.36%

• Scott County, 4,806 of 21,566, or 22.29%

Case data for Red Onion and Wallens Ridge State Prisons and Wise Correctional Center were not available Thursday evening.

The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Thursday’s report dropped from 16.2% to 15.6%. The statewide positivity rate remained at 7.1%

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 59-day increase in cases. The far southwest region ranking for percent positivity of COVID-19 testing results remained increasing based on a 40-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.

Scott County Schools were ranked higher-risk for percent change in seven-day case incidences. Wise and Lee counties and Norton City schools were ranked 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 to schedule 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.

On Tuesday the Church Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 6-1 to accept a low bid of $326,392 from Goins Rash Cain, Inc. of Kingsport to replace a private railroad crossing with a public crossing and underground utility bore across the Norfolk Southern Railroad into the city's proposed 65 acre future sports and recreation complex.