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The Exchange Place in Kingsport.

Friday's weather took its cue from the banners in Norton City Park, with about four inches of the white stuff.

Nine new COVID-19 deaths, 557 new cases reported in NET

In the first full week of the new year, Northeast Tennessee has set a record for novel coronavirus-related (COVID-19) deaths in a single week, reporting 63 since Monday.

Nine new virus-related fatalities were reported across the region’s eight counties on Friday, breaking the previous record for weekly deaths (58) set in mid-December.

Sullivan (17) and Washington (17) counties accounted for more than half of the region’s deaths this week. Carter (12) was the only other county in the region to report double-digit deaths since Monday. Greene County reported nine deaths and Hawkins reported five.

The latest COVID-19 numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health’s daily report, for Friday, Jan. 8:


• 126 new COVID-19 deaths and 6,369 new cases.

• Pandemic totals are 7,618 deaths and 640,606 cases.

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

• New deaths by age: 53 in the 81-plus group; 33 in the 71-80 group; 26 in the 61-70 group; eight in the 51-60 group; four in the 41-50 group; one in the 31-40 group; and one in the age pending group.

Northeast Tennessee

• Nine new deaths and 557 new cases for the eight-county region.

• New deaths by county: three in Washington; two in Sullivan; one in Hawkins; one in Carter; one in Unicoi; and one in Hancock.

• New cases by county: 184 in Washington; 139 in Sullivan; 76 in Hawkins; 75 in Greene; 40 in Carter: 28 in Johnson; 13 in Unicoi; and two in Hancock.

• Active cases by county: 1,311 in Washington; 1,237 in Sullivan; 815 in Greene; 601 in Hawkins; 532 in Carter; 168 in Unicoi; 141 in Johnson; and 47 in Hancock.

Positive rates

• Statewide: 17.44% of the 33,593 new test results reported on Friday by the TDH.

• Ballad Health: 33.7% over the past seven days, for the health system’s 21-county service area, including Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

A view of the dam at Bays Mountain Park.

COVID-19 in SWVA: Second group of priority vaccinations start Monday; LENOWISCO daily cases top 100

The LENOWISCO district’s daily COVID-19 cases passed 100 along with one new death, according to Friday’s state data report.

The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus) said the LENOWISCO district reported 101 COVID-19-related cases and one related death for totals of 5,457 cases and 134 deaths during the pandemic.

Wise County saw 40 cases and one death for totals of 2,289 and 64 deaths. Lee County had 37 cases for 1,669 and 32 deaths.

Scott County had 14 cases for 1,307 and 37 deaths. Norton added ten cases for 192 and one death.

The VDH reported 5,238 new cases and 37 deaths statewide in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 387,917 cases and 5,312 deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Friday’s VDH report was 5,440,271 of 8.63 million residents, or 63.04%. For nasal swab testing only, 4,500,002 people have been tested to date, or 52.14%. In the LENOWISCO district, 34,071 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 39.4%.

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%.

One new COVID-19 outbreak was reported Friday in an unidentified congregate living setting in the LENOWISCO Health District, according to VDH. That brings the district’s total outbreaks to 44.

According to VDH’s Outbreaks by Selected Exposure Settings dashboard (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-data-insights/covid-19-outbreaks-by-selected-exposure-settings/) on Friday, an outbreak at NOVA Health and Rehabilitation in Scott County remained in progress with 110 staff and/or resident cases and 11 deaths — increases of one case and one death since Jan. 1.

An outbreak reported on Oct. 21 at Ridgecrest Manor Nursing and Rehab is still in progress with 111 cases and fewer than five deaths.

In Lee County, an outbreak at Chestnut Grove Assisted Living remains in progress with 63 cases and no deaths — one more case than on Jan. 1. An outbreak at Lee Health and Rehabilitation was changed from pending closure to in-progress with 147 cases and 18 deaths — a seven-case and one-death increase from the Jan. 1 report.

Red Onion State Prison added one case for 27 inmate cases and decreased two cases to 11 cases active staff/contractor cases on Friday, 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 10 active staff/contractor cases. Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 24 inmate cases and no active staff/contractor case.

According to Friday’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 and Lee Scott counties schools were ranked highest-risk with Scott County Schools higher-risk 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.

Local school officials explain snow days policy for virtual school


Why are snow days held in Sullivan County and Kingsport schools when all students are learning virtually?

Both Sullivan and Kingsport, along with Hawkins County and other school systems in the region, had a snow day Friday even though the systems are virtual right now — or in the case of Hawkins County, virtual except for students deemed at high risk of falling behind academically.

Sullivan County Director of Schools David Cox said the reason is that teachers are still reporting to schools but might have trouble getting there or risk being in accidents when roads are in poor condition.

Teachers are teaching from school, not home, unless they are quarantined or isolated and still able to teach. Then, they teach from home.

Another reason, he said, is that the free meal distribution to students and all children 18 or younger continues on virtual days but not on snow days.

Cox said the snow days mean folks won’t be trying to come in to get the free youth meals when road conditions could be dangerous; likewise, school nutrition workers and those helping distribute the food could have safety issues getting to work.

Also, the system will use school buses to deliver meals on an as-requested basis. The meal distribution points are seven schools: Blountville and Emmettt elementary schools; Colonial Heights Middle; and East, North, South and Central high schools.

“I concur with both of these things,” said Andy True, Kingsport City Schools assistant superintendent of administration.

Each virtual school day, KCS runs all bus routes and to other places upon request delivering meals to those 18 or younger, and the school system also operates four pickup points — at Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt elementary schools.

True said putting buses and drivers on the road delivering or picking up food was simply too big of a risk with Friday’s snow.

This undated photo shows yellowhorn tree seeds sprouting in New Paltz, NY. With its chilling hours fulfilled in the refrigerator, these seeds feel that winter is over, and have sprouted.