A1 A1
TVA grant will engage McPheeters Bend Elementary girls in STEM programs

CHURCH HILL — McPheeters Bend Elementary near Church Hill is one of 197 schools across seven states to be awarded a share of $800,000 in grants intended to develop STEM education projects across the Tennessee Valley.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, in partnership with TVA retiree organization Bicentennial Volunteers Incorporated, announced the grants Friday, which also include Sullivan County awards to Innovation Academy in Blountville and Sullivan East Middle School in Bluff City, as well as several other schools in Northeast Tennessee.

Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson told the Times News on Friday that the McPheeters Bend grant will be used to encourage female students to get interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) projects.

“The grant at MBES would introduce biographies of women pioneers in these fields,” Hixson said. “As for supplies, the grant would provide a 3-D printer, digital microscope and a robot.”

McPheeters Bend is set to close at the end of this school year, and Hixson said any items purchased through the grant will follow students to their next school. The majority of MBES students are expected to attend Church Hill Elementary in 2021-22.

The competitive STEM classroom grant program received more than 600 applications from across TVA’s seven-state service territory.

The grant program provides teachers an opportunity to apply for funding up to $5,000, and preference was given to grant applications that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic development and community problem solving. Schools that receive grant funding must get their electricity from a TVA distributor.

Also among the 197 grant awards is Cedar Bluff Elementary School in Knoxville, where students will benefit from being introduced at a young age to life-saving first aid, emergency response, and disease prevention.

“With the need for healthcare providers soaring now more than ever, this grant will allow us to spark an interest in healthcare to many future doctors and nurses as early as kindergarten,” said Cedar Bluff teacher April Lentze.

Another Tennessee school that received funding is in rural Perry County, where science teacher Emily Rogers is excited to now have the resources to teach biology from a distance.

“The coronavirus pandemic has placed limitations on our ability to perform traditional labs,” Rogers said. “Online dissection platforms and lab curriculum will allow students to still be able to learn laboratory practices while following CDC guidelines. Thanks to TVA and BVI, I now have the tools to teach more effectively virtually as well as in person.”

Across the TVA’s seven-state service area, educators submitted projects large and small to further STEM education initiatives in the classroom, both in-person and virtual.

“Despite the new challenges Valley teachers faced in 2020, they are still focused on providing the best STEM education possible and have adjusted to new ways of teaching,” said TVA Community Engagement Senior Program Manager Rachel Crickmar. “I am proud of the partnerships we have built with these amazing educators across the Tennessee Valley over the past few years and are pleased to be able to provide some support through this program.”

Crickmar added, “The projects were all across the STEM spectrum. It is so impressive to see what teachers across the Valley are doing to prepare the workforce of the future. Through the grants awarded this year, over 72,000 students will be directly impacted across the Valley.”

Other Northeast Tennessee schools to receive a TVA STEM classroom grant include: Ridgeview Elementary in Gray; West View in Limestone; Union Heights Elementary in Morristown; Unicoi County High School; Unicoi County elementary schools in and around Erwin; St. Anne Catholic School in Bristol, Virginia; Baileyton Elementary in Greeneville; Fall Branch Elementary; Hancock County Elementary; John Hay Elementary in Morristown; Lake Ridge Elementary in Johnson City; Morristown East; and Morristown West.

Records show fervent Trump fans fueled US Capitol takeover

WASHINGTON — They came from across America, summoned by President Donald Trump to march on Washington in support of his claim that the November election was stolen and to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden as the victor.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump tweeted a week before Christmas. “Be there, will be wild!”

The insurrectionist mob that showed up at the president’s behest and stormed the U.S. Capitol was overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, far-right militants, white supremacists, and adherents of the QAnon myth that the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals. Records show that some were heavily armed and included convicted criminals, such as a Florida man recently released from prison for attempted murder.

The Associated Press reviewed social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records for more than 120 people either facing criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 unrest or who, going maskless amid the pandemic, were later identified through photographs and videos taken during the melee.

The evidence gives lie to claims by right-wing pundits and Republican officials such as Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that the violence was perpetrated by left-wing antifa thugs rather than supporters of the president.

“If the reports are true,” Gaetz said on the House floor just hours after the attack, “some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters. They were masquerading as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”

Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, told reporters that investigators had seen “no indication” antifa activists were disguised as Trump supporters in Wednesday’s riot.

The AP found that many of the rioters had taken to social media after the November election to retweet and parrot false claims by Trump that the vote had been stolen in a vast international conspiracy. Several had openly threatened violence against Democrats and Republicans they considered insufficiently loyal to the president. During the riot, some livestreamed and posted photos of themselves at the Capitol. Afterwards, many bragged about what they had done.

As the mob smashed through doors and windows to invade the Capitol, a loud chant went up calling for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, the recent target of a Trump Twitter tirade for not subverting the Constitution and overturning the legitimate vote tally. Outside, a wooden scaffold had been erected on the National Mall, a rope noose dangling at the ready.

So far, at least 90 people have been arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanor curfew violations to felonies related to assaults on police officers, possessing illegal weapons and making death threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi D-Calif.

Among them was Lonnie Leroy Coffman, 70, an Alabama grandfather who drove to Washington to attend Trump’s “Save America Rally” in a red GMC Sierra pickup packed with an M4 assault rifle, multiple loaded magazines, three handguns and 11 Mason jars filled with homemade napalm, according to court filings.

The truck was found during a security sweep involving explosives-sniffing dogs after two pipe bombs were found and disarmed Wednesday near the national headquarters of the Republican and Democratic parties. Coffman was arrested that evening when he returned to the truck carrying a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and a .22-caliber derringer pistol in his pockets. Federal officials said Coffman is not suspected of planting the pipe bombs, though he was charged with having Molotov cocktails in the bed of his truck.

His grandson, Brandon Coffman, told the AP on Friday his grandfather was a Republican who had expressed admiration for Trump at holiday gatherings. He said he had no idea why Coffman would show up in the nation’s capital armed for civil war.

Also facing federal charges is Cleveland Gover Meredith Jr., a Georgia man who in the wake of the election had protested outside the home of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump had publicly blamed for his loss in the state. Meredith drove to Washington last week for the “Save America” rally but arrived late because of a problem with the lights on his trailer, according to court filings that include expletive-laden texts.

“Headed to DC with a (s—-) ton of 5.56 armor-piercing ammo,” he texted friends and relatives on Jan. 6, adding a purple devil emoji, according to court filings. The following day, he texted to the group: “Thinking about heading over to Pelosi (C——’s) speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV.” He once again added a purple devil emoji, and wrote he might hit her with his truck instead. “I’m gonna run that (C—-) Pelosi over while she chews on her gums. … Dead (B——) Walking. I predict that within 12 days, many in our country will die.”

Meredith, who is white, then texted a photo of himself in blackface. “I’m gonna walk around DC FKG with people by yelling ‘Allahu ak Bar’ randomly.”

A participant in the text exchange provided screenshots to the FBI, who tracked Meredith to a Holiday Inn a short walk from the Capitol. They found a compact Tavor X95 assault rifle, a 9mm Glock 19 handgun and about 100 rounds of ammunition, according to court filings. The agents also seized a stash of THC edibles and a vial of injectable testosterone.

Meredith is charged with transmitting a threat, as well as felony counts for possession of firearms and ammunition.

Michael Thomas Curzio was arrested in relation to the riots less than two years after he was released from a Florida prison in 2019 after serving an eight-year sentence for attempted murder. Court records from Florida show that he shot the boyfriend of his former girlfriend in a fight at her home.

Federal law enforcement officials vowed Friday to bring additional charges against those who carried out the attack on the Capitol, launching a nationwide manhunt for dozens of suspects identified from photographic evidence

The FBI has opened a murder probe into the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly. He died at a hospital.

The Trump supporters who died in the riot were Kevin D. Greeson, 55, of Athens, Alabama; Benjamin Philips, 50, of Ringtown, Pennsylvania; Ashli Babbitt, 35, of San Diego; and Rosanne Boyland, 34, Kennesaw, Georgia.

Boyland’s sister told the AP on Friday she was an adherent of the QAnon conspiracy theory that holds Trump is America’s savior. Her Facebook page featured photos and videos praising Trump and promoting fantasies, including one theory that a shadowy group was using the coronavirus to steal elections. Boyland’s final post on Twitter — a retweet of a post by White House social media director Dan Scavino — was a picture of thousands of people surrounding the Washington Monument on Wednesday.

“She would text me some things, and I would be like, ‘Let me fact-check that.’ And I’d sit there and I’d be like, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s actually right,’” Lonna Cave, Boyland’s sister, said. “We got in fights about it, arguments.”

The AP’s review found that QAnon beliefs were common among those who heeded Trump’s call to come to Washington.

Doug Jensen, 41, who was arrested by the FBI on Friday in Des Moines, Iowa, after returning home from the riot. An AP photographer captured images of him confronting Capitol Police officers outside of the Senate chamber on Wednesday.

Jensen was wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a large Q and the phrase “Trust The Plan,” a reference to QAnon. Video posted online during the storming of the Capitol also appears to show Jensen, who is white, pursuing a Black police officer up an interior flight of stairs as a mob of people trails several steps behind. At several points, the officer says “get back,” but to no avail.

Jensen’s older brother, William Routh, told the AP on Saturday that Jensen believed that the person posting as Q was either Trump or someone very close to the president.

“I feel like he had a lot of influence from the internet that confused or obscured his views on certain things,” said Routh, of Clarksville, Arkansas, who described himself as a Republican Trump supporter. “When I talked to him, he thought that maybe this was Trump telling him what to do.”

Jensen’s employer, Forrest & Associate Masonry in Des Moines, announced Friday that he had been fired.

Tara Coleman, a 40-year-old mother who lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was arrested at the Capitol for a curfew violation and for unlawful entry. On her Facebook page, Coleman re-posted articles supporting the QAnon beliefs about a “deep state” conspiracy to target children. The AP could not find a working phone number for Coleman and her attorney, Peter Cooper, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

And Jake Chansley, who calls himself the “QAnon Shaman” and has long been a fixture at Trump rallies, surrendered to the FBI field office in Phoenix on Saturday. News photos show him at the riot shirtless, with his face painted and wearing a fur hat with horns, carrying a U.S. flag attached to a wooden pole topped with a spear.

Chansley’s unusual headwear is visible in a Nov. 7 AP photo at a rally of Trump supporters protesting election results outside of the Maricopa County election center in Phoenix. In that photo, Chansley, who also has gone by the last name Angeli, held a sign that read, “HOLD THE LINE PATRIOTS GOD WINS.” He also expressed his support for the president in an interview with the AP that day.

The FBI identified Chansley by his distinctive tattoos, which include bricks circling his biceps in an apparent reference to Trump’s border wall. Chansley didn’t respond last week to messages seeking comment to one of his social media accounts.

The insurrectionist mob also included members of the neofascist group known as the Proud Boys, whom Trump urged to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn them by a moderator during a presidential debate in September.

Nicholas R. Ochs, 34, was arrested Saturday after returning home to Hawaii, where he is the founder of the local Proud Boys chapter. On Wednesday, Ochs posted a photo of himself on Twitter inside the Capitol, grinning broadly and smoking a cigarette. According to court filings, the FBI matched photos of Ochs taken during the riot to photos taken when Ochs campaigned unsuccessfully last year as the Republican nominee for a seat in the Hawaii statehouse.

Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was arrested Monday in Washington on weapons charges and ordered to stay out of the nation’s capital. Tarrio is accused of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church last month.

Jay Robert Thaxton, 46, was arrested near the Capitol for curfew violations on Wednesday. A North Carolina man with the same name has also been linked to the Proud Boys. He told The Stanly News & Press in 2019 that he was a Proud Boys supporter but wouldn’t say if he was an official member of the group. Another North Carolina newspaper, The Jacksonville Daily News, published a photo of Thaxton wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat at a 2019 protest over the removal of Confederate statues.

A man who answered a telephone number associated with Thaxton hung up on an AP reporter. The recipient of a text message to the same number responded with an expletive.

Also arrested at the Capitol was William Arthur Leary, who owns a manufactured housing business in Utica, New York. In an interview Friday, Leary told the AP that he strongly believes the election was stolen from Trump and that he went to Washington to show his support.

Leary said he doesn’t trust information reported by the mainstream media and that one of his main sources of information was Infowars, the far-right conspiracy site run by Alex Jones. He denied he ever set foot in the Capitol and complained that he was held for more than 24 hours and had his cell phone seized.

“They treated us like animals,” he complained. “They took all our phones. I didn’t get to make a phone call to tell anybody where I was.”

Leary said he remembers seeing a woman, Kristina Malimon, 28, sobbing at the detention center because she had been separated and not allowed to translate for her mother, who primarily speaks Russian. Both women had been charged with curfew violation and unlawful entry. According to a video posted on her Instagram account, the younger Malimon says she was born in Moldova, where her family had faced persecution under the Soviet-era regime for their Christian beliefs.

Malimon, who traveled to D.C. from Portland, Oregon, is vice chairwoman of the Young Republicans of Oregon, according to the group’s website and is also listed as an “ambassador” for the pro-Trump group Turning Point USA. Her social media feeds are full of photos taken at Trump events, including the earlier “Million MAGA March” held in Washington last month. She also posted photos of herself posing with Donald Trump Jr. and Roger Stone, who was convicted of crimes including obstruction of justice and pardoned by Trump on Christmas Eve.

Media reports from Oregon quoted Malimon in August as the primary organizer of a Trump boat parade on the Willamette River, where big waves created by speeding boats flying Trump flags swamped and sank a smaller boat that was not participating, throwing a family into the water to be rescued by the sheriff’s department.

“Oregon, today you came out and showed your love and support for our wonderful President, Donald J. Trump thank you!” Kristina Malimon wrote on Facebook following the parade.

Malimon also served as a Republican poll watcher in Georgia and spoke at an event organized by the Trump campaign in December, claiming to have seen voting machines and tabulation computers in Savannah, Georgia, with suspiciously blinking green lights she interpreted as a sign they were being secretly controlled by outside hackers — a claim debunked as false by GOP election officials in the state.

A phone number listed for Kristina Malimon rang without being answered on Friday. At the address listed for her in southeast Portland on Friday night, her teenage brother answered the door as other family members, including young children, ran around.

The family spoke Russian to each other and the brother, Nick Malimon, translated. He said his sister was still in Washington but had called the family following her release from jail and didn’t seem upset about her arrest.

But others are facing consequences even beyond their arrests.

A Texas sheriff announced Thursday that he had reported one of his lieutenants to the FBI after she posted photos of herself on social media with a crowd outside the Capitol. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said Lt. Roxanne Mathai, a 46-year-old jailer, had the right to attend the rally but he’s investigating whether she may have broken the law.

One of the posts Mathai shared was a photo that appeared to be taken Wednesday from among the mass of Trump supporters outside the Capitol, “Not gonna lie......aside from my kids, this was, indeed, the best day of my life. And it’s not over yet.”

A lawyer for Mathai, a mother and longtime San Antonio resident, said she attended the Trump rally but never entered the Capitol.

Attorney Hector Cortes said Mathai’s contract bars her from speaking directly with the press but that she welcomes an FBI investigation and that her actions were squarely within the bounds of the First Amendment.

Brad Rukstales, a Republican political donor and CEO of Cogensia, a Chicago-based data analytics firm, was arrested with a group of a half-dozen Trump supporters who clashed with officers Wednesday inside the Capitol. Campaign finance reports show Rukstales contributed more than $25,000 to Trump’s campaign and other GOP committees during to 2020 election cycle.

He told a local CBS news channel last week that he had entered the Capitol and apologized. He was fired Friday and did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.

Derrick Evans, a Republican recently sworn in as a delegate to the West Virginia House, resigned Saturday following his arrest on two charges related to the Capitol riot. He had streamed video of himself charging into the building with the mob.

“They’re making an announcement now saying if Pence betrays us you better get your mind right because we’re storming the building,” Evans, 35, says in the video, as the door to the Capitol building is smashed and rioters rush through. “The door is cracked! … We’re in, we’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!”

On Saturday he issued a statement saying he regretted taking part.

“I take full responsibility for my actions, and deeply regret any hurt, pain or embarrassment I may have caused my family, friends, constituents and fellow West Virginians,” the statement said.


Kunzelman reported from College Park, Maryland, Flaccus from Portland, Oregon, and Mustian from New York. Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Michael R. Sisak in New York; Michael Balsamo in Washington; Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho; and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.


Follow Associated Press investigative reporter Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck


Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org

SCOTT Service saves county $1.1 million in jail costs

GATE CITY — Scott County’s alternative sentencing work program continues to save the county thousands of dollars in jail costs.

Program leaders gave an update during Wednesday’s meeting of the Scott County Board of Supervisors. Despite the challenges of last year, the program has been adapting to ensure it can continue operating throughout the pandemic.

What is SCOTT Service?

The program was established in July 2019 as a way to reduce the amount the county pays to the Duffield Regional Jail. Qualifying offenders who would have ordinarily been incarcerated instead complete supervised community service projects throughout the county during the day and return home each night.

The program has been partnering with various sites across the county that are in need of beautification work or other types of labor. Participants are also offered work skills classes and GED classes to help them get jobs after they complete the program.

Making progress

Jessica Keith, program director, said the last year has created new challenges due to the pandemic.

“With all the COVID-related issues in the courthouse, we’ve pretty much been stalled in terms of new participants coming in. … The regional jail’s been on lockdown multiple times in the past two to three months, so court cases aren’t being heard and hearings aren’t being held,” Keith said. “We currently haven’t had a trial since almost a year, so things have been a little bit challenging in terms of that.”

Despite that, the program is moving forward. Coordinator Justin Venable said the program currently has 60 participants, 46 of which are active. Eighteen people have completed the program since it was established.

By the numbers

Venable said the program has generated more than $150,000 in revenue so far, and the jail cost savings for the current fiscal year exceeds $470,000.

“In comparison, our total for last year’s fiscal (year) was $634,000,” Venable said. “So we’re well on pace to go over that, even with the conditions that we’re in right now. So we’re looking at over $920,000 in jail cost savings alone that will not be paid in. Our total jail cost savings to date is over $1.1 million.”

Venable added that the program has saved the county an estimated $520,000 in labor costs. Total savings, including revenue, labor costs and jail cost savings, is $1.7 million.

“We’re very proud of that,” Venable said, “and again, once we can get back to a little bit of normalcy, we can hopefully see that grow and continue to bump up and save.”

Sullivan vaccine clinics scheduled all week

The Sullivan County Regional Health Department will operate COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Bristol and Kingsport this week. The Kingsport location, however, is booked solid through Friday. No appointment is required at Bristol, which is a better option for those unable to walk or stand for very long as it is drive-thru (you remain in your car the whole time), while Kingsport is a walk-in event.

The latest COVID-19 numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health’s daily report for Sunday:


• 81 new deaths and 7,419 new cases.

• Pandemic totals are 7,785 deaths and 653,869 cases.

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

• New deaths by age: 35 in the 81-plus group; 21 in the 71-80 group; 14 in the 61-70 group; seven in the 51-60 group; three in the 41-50 group; and one in the 31-40 group.

Northeast Tennessee

• Seven new deaths and 395 new cases for the eight-county region.

• Sullivan County topped the 12,000 case mark and hit 200 deaths since the pandemic began.

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

• New cases by county: 99 in Hawkins; 96 in Washington; 73 in Sullivan; 72 in Greene; 26 in Carter: 14 in Unicoi; 10 in Johnson; and five in Hancock.

• Active cases by county: 1,390 in Washington; 1,343 in Sullivan; 864 in Greene; 701 in Hawkins; 560 in Carter; 172 in Unicoi; 151 in Johnson; and 59 in Hancock.

Positive rates

Statewide: 16.31% of the 37,062 new test results reported on Sunday by the Tennessee Department of Health.

Ballad Health: 35.3% over the past seven days, for the health system’s 21-county service area, including Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Vaccine clinics

Sullivan County vaccine clinics remain under eligibility rules of phases 1a1 and 1a2, for anyone living or working in Sullivan County, as well as being open to any Tennessee resident age 75 or older.

The Sullivan County Regional Health Department will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccine at Bristol Dragway this week, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., based on vaccine availability.

Appointments are not required for this drive-thru event in Bristol.

The vaccine also will be distributed by the health department this week at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium, but by appointment — and all appointments are booked Monday through Friday. Kingsport is by appointment because it is a walk-in clinic, not a drive-thru.

The department will begin to book appointments for next week in Kingsport as soon as vaccine is secured. The number to call is (423) 279-2777.

For Bristol

• Everyone is strongly encouraged to remain in their vehicles and avoid getting out of cars to socialize with others who have received vaccine.

• No getting in line to hold places for others.

• Arriving extremely early is discouraged because it causes congestion and delays.

• Those eligible under phase 1a1 or 1a2 should bring their work ID (name badge or a copy of letter or email with company letterhead proving employment).

• Those age 75 and older are asked for their driver’s license to assist with vaccine paperwork.

Drive-thru event preparation tips

• Plan to be in your vehicle for an extended period of time.

• Wear clothing that will easily allow for the shot in your arm.

• Use the restroom and eat ahead of time. No restrooms are avaiable.

• Make sure you have a full tank of gas prior to getting in line.

• Bring snacks and water if needed.

• Make sure to wear a mask if you need to exit your vehicle.

• Make sure to wear a mask while you are receiving your vaccine.

• After receiving your vaccine, you will pull into a designated area that is patrolled by medical personnel and wait for 15 minutes to ensure there are no adverse reactions.

Are you eligible?

Phase 1a1:

• Hospital/free-standing emergency department staff with direct patient exposure and/or exposure to potentially-infectious materials.

• Home health care staff.

• COVID-19 mass testing site staff.

• Student health providers.

• Staff and residents of LCTF.

• First responders with direct public exposure.

• Individuals older than 18 who cannot live independently due to serious chronic medical condition or intellectual disability.

Phase 1a2:

• Primary care providers and staff.

• Outpatient specialty providers and staff working with acute patients.

• Pharmacists and staff.

• Outpatient therapists.

• Urgent visit center providers and staff.

• Environmental services.

• Oral health providers.

• Behavioral health providers.

• Outpatient laboratory staff working with COVID-19 specimens.

• Funeral/mortuary workers.

COVID-19 in SWVA: LENOWISCO daily cases near 60

The LENOWISCO district’s daily COVID-19 cases neared 60 along with one new death, according to Sunday’s state data report.

The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus) said the LENOWISCO district reported 58 COVID-19-related cases and one related death for totals of 5,672 and 138 deaths during the pandemic.

Wise County saw 29 cases and one death for totals of 2,368 and 66 deaths. Lee County had 12 cases for 1,758 and 32 deaths.

Scott County had 12 cases for 1,339 and 39 deaths. Norton saw five cases for 207 and one death.

The VDH reported 5,141 new cases and two deaths statewide in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 398,856 cases and 5,383 deaths.

The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Sunday’s VDH report was 5,54,349 of 8.63 million residents, or 63.67%. For nasal swab testing only, 4,537,960 people have been tested to date, or 52.58%. In the LENOWISCO district, 34,453 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 39.84%.

The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Sunday’s report decreased from 25.8% to 23%. The statewide seven-day positivity rate rose from 16.7% to 16.8%.

Red Onion State Prison had 27 inmate cases and 10 active staff/contractor cases Sunday, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap remained at one inmate case and 11 active staff/contractor cases. Wise Correctional Center near Coeburn remained at 24 inmate cases and no active staff/contractor case.

According to Sunday’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 13-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 ten-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, Lee and Scott counties and Norton City schools were ranked highest-risk with Wise County schools higher-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 users through symptoms they may be experiencing and help direct them to their local health department office or other available testing sites.

Under the watch of Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Caldwell, Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted the Battle at Bristol, the NASCAR All-Star Race and now the upcoming Food City Dirt Race and Bristol Dirt Nationals.