UPDATE: Mount Carmel Senior Center and Mount Carmel Public Library announced Friday they are closing indefinitely. The MC Senior Center will provide a week’s worth of frozen meals to seniors on a “drive-thru basis on Thursdays during the closure, but orders must be phoned in to director Sue Jarrett by Tuesday. 

CHURCH HILL — The Church Hill Senior Center will be closed at least until April 6, joining the Rogersville facility which had already closed, although both will provide drive-thru meals, instead of the usual dining room meals, as well as the regularly delivered food for the homebound.

Meanwhile, the Mount Carmel Senior Center will remain open, although it is offering drive-thru service for those who don’t want to come inside and eat.

Church Hill Mayor Dennis Deal announced during Tuesday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting that the Senior Center and adjacent Fitness Center would be closed as of Wednesday.

The Church Hill Public Library, which shares a building with the senior and fitness centers, is also closed along with all other Hawkins County public libraries (Rogersville and Surgoinsville). The library system generally follows the school system with regard to closures, and the schools are out until April 1.

The independent Mount Carmel Public Library will remain open until further notice.

Deal told the BMA Tuesday that staff at the senior and fitness centers will be allowed to continue working, and they will likely be doing a lot of cleaning.

“They can still get a meal while we’re shut down”

Church Hill Senior Center Director Tammy Bentley told the Times News Wednesday that home-bound meals will be delivered as usual.

“If the members who live close by want to drive in and get a hot meal, we can order the one and it will be distributed just like drive-thru,” Bentley said. “One of us will take them out. The members who live in the county who don’t want to come in and get a daily hot meal, we will do a five-pack meal. It will be little trays that they can put in their freezer. It will last them for a week, and that way they can heat it up. If they need a hot meal, we’re trying to keep it so our members can still get a meal while we’re shut down.”

For more information, call Bentley at (423) 357-5387.

Deal said that when the senior and fitness centers reopen, members will have their temperature taken at the door. If they have a fever, they’re not getting in, Deal said.

“We really think in about three weeks this thing might peak, we hope, but they don’t really know,” Deal said. “If it does, and we took precautions, and a lot of people don’t get sick, it’s a win-win.”

Rogersville Senior Center

Sarah Davis, Hawkins County facilities manager, said Wednesday that the Rogersville Senior Center will maintain its home-bound meal delivery program, but those seniors who would ordinarily eat at the Senior Center will be asked to pick up their meal at the door and take it home to eat.

For more information, contact the Rogersville Senior Center at (423) 272-9185.

Mount Carmel Senior Center

Mount Carmel Senior Center Director Sue Jarrett said the facility will stay open for now.

“We’re not doing any outside events or having (special visitors/entertainers) come in,” Jarrett said. “Basically we’re a feeding station. We’re offering drive-thru meals to get the food out to the folks who need it or those who usually come here to dine in and may choose not to. You can come in and eat. We’re trying to adhere to the ‘social distance,’ and I’ve got the precautions plastered all over. We sanitize down two or three times a day, and we’re stressing good hygiene. Our numbers are lower but we’re staying open (for dining) provided everybody adheres to our guidelines.”

For more information, call Jarrett at (423) 357-3281.

City, county can declare an emergency

Church Hill City Attorney William Phillips explained to the BMA on Tuesday that any city or county mayor in Tennessee can declare an emergency if deemed necessary.

Phillips said such a declaration broadens the city’s power to order quarantines and/or evacuations of certain areas, as well as shut down businesses and other enterprises, or close public places such as parks. Another measure that can be taken in those cases is limiting a restaurant to drive-thru or carry-out service.

“There are estimates that up to 60% of the country is going to contract this,” Phillips told the BMA. “So I will have prepared, just in case, a Declaration of Emergency. I’m not saying we do this now. I prepared it so it can be ready, where the mayor can unilaterally declare a state of emergency in the city of Church Hill. That declaration can last for seven days or be extended further than that.”

Phillips added, “Obviously those are some pretty extreme powers and would require some pretty extreme things for that to be declared. At this stage there aren’t any Hawkins County reported cases, but that could change very, very soon.”