The Times News staff is working to provide the latest updates on schedule changes, local decisions and news related to COVID-19 (caused by the novel coronavirus) in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. If your church, business or agency has community announcements related to coronavirus concerns and prevention, please email us at email@example.com.
Tuesday, July 7
🔹 The Washington County Health Department modified free COVID-19 testing hours effective immediately. Testing is Monday-Friday between 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Additional information about Tennessee’s testing sites is available for each county on the Tennessee Department of Health website at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html.
🔹 The local RLS (restless leg syndrome) and other Sleep Disorders meeting is postponed at the Renaissance Center until Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 12:30 p.m.
🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group announced $81 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) funding is available through grants for K-12 schools and higher education institutions to assist with plans for safe reopening. This first wave of grant funding includes releasing $11 million for grants to local education agencies (LEA) to support reopening efforts from the Coronavirus Relief Fund Grants. An additional $50 million will be made available to support technology grants that can be used on wi-fi devices, laptops, or any other devices needed to support reopening. This initiative also focuses $20 million in grants to public and nonprofit private higher education institutions for Coronavirus Relief Fund including 2-year (TBR) and 4-year public and private (TICUA) institutions. These grants will be available to cover expenses associated with implementing social distancing and technological improvements for distance learning.
🔹 Live music returns to the region in September as Symphony of the Mountains launches a unique season. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the organization to “think outside the box” while planning live performances for the fall. According to Music Director Cornelia Laemmli Orth, “To keep everybody safe we reworked the program for the 2020-2021 Season. In the fall we are replacing the big orchestra performances with smaller ensemble concerts to phase in a path to normalcy. This gives us the opportunity to showcase the sections of the orchestra each month – brass, strings, woodwinds, and in January the percussion section. We are presenting the early fall concerts outside or in large venues to give plenty of space to the musicians and the audience for ‘social distancing’. The programs will be shorter in duration with no intermission. They will also be free of admission to ensure that everybody has the possibility to attend while eliminating the need for the handling of payments or tickets.” More information is available at the web site, www.symphonyofthemountains.org. Please call 423-392-8423 for questions or tickets.
🔹 Bristol Tennessee City Schools, Kingsport City Schools, and Sullivan County Schools will release back-to-school operations plans for the 2020-21 school year on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. A joint press conference will be held at the Sullivan County Schools Boardroom (154 Blountville Bypass, Blountville, TN) at 1:30 p.m. to review the plans. Leadership from all three school districts and the Sullivan County Regional Health Department will be in attendance.
Monday, July 6
🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music (BCM), parent organization of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival, and WBCM Radio Bristol, announced in a press conference today a decision to cancel its 20th annual festival this year in the wake of COVID-19. The annual event, slated for Sept. 11-13 of this year, has been put on hold until 2021. BCM Executive Director Leah Ross revealed that the organization's Board of Directors voted in a unanimous decision on the measure. “For the Birthplace of Country Music, this is the saddest day our organization has ever had to face," Ross said. "The decision to cancel this year's Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival has been extremely difficult for our Board, our Festival Committee, and our staff. Doing so on what would have been our 20th anniversary event is even more devastating.” 2020 festival ticket holders have the option to donate all or a portion of their ticket cost back to the festival to help ensure the same quality event next year. Ross explained that every effort is being made to keep the same lineup, if artists' schedules allow. Ticket holders may also choose to defer tickets until September 2021 to avoid any potential increase in price next year, or receive a refund. A Frequently Asked Questions section has been added to the Festival's website at BristolRhythm2020.com. The 20th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion has been rescheduled for Sept. 10-12, 2021 in Historic Downtown Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia.
🔹 East Tennessee State University’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships will host Virtual Student Days on Monday and Tuesday, July 13-14. Current and incoming students and their families are invited to participate in this two-day event, which will feature videos detailing important information about the fall 2020 semester, opportunities to interact in real time with financial aid staff, and a chance to be selected for prizes. For more information, call 423-439-4300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
🔹 For 2020 only, the Tennessee General Assembly has approved two sales tax holiday weekends to help Tennesseans save money and support the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The first tax-free holiday weekend focuses on clothing and other back-to-school items. It begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 31, and ends Sunday, Aug. 2, at 11:59 p.m. During this time, consumers may purchase clothing, school supplies, and computers and other qualifying electronic devices without paying sales tax. Certain price restrictions apply. For school supplies and clothing, the threshold for qualifying items is $200 or less. For computers and other electronics, the price threshold is $3,000 or less. The second sales tax holiday weekend focuses on restaurant sales. It begins at 12:01 a.m. on August 7 and ends Sunday, August 9, at 11:59 p.m. During this time the retail sale of food and drink by restaurants and limited service restaurants, as defined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-4-102, is exempt from sales tax. For more information about the sales tax holiday weekends, visit www.tntaxholiday.com.
Sunday, July 5
Saturday, July 4
🔹 Holston Manor in Kingsport updated its Facebook post to alert followers that the seven employees they announced Thursday had tested positive for COVID-19 were re-tested and came back negative. “As of the writing of this right now, our previous post about having positive COVID employees in our building has been seen by 11,005 people and shared 136 times. We suspected a problem with the lab results and immediately had these 7 employees retested and this morning we are happy to announce that each and every one of the 7 came back negative!” a Facebook post July 4 said. “Now we will retest again with yet another lab to be sure before we consider bringing them back, our residents and staff safety is our utmost concern. So thankfully as of this time we believe that we do not have any known staff or residents with COVID-19. It is still a day to day effort to follow all of the guidelines, so keep us in your prayers as this is a very small victory that can go away tomorrow. I hope to see this post shared with as much enthusiasm.” — Lee Elliott, Administator
🔹 As one of 30 flagship brands in Tennessee that were selected by Governor Bill Lee’s Economic Recovery Group to participate in the recently announced TN Strong Mask Movement, Bristol Motor Speedway officials announced today that its masks will be available for purchase at all Food City locations in the Tri-Cities region as well as at the NASCAR All-Star Race. In addition to Bristol Motor Speedway, some of the other Tennessee brands who are partnering in the program include East Tennessee State University, FedEx Express, Graceland, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Nashville Predators, the Tennessee Titans, University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University. The Bristol Motor Speedway TN Strong Masks will be available for purchase starting in mid-July. A portion of each mask sold will benefit Speedway Children’s Charities, which assists more than 100 child-based agencies in the Appalachian Highlands region. A wide variety of the TN Strong Masks are available for order by visiting Tennessee Economic Recovery Group website.
Friday, July 3
🔹 Holston Manor in Kingsport announced Thursday on its Facebook page that seven employees there tested positive for COVID-19. “This week we began our weekly testing of our staff and, with still a few pending results to come in, we have seven employees who have tested positive. As of now, there are not any positives among our nursing direct care staff. The seven who tested positive are all asymptomatic and was a genuine surprise to all. They are quarantining at home for two weeks and will have a negative COVID-19 test before returning to work. We are even more closely monitoring our residents at this time. We have not had any residents test positive. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.” The notice was signed, “Sincerely, Lee Elliott, Administrator.”
🔹 Sullivan County Director of Schools Dr. David Cox announced, “Out of an abundance of caution, Sullivan County Schools will extend the two-week dead period for student athletics and activities by one week to allow for additional evaluation of the recent travel and contact history of our students and staff involved. At this time, we are planning for activities, practices and workouts to resume on Monday, July 13, 2020.”
🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order 54 to grant county mayors in 89 counties the authority to issue local mask requirements in the event of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases. “While our densely populated urban areas continue to have the highest COVID-19 case rates, our local governments expressed a need for greater flexibility in addressing a rise in cases and that includes setting stronger expectations around masks,” Lee said. “This targeted approach ensures we protect both lives and livelihoods and safely keep our economy open in Tennessee. We encourage every Tennessean across the state to use a face covering or mask, make sure to socially distance and wash hands frequently.” The six counties with locally run health departments including Sullivan, Knox, Hamilton, Davidson, Madison and Shelby counties retain the existing authority to issue mask requirements as needed.
Thursday, July 2
🔹 The 2020 Tusculum University women’s basketball skills camp, scheduled for August 1, has been canceled, TU head coach Meagan Price announced Thursday. The Skills Camp will not be rescheduled.
🔹 The 2020 Joy of Soccer Camps, scheduled for July 12-15 on the Tusculum University campus, have been canceled. The camps will not be rescheduled for this summer.
🔹 The Tennessee Supreme Court issued an order today canceling the July 28-29, 2020, administration of the Uniform Bar Examination in Tennessee. Although stringent public health and safety protocols were planned for the administration of the July 2020 examination, the potential benefits of administering the examination do not justify the risk of assembling groups of people in limited space for a multi-day examination, when another examination will be administered in Tennessee in two months. The court order cited the recent increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee. Yesterday, Tennessee reported the largest single day increase in new COVID-19 cases. In the last week, all three locations for the July 2020 exam, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville, posted their highest single day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Some of the largest increases statewide have been among people aged 22 – 35, the age group of the majority of those scheduled to take the bar examination. The Nashville mayor announced today a major reversal in the plans to reopen the city. The Tennessee Supreme Court and the Board of Law Examiners are acutely aware of the toll the ongoing pandemic is taking on bar examination applicants and are committed to administering the Uniform Bar Examination in 2020, while making every effort to minimize the risks associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. All applicants for the July 2020 examination who have not been determined ineligible for the examination or who have not already transferred their application to the February 2021 examination should expect to sit for the fall examination in Tennessee, to be conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 1.
🔹 The Heritage Alliance’s Main Street Strolling Tours of historic Jonesborough will resume on Saturday, July 4. The tours were stopped in March while the Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum was closed. During this time, the Heritage Alliance hosted virtual tours online. Now the in person tours of Tennessee’s Oldest Town are back. Guests can enjoy a Town Tour with a costumed guide on Saturdays at 1 p.m. The Mythbusting Tour, which puts guests’ history detective skills to the test, will be available the second Saturday of the month at 1 p.m. The Old Jonesborough Cemetery Tour will also return on July 4. The Cemetery Tour will be available the first and third Saturdays of the month at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for the Town Tour and Mythbusting Tour are $5 per person. Tickets for the Cemetery Tour are $3 per person. Combo tickets for both tours are available for $7 per person. During the month of July, tours will be limited to groups of 10. All tour tickets are available at the Chester Inn Museum. Guests can call ahead of time to reserve their space for a tour.
🔹 Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Kingsport Diabetes Association will be holding its July meeting via conference call. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 14, at 7 p.m. Melissa Clemens, financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, will be presenting and available to answer questions. To access the meeting, dial 1-978-990-5184, enter access code 2692346 followed by #.
🔹 The Town of Greeneville regrets to announce Imperial Inc. will not be able to perform at Hardin Park Saturday, July 4, due to a member of their group testing positive for COVID-19. Flying J’s will perform beginning at 7:30.
🔹 Bristol Motor Speedway officials are busy making preparations to host one of motorsports’ most tradition-rich events, the famed NASCAR All-Star Race, on Wednesday night, July 15. While it is the first time that BMS will host the prestigious NASCAR All-Star Race, it will also be the first time that a major U.S. sporting event will conduct an event in front of a large contingent of fans since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year. While planning for the NASCAR All-Star Race, BMS officials are in frequent contact with numerous federal, local and state partners to exchange information, seek guidance, and make real-time, data-based decisions regarding the best ways to execute fan safety protocols and experiences. BMS is instituting procedures to reduce contact and crowd density as guests purchase tickets, enter the grounds, enjoy the event and depart the facility. Please review the full details and requirements of the BMS Safety Plan prior to arrival for any updates.
🔹 The Sullivan County Board of Education will meet in regular session on Thursday, July 9. This meeting will not be open to the public and will be held remotely. There will be a work session starting at 4:30, and the meeting will begin at 6:30. These meetings can be viewed on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRS3AWETa80Q48kJADtcqhQ. The agenda can be viewed here: https://meeting.boeconnect.net/Public/Organization/561.
🔹 Ballad Health Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Alan Levine made this statement on Gov. Bill Lee signing an executive order giving liability protection to healthcare providers: “Ballad Health applauds Governor Lee for recognizing that all healthcare providers — doctors, nurses, hospitals, long term care facilities — are working diligently to serve and protect our patients. This novel coronavirus presents many challenges, and our focus needs to remain on the health and safety of our patients and our staff. We are committed to providing the best care in a safe environment. And we are incredibly grateful to Governor Lee for recognizing that our doctors and nurses should worry first and only about our patients and not lawsuits.”
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on unemployment claims for the week ending June 27, 2020. Statewide, 22,256 new claims were filed, along with 262,224 continued claims. In Sullivan County, there were 273 initial claims and 4,599 continued claims. In Hawkins County, there were 127 initial claims and 1,598 continued claims.
🔹 As states and communities continue to re-open their economies, McDonald’s restaurants in the United States are expecting to hire approximately 260,000 restaurant employees this summer, including over 250 in the Tri-Cities TN-VA area. This comes as McDonald’s restaurants begin to welcome customers back into dining rooms with extra precautions in place. McDonald’s has implemented nearly 50 new safety procedures to protect crew and customers. These include wellness and temperature checks, social distancing floor stickers, protective barriers at order points, masks and gloves for employees with the addition of new procedures, and training for the opening of dining rooms.
Wednesday, July 1
🔹 The Unicoi Farmers Market and Community Yard Sale will open July 7 in its new home under the Buffalo Pavilion at the Unicoi Visitor Center. The market was originally scheduled to open in June, but was delayed because of a spike in COVID-19 cases within the county during that time. The market will be held every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Tourist Information Center at exit 32 (off I-26), as long as coronavirus cases remain at a minimal level. New COVID-19 regulations will be in place to protect the public. COVID prevention measures include required masks, hand-sanitizer at entrance, one-way traffic, disposable food-gloves for testing ripeness of produce, additional space between vendors and customers, and request for exact or small change.
🔹 In a proactive effort to minimize COVID-19 exposure, Kingsport’s Racks by the Tracks Festival and Spring Wing Fling, slated for Aug. 14-15, has made the difficult decision to postpone to 2021. All tickets will be refunded at the point of purchase. Please note that 2020 tickets will not be valid for the 2021 festival. Refunds will be available until Aug. 31, 2020.
🔹 The Kingsport Public Library is planning to move to the next phase of reopening to the public on Monday, July 6. During this phase, the library will be open to the public to allow for selection and circulation of materials. In an effort to minimize the risk to the public and staff during this stage, lingering or using the library as a meeting space will not be allowed. All seating, toys, and interactive activities will be removed. Materials will continue to be quarantined the recommended 72 hours when returned. In addition, the number of patrons in the building and the hours of operation will be reduced to allow for appropriate social distancing and the sanitizing of the public spaces. Public Access Computers will be available by appointment only. The computers being used will be at least 6 feet apart and will be cleaned between users. Curbside service will continue, allowing community members to pickup materials without entering the library. Patrons are asked to wear a mask and maintain social distance as recommended by the CDC. Additionally, if you are sick, please stay home.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee today signed Executive Order No. 53, granting limited COVID-related liability protection to healthcare providers. “Hospitals, nursing homes, and health care workers are on the front lines of fighting this pandemic, and this EO provides protection from liability with respect to COVID-impacted treatment and resource availability, except in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct,” said Gov. Lee. “Because the law only allows us to take this action for healthcare providers, any other liability issues will need to be taken up by the General Assembly.”
🔹 Tennessee’s rural county health departments continue providing traditional services and are taking every precaution to keep patients, clients and staff members safe from COVID-19. In addition to routine services, TDH county health departments offer COVID-19 testing at no charge for anyone who wishes to be tested. Many health department clinics offer curbside immunizations and prescription pick-up. Clinics are managing appointment times and patient flow to provide for social distancing. TDH county health department clinics offer face masks to patients and clients who do not bring their own to wear, and all staff members wear masks and follow strict Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for health care facilities and providers. Find location and contact information for your local county health department at www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/localdepartments.html. Local health department clinics will be closed Friday, July 3, in observance of Independence Day.
🔹 The University of Memphis (UofM) and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) are teaming up in a venture to secure a portion of federal funding allocated for COVID-19 research. The two universities issued a call for collaborative research proposals, which has yielded 23 projects addressing the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its related disease, COVID-19. The awards at stake are part of UTHSC’s Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) program, a seed funding initiative designed to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration on novel and innovative research that will lead to larger, national grants. The UofM/UTHSC SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Research CORNET is a grant competition specifically geared to facilitate new collaborations between UTHSC and UofM faculty on projects designed to better understand the disease and find therapies to end the pandemic. Funding is available for up to five teams, each of which must have at least one principal investigator from each of the partner institutions. Each funded project will receive $50,000, with the UofM and UTHSC contributing equally to the award.
Tuesday, June 30
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) has extended that deadline to apply for Emergency Cash Assistance until Saturday, Aug. 29. This change follows Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to extend the State of Emergency until Aug. 29. The application process for Emergency Cash Assistance was set to end today. The Emergency Cash Assistance program provides two months of cash payments to families. This money is funded by Tennessee’s surplus Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding. To be eligible, families must have been employed as of March 11, 2020, but have since lost employment or at least 50% of their earned income due to the COVID-19 emergency, include a child under the age of 18 or a pregnant woman, have a valid Social Security Number, must not have resources exceeding $2000, and the gross and/or unearned monthly income may not exceed 85% of the State’s Median Income. Families can apply online here.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that bar seating will remain prohibited in restaurants as the Commonwealth moves into Phase Three at midnight tonight. While key heath indicators in Virginia are improving, the governor made clear that he is taking a cautious approach and is prepared to implement tighter restrictions if needed. Restaurants may use non-bar seating in the bar area, as long as a minimum of six feet between tables is provided.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced he is recommending more than $4.2 million in Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grants for 17 projects in the Appalachian region of Virginia, which encompasses 25 counties and eight independent cities in Southwest Virginia. ARC grants are used to stimulate economic development by funding projects such as infrastructure, entrepreneurship development, and workforce development. The federal commission will finalize approval of these project awards later this year. The following local projects are recommended for funding to the Appalachian Regional Commission: St. Charles Water Line Replacement in Lee County ($500,000 ARC Award), The Fields Waterline Replacement Phase II in Lee County ($218,027 ARC Award), Amelioration Strategic Development Plan in Wise County ($48,000 ARC Award), Projection Intersection Site 4 Utilities in Norton ($400,000 ARC Award), Pennington Gap Business Center for the Trades in Pennington Gap ($50,000 ARC Award), Virginia Community Capital Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Southwest Virginia ($197,592 ARC Award) and Glamorgan Sewer Project in Wise County ($500,000 ARC Award). “ARC grants are an important funding tool for many communities in the Appalachian region of our Commonwealth,” said Northam. “Investing in infrastructure, our workforce, and economic and community development are essential components of our COVID-19 recovery, especially in rural Virginia. This funding will help us build on the region’s strengths, address its challenges, and drive growth and opportunity throughout Appalachia.”
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at SVCHS’ administration building in Meadowview, Virginia. Appointments are available on Thursday, July 9, 2020, between 3-5 p.m. at SVCHS’ administration building, located at 13191 Glenbrook Ave., Meadowview, Virginia 24361. This is to test for current virus infection and is not antibody testing. Testing is available on an appointment or drive-up basis. Patients are encouraged to schedule appointments, but it is not required. Testing priority will be given to people who schedule appointments. Otherwise, testing will be done on a first-come, first-served basis the day of the event. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling or drive-up, and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, between 3-5 p.m. This is to test for current virus infection and is not antibody testing. Testing is available on an appointment or drive-up basis. Patients are encouraged to schedule appointments, but it is not required. Testing priority will be given to people who schedule appointments. Otherwise, testing will be done on a first-come, first-served basis the day of the event. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling or drive-up, and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 STREAMWORKS is announcing today that, in light of continued uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and major funding disruption, it will be closing the doors to its STEM Gym in Kingsport, Tennessee, on July 31 as it places greater emphasis on distance learning. This move reflects the reality that in-person instruction will be challenging for the foreseeable future while the demand for innovative, virtual STEM learning is increasing. With the significant disruption of normal, in-person programs and key funding, like many other non-profit organizations during this time, STREAMWORKS is reducing its expenses to help ensure long-term viability while continuing its mission of partnering to enhance STEM education through innovation, networking, and creating opportunities to develop and showcase the talent of students and teachers. Through leveraging virtual technology and the physical facilities of educational systems, STREAMWORKS will continue to work with schools, teachers, and students across the region to help them innovate, develop new educational platforms, and connect with the global STEM educational ecosystem. Communities and school systems interested in such support can contact email@example.com.
🔹 The Johnson County Health Department has modified its free COVID-19 testing hours effective Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Testing is Monday-Friday between 9-11 a.m. Additional information about Tennessee’s testing sites is available for each county on the Tennessee Department of Health website at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html.
Monday, June 29
🔹 Railroad Days, scheduled for July 19 at Natural Tunnel State Park, has been canceled. The park’s chairlift and the Daniel Boone Interpretive Center are open Friday through Monday. Ranger-led programs are canceled. Picnic shelters are open with an increased capacity of 250. Playgrounds and bathrooms are open.
🔹 Dungannon’s annual Fourth of July celebration has been canceled.
🔹 The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) encourages all Virginians to respond and engage with legitimate contact tracing calls and emails while remaining vigilant against scams. Caller ID will read “VDH COVID Team.” The Commonwealth employs contact tracers to notify individuals who have been exposed to known cases of COVID-19. Contact tracers will offer information, encourage individuals to monitor themselves for symptoms, and refer those who develop symptoms for medical evaluation and testing to help contain the spread in Virginia. Contact tracers will not ask for money or information such as a Social Security Number (SSN), bank account details, or credit card numbers. The Commonwealth does not charge individuals for contact tracing services.
🔹 Families across Tennessee still have time to apply for an important program designed to help support them through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) has extended the deadline to apply for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program until Monday, July 13, at 4:30 p.m. Central Time. P-EBT provides parents with $5.70 in food benefits per child for each day that child qualifies. To be eligible, children must receive free or reduced meals at school or attend a Community Eligibility Provision school. Families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits do not need to apply as their benefits will be automatically applied to their existing EBT cards. Families can apply online here. Individuals who need assistance completing their P-EBT application or have general questions about the program are encouraged to call the TDHS hotline at 1-833-496-0661.
🔹 During a special conference today, the Tennessee Public Utility Commission ordered private-investor owned natural gas, electric, water, and wastewater utility companies to continue to suspend the disconnection of utility services due to nonpayment until the Commission’s next conference scheduled for Aug. 10, 2020. In view of the COVID-19 epidemic, the commission’s order recognizes the challenges customers and businesses face as Tennessee businesses transition to reopening safely, while concurrently acknowledging the need to transition from the suspension of utility service shut offs to an environment of normalcy for both customers and utilities. In view of the COVID-19 epidemic, the commission’s order recognizes the challenges customers and businesses face as Tennessee businesses transition to reopening safely, while concurrently acknowledging the need to transition from the suspension of utility service shut offs to an environment of normalcy for both customers and utilities.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee today signed Executive Order No. 50 to extend the State of Emergency related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to Aug. 29, 2020. The order allows the continued suspension of various laws and regulations and other measures in these orders to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19 through regulatory flexibility, promoting social distancing and avoidance of large gatherings, and protecting vulnerable populations. Gov. Lee also signed Executive Order Nos. 51 and 52, which extend provisions that allow for electronic government meetings subject to transparency safeguards and remote notarization and witnessing of documents, respectively, to Aug. 29, 2020.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health today resumed daily data reports on COVID-19 cases and tests in Tennessee. As of June 29, 2020 there have been 42,297 total cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee, including 41,949 confirmed cases and 348 probable cases. As the result of the backlog of test results now reflected in the system, today’s figures represent an increase of 2,125 total cases out of 28,629 tests reported since Saturday, June 27. TDH COVID-19 data reports were unavailable Sunday, June 28 due to an unplanned shutdown of the state surveillance system. This issue is not unique to Tennessee, and is affecting many NBS jurisdictions. Upgrades to the system have been successfully installed and have improved the speed of processing records. TDH provides COVID-19 data at 2 p.m. CDT daily online at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html. Additional information including downloadable data sets is available at www.tn.gov/content/tn/health/cedep/ncov/data.html.
🔹 Administered through a partnership between ChildcareTennessee, an initiative of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, and the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS), the COVID-19 Loss of Income Grant allows any child care provider licensed with TDHS to apply for lost income if their agency closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of a COVID-19 Loss of Income Grant, 799 agencies across 70 counties in Tennessee have made it through this initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The total number of licensed child care agencies in Tennessee is 2,300. If agencies continue to have to close as the pandemic continues, they can apply for up to 60 days of lost income through the COVID-19 Loss of Income Grant. Child care programs that closed because of the pandemic before now and have not yet applied for the grant can do so retroactively, back to March when agencies began closing because of the pandemic. Licensed TDHS child care agencies interested in applying for either COVID-19 grant should visit www.childcaretennesee.com.
🔹 In accordance to guidelines within the federal government’s CARES Act, Tennessee will discontinue paying Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) the week ending July 25, 2020. FPUC provided $600 per week in federal assistance, in addition to benefits from other unemployment insurance programs, including Tennessee Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The CARES Act requires states to provide FPUC through July 31. Tennessee, like many other states, ends its benefit week on Saturdays. July 25 is the last Saturday of the month. Federal law does not allow the state to pay this particular benefit through Saturday, Aug. 1. Eligible claimants still unemployed as of July 26 will receive benefits that do not include the additional $600 FPUC payment starting Monday, Aug. 2. If an eligible claim is in pending status, and the claimant has completed all weekly certifications prior to July 25, they will retroactively receive their benefits, including the FPUC payments, on the date the claim processes. The additional unemployment programs outlined in the CARES Act; PUA and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, will continue through Dec. 26, 2020, the last Saturday of that month.
🔹 The city of Kingsport 2020 Fourth of July Celebration will be a drive-in fireworks extravaganza! The fireworks will begin Saturday, July 4, around 9:45 p.m. for a 10-15 minute display. They will be set off in two areas, a downtown vicinity and an Eastman Road vicinity, to maximize the viewing area. Fireworks will be visible from many surrounding homes and parking lots. In accordance with Sullivan County Department of Health recommendations, you are asked to remain in your vehicles while viewing the fireworks. If necessary to be outside of vehicles, safe physical distancing should be maintained. Also, viewers are encouraged to wear masks.
🔹 Marsh Regional Blood Center has resumed its community-wide blood drives and updated its donor eligibility guidelines to reflect new federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. Effective Monday, June 29, donation deferrals will be modified for individuals who were previously unable to give due to time spent in certain European countries or on military bases in Europe. Potential donors should call (423) 408-7500 to be pre-screened for eligibility. Marsh Regional continues to take appropriate measures to reduce donors’ potential exposure to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as well as extra disinfection and sanitization efforts and additional physical distancing precautions wherever possible. Until Friday, July 3, all donors will also receive a $10 Food City gift card.
🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Historic Downtown Bristol, Virginia-Tennessee celebrated its reopening to the public last month following a 13-week closure due to the threat of COVID-19. Visitation to the museum has been steady, with strict safety protocols that include face coverings being warn by guests, volunteers and staff, heightened cleaning duties and a limit of 100 people in the museum at once (including staff). Now that museum workers are easing in to this "new normal," they are also taking steps to offer new programming in the form of Summer Music Workshops. The first Summer Music Workshop for kids ages 8-18 is for beginners and will offer instruction on fiddle, guitar, and banjo. Participants will also tour the museum and take part in other activities. The beginner workshop will be held on Monday, July 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The all-ages workshop will offer a lesson in songs of Southwest Virginia and a storytelling session about Southwest Virginia Jack Tales. It will be held on Saturday, July 25, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. An intermediate-level workshop for youth ages 8-18 is for participants with a little more experience with an instrument or for those whom have previously attended the museum's Pick Along Summer Camp. The workshop offers music instruction in addition to creating a podcast for WBCM Radio Bristol. This workshop will take place on Monday, July 27, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For a complete list of events and a comprehensive look at everything the Birthplace of Country Music has to offer, visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.
🔹 In response to hardship resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bristol-based Soup Kitchen is pausing its daily soup delivery, and instead providing food boxes for existing clients during the months of June and July. One box provides each recipient with enough food for one meal per day for an entire month. Located on the campus of the former Sullins College, the Soup Kitchen began serving approximately 50 people per weekday in 1998, and now serves 990 individuals. Michelle Booher, executive director of the Soup Kitchen, said the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made staff more aware of food preparation practices and also deepened the need in the community. “We’ve always been careful about the way we prepare and deliver meals, and we’re being even more so now,” Booher said. “Fortunately, the way the food is packaged, it’s like getting takeout, and since some of our recipients are older and challenged in their mobility, having these meals brought to them during this time is an increasingly essential service.”
Sunday, June 28
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health will not issue data on COVID-19 cases and tests on Sunday, June 28, 2020, due to an unplanned shutdown of the state surveillance system. TDH will resume daily provision of case counts and additional data once the system returns to full functionality and complete and accurate data can be provided. Due to an extremely high volume of both COVID-19 and other laboratory test results being reported, there have been recent intermittent backlogs of labs in queue to be imported into the NBS system. This issue is not unique to Tennessee, and is affecting all NBS jurisdictions. The TDH team has been working closely with the NBS vendor and Tennessee State Government information technology support to quickly implement fixes that have been identified. At approximately 2 a.m. CDT June 28, the element of NBS that imports laboratory results encountered an unplanned shutdown. This issue was corrected by TDH and state information technology teams, and laboratory imports to NBS were restarted by 11 a.m. Due to the ongoing backlog and this unplanned shutdown, a limited number of COVID-19 test results were imported into NBS in the last 24 hours. TDH will not release updated COVID-19 numbers today since its data are incomplete. This will also affect metropolitan health department partners and their data updates tomorrow. These technical issues may cause a delay in local public health officials contacting people recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Please consult information online or contact your local health department if you were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and have questions about next steps.
Saturday, June 27
🔹 New Life Missionary Baptist Church in Church Hill announced that, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases the area and in many vacation areas, all in-person church services will be canceled until the situation improves. The church will begin live Facebook broadcasts on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. and on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. “Our faith in God remains strong. We know that He is able to protect us. But at the same time He places thoughts on our hearts that we must also consider. So out of the utmost caution we feel it best at this time to take some time away from meeting face to face while we continue to meet heart to heart. God bless all, Tony,” a message on the church Facebook page reads.
🔹 As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across Virginia, and as we approach one of the most popular holidays of the year, the Virginia Department of Health reminds everyone of the ongoing and critical need to practice good health habits, to limit the spread of illness, everywhere in Virginia. Some localities in southwest Virginia are seeing significant increases, with 13 new cases in Buchanan County in the last 48 hours and two new cases each in Tazewell and Dickenson counties over the same period. Don’t be a victim of COVID fatigue. If you travel, plan your trip to minimize the risk of exposure and illness. Guidelines for protecting yourself and others from COVID-19 are online and include: Clean your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; cover coughs and sneezes; and pick up food at drive-thru or curbside, or at stores.
Friday, June 26
🔹 Friends of Allandale announced Friday the sixth “August Under the Stars” at Allandale concert series has been postponed until August 2021. “The has been a tough decision,” said Nina Myers, president of Friends of Allandale. “... In the end, safety remained our primary concern, and we have postponed our August 2020 series to next August.” All three musical groups — Folk Soul Revival, Benny Wilson and Ivy Road, and Spank — have re-booked for 2021. One date is still to be determined.
🔹 As the governor of Virginia continues to lift restrictions on businesses and hotels, The Martha Washington Inn and Spa is rising to the challenge of extra safety precautions and offering special pricing and packages for incoming guests. Safety measures include temperature checks for all employees, requiring employees to wear face masks, plexiglass shields at key locations. Hand sanitizer is located throughout the property. Extra housekeeping has been implemented for all public spaces for continuous rotation of wiping doors, handles, railings, sinks, faucets, etc. At this time, access to The Inn is be restricted to registered guests, members, and guests with dinner reservations. To make a reservation or book a package, visit themartha.com or call (276) 628-3161. To see all the safety precautions The Martha is taking, visit http://www.themartha.com/coronavirus.php.
🔹 The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at East Tennessee State University has announced a partnership with Blackburn, Childers and Steagall, CPAs to provide free assistance with loan forgiveness applications for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). Established by the CARES Act, the PPP provides assistance for small businesses to pay up to 2.5 months of payroll costs and benefits. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. The program is implemented by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) with support from the Department of the Treasury. This local partnership was created through a unique funding opportunity from the SBA. Supplemental grant funding through the CARES Act allows the TSBDC at ETSU to provide business assistance to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. All current TSBDC at ETSU clients that have received a PPP loan are eligible for free assistance from Blackburn, Childers and Steagall, CPAs. Any business in the TSBDC at ETSU service region may register as a client at no charge to become eligible for loan forgiveness application assistance. For more information or to seek assistance, contact Mark Bays at (423) 439-8505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
🔹 The newly reopened Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate located in Historic Downtown Bristol, Virginia-Tennessee, will offer fun Summer Music Workshops for youth and adults this July in place of its Pick Along Summer Camp, which has been canceled due to the COVID-19 impact. These one-day, in-person workshops will be limited to 10 participants each and follow social distancing guidelines mandated by the state of Virginia to protect the health and safety of participants, volunteers, and staff. “We are slowly introducing new programming at the museum after a long closure due to the pandemic,” said Dr. Rene Rodgers, head curator of the museum. “One-day Summer Music Workshops with small class sizes help us better maintain a safe environment for learning as we engage the community with some really fun and exciting activities related to our Appalachian music heritage.” The Birthplace of Country Music Museum closed its doors on March 16 in accordance with mandates passed down from the Commonwealth of Virginia to help stop the spread of the virus. As Virginia entered Phase Two of reopening the state, the museum opened its doors on June 11 with strict safety protocols in place. To read more about those safety measures, visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org and go to the Museum page; the information will be found under “Plan Your Visit.”
🔹 Blackbird Bakery in Bristol announced this afternoon on its Facebook page that it would be closed until further notice after one of its employees reported a positive COVID-19 test. “This afternoon, one of our employees reported a positive COVID-19 test result. Therefore, we have closed the bakery until further notice. Thus far, the employee is okay and was tested routinely due to upcoming plans, no symptoms have been experienced. We encourage everyone to wear masks and to continue to take extra precautions. Thanks for your understanding.”
🔹 For the fall semester, Walters State Community College will resume a limited selection of in-person classes in small groups as well as continue to offer a mix of hybrid, virtual and online classes. The college’s fall semester will begin Aug. 24 on the main Morristown campus as well as satellite campuses, including Greeneville and Sevierville. In addition to in-person classes, classes will be held in the following formats: Hybrid (part online and part virtual instruction and/or face-to-face instruction), Virtual (web-conferencing platforms, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, virtual classes will meet on scheduled days and times. This format allows students to engage in virtual classroom interaction without having to attend class in-person) and Online (do not meet on a certain day or at a certain time). While on campus, students must wear masks and practice social distancing. They must also complete a coronavirus screening every day they are on campus. Registration for fall semester classes is under way. Students can register at www.ws.edu. For more information, contact email@example.com or call (423) 585-2685.
🔹 After listening to University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd and chancellors of campuses across the system discuss their plans for handling COVID-19 in the fall on Thursday, the UT Board of Trustees approved its plans as well as the university’s $2.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2020-21 during Friday’s annual meeting. In approving the COVID-19 and Guiding Principles for Fall 2020 resolution, trustees authorized the UT administration to take the necessary actions to have in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester. The resolution also stated that the university should continue to make reasonable accommodations for students, faculty and staff who are at-risk or live with individuals who are at-risk as identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. During Friday’s meeting, trustees also adopted a requirement for flu—and COVID when available—immunizations for all students, faculty and staff. They also adopted an emergency rule specifically for students to have these immunizations.
🔹 East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy honored its postgraduate pharmacy residents and fellows on Thursday night in a virtual graduation ceremony. Speakers included Dr. Brian Noland, ETSU president; Dr. Debbie Byrd, dean of the pharmacy school; Dr. David Linville, executive vice provost for academics and health; and Dr. Ralph Lugo, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice. In addition, program directors shared remarks and presented the graduates with program certificates. They included Dr. Katelyn Alexander, community pharmacy residency program director; Dr. Brian Cross, ambulatory care residency program director; Dr. David Stewart, internal medicine residency program director; and Dr. Nick Hagemeier, fellowship program director.
🔹 Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million workers – including more than 11,000 Tennessee workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants and other essential businesses across the state, called on Gov. Bill Lee for action to protect workers and consumers. UFCW announced that among its members, 238 frontline workers have died and nearly 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed in the first 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Tennesse COVID-19 cases continue to increase, UFCW is calling on Gov. Lee to work with business leaders to enact three policies essential to supporting and protecting millions of frontline workers across Tennessee: 1) reinstate hazard pay and establish a $15 per hour wage for all frontline workers; 2) establish a mask mandate for all businesses and public gatherings; 3) create a new public registry to track COVID-19 infections in frontline workers requiring companies with more than 1,000 workers to submit monthly reports on worker deaths, infections and exposures.
Thursday, June 25
🔹 Sloopy’s Diner in Kingsport announced Thursday on its Facebook page that it would remain closed for the time being, after an employee who last worked on June 19 tested positive for COVID-19. The restaurant was notified Wednesday and closed, so that all employees could be tested. “... I can promise everyone tracking our situation that I will reveal our test results as soon as we are notified. Furthermore, it looks like Sloopy's will be quarantined anyway for the remainder of this week, and then all of next week. Please give me the benefit of the doubt as I try to navigate a very difficult situation,” the statement, signed Mr. Sloopy, says.
🔹 Biltmore announced the Downton Abbey: The Exhibition will reopen Saturday, June 27, and will remain at George Vanderbilt’s magnificent estate through September 7. Both locations for this special event — Amherst at Deerpark and The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village — are available for exploration. Enhanced health and safety protocols are in place to provide peace of mind and an enjoyable experience for all. Exhibition access is included with estate admission.
🔹 The VHSL Executive Committee met in special session Thursday to discuss the FY2021 budget and fall sports. VHSL staff did not bring forth any recommendations for a fall calendar, due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The VHSL Executive Committee did vote to hold additional meetings in July and August as more information becomes known. “All our efforts are working towards advocating for the opening of sports and activities in a safe and reasonable way,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun. “As we move forward, it would not be reasonable to release at this time a fall schedule or calendar until we learn more about future phases.” Phcase 3 begins July 1 in Virginia.
🔹 Dancing, Dining & Ducks to benefit Mountain Region Speech and Hearing Center will look a little different this year as it transitions to a Virtual Duck Race (well, sort of) on July 22. To purchase ducks, visit mrshc.org/kingsport-ducks/ to sponsor ducks for a chance to win great prizes. The ducks will float in a private pool with winning ducks selected during a Facebook Live event.
🔹 Fall semester classes at East Tennessee State University will begin Aug. 24. Courses will be taught in-person and online. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, all in-person instruction on campus will end Nov. 21, and the remainder of the semester as well as final exams will take place online. The university will be open and classes will be held on two holidays, Labor Day (Sep. 7) and Veterans Day (Nov. 11), and Fall Break will be moved to the week of Thanksgiving. With the adjustments in holidays, ETSU will be closed the entire week of Thanksgiving, Nov 23-27. Following that time, remote instruction for all classes will take place Nov. 30-Dec. 4 and for final exams Dec. 5-10. Residence halls and dining services will remain open through final exams week. The Gatton College of Pharmacy will alter its start date but will follow the university schedule beginning in September, and the Quillen College of Medicine will maintain its regular schedule. Commencement is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12, and more information regarding format will be provided later.
🔹 Walmart hourly associates in Tennessee received another special cash bonus in their paychecks today, adding up to more than $ 10.1 million statewide. This bonus – the third in less than three months – awards $300 to full-time hourly associates and drivers, $150 to part-time hourly and temporary associates and $400 to assistant managers. Associates must be employed by the company as of June 5 to qualify, which includes new associates who joined Walmart as part of the company’s recent hiring commitment.
🔹 The Cumberland Plateau Health District, in partnership with Tazewell County, will offer free community testing for COVID-19 on Wednesday, July 1, from noon to 3 p.m. at the Tazewell County Fairgrounds, 515 Fairground Road in Tazewell. Testing is available to all Virginia residents age 18 and older (adolescents accompanied by parent or guardian and able to cooperate with test collection may be tested with parent/guardian consent), regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms. Appointments are not required, but to avoid waiting in line, we encourage individuals to call (276) 988-5585 to pre-register so that forms can be completed in advance and to receive an appointment time. You may drive-thru or walk up for testing. If you walk up, please wear a cloth face covering or mask and practice physical distancing. If driving, those wishing to be tested are encouraged to sit at a window. For the safety of the testing staff, please keep windows rolled up until told otherwise.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending June 20, 2020. Statewide, 21,155 new claims were filed, along with 266,596 continued claims. In Sullivan County, 279 initial claims were filed, along with 4,721 continued claims. In Hawkins County, 202 initial claims were filed, along with 1,656 continued claims.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a range of nationwide flexibilities to ensure America’s children receive the nutritious food they need throughout the upcoming school year. These waivers give states, schools, and childcare providers time to plan for how they will serve children in the fall, including allowing for new and innovative feeding options as the nation recovers from the coronavirus. As fall nears, schools are considering many different learning models. This announcement empowers them to operate the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to best serve their students throughout the 2020-2021 school year. It also allows providers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to tailor operations to serve the children in their care. USDA is providing flexibilities around meal patterns, group-setting requirements, meal service times, and parent/guardian pick-up of meals for kids across all three programs to address anticipated changes for the coming school year. USDA is also announcing a new flexibility that waives the requirement for high schools to provide students the option to select some of the foods offered in a meal.
Wednesday, June 24
🔹 The Washington County Health Department is undergoing renovations, causing a change in access to the parking lot on Princeton Road. Starting on Monday, June 29, anyone seeking to be tested for COVID-19 will need to turn onto College Road from Princeton Road and follow the signage to the drive-through testing site located outside of the health department. Testing is Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and noon. Additional information about Tennessee’s testing sites is available for each county on the Tennessee Department of Health website at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) recently joined representatives from Weigel’s Convenience Stores, Mayfield Dairy, the Randy Davis Memorial Milk Fund, the Tennessee Dairy Promotion Committee, and Tennessee food banks affiliated with Feeding America for donation announcements. Weigel’s is providing vouchers for 60,000 gallons of milk through Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee and Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee. The Tennessee Dairy Promotion Committee is donating $20,000 for these Second Harvest Food Banks to buy milk. The milk will be purchased from Mayfield Dairy in partnership with the Randy Davis Memorial Milk Drive Fund. Food companies have also been effective in meeting hunger needs of Tennesseans. Publix Super Market donated chicken and more than 17,600 pounds of produce and 17,800 pounds of milk to food banks in East Tennessee. Tyson Foods donated chicken to three Tennessee food banks and helped transport about 15,500 pounds of food to Helping Hand of Humboldt. And, Sysco donated eight pallets of food to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.
Tuesday, June 23
🔹 The Carter County Health Department has modified free COVID-19 testing hours effective Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Testing is Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and noon. Additional information about Tennessee’s testing sites is available for each county on the Tennessee Department of Health website at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html.
🔹 BrightRidge Directors approved a Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the utility that does not raise electric rates for a second year in a row, while the Tennessee Valley Authority is also expected to keep wholesale power rates flat for the next 12 months. A healthy financial position has allowed BrightRidge to temporarily suspend non-payment disconnections of customers since March amid several coronavirus related measures adopted to assist customers in response to the global pandemic. BrightRidge and TVA partnered to double the level of assistance available to residential customers who may be struggling with their power bills due to economic uncertainty, providing up to $200,000 in funding for the Heisse Johnson Hand Up Fund. BrightRidge also recently invested $100,000 to assist local small businesses through the RegionAHEAD program.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, between 3-5 p.m. This is to test for current virus infection and is not antibody testing. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling, and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at SVCHS’ administration building in Meadowview, Virginia. Appointments are available on Thursday, July 2, 2020, between 3-5 p.m. at SVCHS’ administration building, located at 13191 Glenbrook Ave., Meadowview, Virginia 24361. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 The Heritage Alliance has been awarded a Humanities Tennessee CARES Act Grant. In the first installment of their CARES Act grant imitative, Humanities Tennessee was able to award more than $30,000 to non-profits from across Tennessee’s nine Congressional districts. Like many organizations, the Heritage Alliance’s offices and museums were closed for most of the spring. During this time, it had to cancel and postpone scheduled programming and fundraisers. During its closure to the public, Heritage Alliance staff were hard at work transforming historic materials into virtual exhibits, including a digital exhibit on the flu pandemic of 1918, educational videos such as “Social Distancing with the Victorians” and “Homecooked History,” and more, including its first ever Virtual Fieldtrip Day. With the assistance from Humanities Tennessee CARES Act Grant, staff plan to continue creating educational content that can be enjoyed both in our museums and online.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is receiving almost $1,000,000 from the federal government to support the mental health needs of Tennesseans living through the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the pandemic including sickness, death, social distancing, unemployment, and other hardships have had negative mental health effects across the country and in Tennessee. In a recent poll (April 22 - May 1) conducted by East Tennessee State University, more than half of respondents reported feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge in the week before the poll. More than two in five respondents reported feeling depressed (43.4%) and lonely (42.8%). The grant for $966,380 is through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Crisis Counseling & Training Program. The funding will provide outreach and support services in all 95 Tennessee counties. TDMHSAS staff will be working with community behavioral health agencies to deliver services. This latest federal grant follows a previous $2,000,000 grant for COVID-19 response from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to bolster mental health and substance abuse treatment services. Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should call Tennessee’s Statewide Crisis Line at 855-274-7471 or text “TN” to 741-741. People who need treatment for substance use or help maintaining their recovery from addiction can receive a free and confidential referral by calling or texting the TN REDLINE at 800-889-9789 or call their insurance carrier.
Monday, June 22
🔹 Leaders at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Plateau AgResearch and Education Center are delaying all onsite field days until 2021. This includes the Steak and Potatoes field day and the Fall Gardeners’ Festival, which were both set to take place this August. Steak and Potatoes field day is moving to Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2021, while Fall Gardeners’ Festival will take place on Aug. 31, 2021. Once plans are finalized, information about new learning opportunities will be available on the center’s website at plateau.tennessee.edu, the UT Gardens, Crossville Facebook page and the UT Plateau Research and Education Center Facebook page. Those interested may also call (931) 484-0034 for more details.
🔹 Through a unique funding opportunity with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Tennessee Small Business Development Centers and East Tennessee State University, KOSBE now has access to supplemental grant funding through the CARES Act, which specifically enables them to provide education, training and business advising to small businesses that have experienced supply chain disruptions, staffing challenges, a decrease in gross receipts or customers or a closure as a result of COVID-19. This enriched technical assistance is provided to business owners at zero cost (one to four hours maximum). KOSBE will manage contracts with various providers and experts and pay fair compensation for services. This is a win-win-win for the business owner, KOSBE TSBDC, and private consultants. KOSBE is contracting with several private consultants who will assist businesses and serve as subject matter experts. To access services, small business owners must be referred by the Kingsport Chamber or KOSBE TSBDC. A company is not required to be a chamber member or pre-existing KOSBE TSBDC client to receive assistance. Contact the Kingsport Chamber at (423) 392-8800 to learn more about this opportunity.
🔹 Ballad Health is urging caution as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and is emphasizing the continued risks. More than three months ago, the first case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was diagnosed in the Appalachian Highlands. Since then, state health department data shows that number has ballooned to 774 COVID-19 cases in this region – 483 in Tennessee and 291 in Virginia. Nearly 100 of those cases have been diagnosed since June 10, and four patients are currently hospitalized at Ballad Health hospitals. “Even though much of the nation has reopened, and we’re all striving to move forward in our new normal, please know: The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and being cautious and prevention-minded is still imperative,” said Alan Levine, Ballad Health’s chairman and chief executive officer. Levine further said caution is especially warranted now, during vacation season and as the Fourth of July holiday approaches. More than half of the new COVID-19 cases at Ballad Health have been related to travel, and popular vacation spots such as Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Florida are reporting enormous spikes in COVID-19 cases. While Ballad Health has resumed many of its normal business functions, including permitting elective and non-emergent surgeries and allowing limited visitation, Levine and other health system leaders caution that if local COVID-19 cases continue to increase, restrictions might be put back in place to protect patients and team members.
🔹 Morning Pointe Senior Living has announced an innovative new way to safely reintroduce face-to-face visitation at its 35 campuses via a Plexiglas “visitation booth.” As governors of states begin to roll back COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions, the booths offer a way for families and residents to reunite without compromising current protocols put in place to protect residents. Booths are built and decorated with unique themes by Morning Pointe associates at each facility and are located either indoors or outdoors depending on state healthcare requirements. Families can contact an executive director at the building to schedule time at the visitation booth. Booths are sanitized after each use and every person must wear a face mask while visiting.
🔹 Tennesseans working to obtain a high school equivalency diploma can now take their exams at home via a new online program, HiSET Exam at Home. This program makes the test accessible to adult learners while many testing centers are closed due to COVID-19. Starting Monday, June 22, 2020, Tennesseans can register to take the HiSET test online using the human remote proctoring service, ProctorU. The online exams are identical to HiSET exams taken in physical testing centers in terms of content, format, on-screen experience and scoring. Each of the features test takers experience in testing centers, such as the ability to preview, skip questions, review and change answers, are available with the online exam. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s HiSET Voucher Program covers all costs associated with the exams. To receive a voucher from a local Adult Education program, a test taker must be a Tennessee resident and demonstrate test preparedness through a qualifying practice test. Adult learners interested in completing the HiSET Exam at Home program should first contact their local Adult Education provider. You can find a list of local providers here. To utilize the HiSET Exam at Home option and associated vouchers, an individual must be at least 18 years old and ensure that their computer and testing room meet the remote proctoring requirements. You can find a list of those requirements here.
🔹 Calling each East Tennessee State University student is an ambitious goal, but Bucs Calling Bucs is close to that achievement. The initiative, spearheaded by the Division of Student Life and Enrollment, began in mid-April after the university’s COVID-19 response had shifted all classes online. The goal of the program is simply to provide a friendly voice during a difficult time to check in and say hello. More than 100 volunteers from across campus – including faculty, staff and senior leadership – have made calls. More than 12,000 students have been called, with a goal to get to the rest of enrolled students by the July 4th holiday.
Sunday, June 21
🔹 The Outcomes Related to COVID-19 Treated with Hydroxychloroquine among In-patients with Symptomatic Disease (ORCHID) trial stopped enrolling new patients based on the fourth scheduled interim analysis showing no evidence of benefit or harm. The ORCHID trial enrolled 479 adult patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in 11 weeks at 34 hospitals in the United States. It was a multicenter, blinded, placebo-controlled randomized trial, which is the most rigorous study design to evaluate the effects of a medication. In addition to usual medical care for COVID-19, patients in the trial were treated with either 5 days of hydroxychloroquine or a placebo pill that did not have medication in it. Patients, treating clinicians, and researchers were all “blinded,” meaning that they did not know whether a given patient was receiving hydroxychloroquine or placebo. Preliminary results suggested that hydroxychloroquine was neither beneficial nor harmful for patients with COVID-19. A full analysis of trial results is ongoing and will be submitted for peer review as soon as possible.
Saturday, June 20
🔹 The 3rd Annual Farm Fresh Appalachia Farm Tours have officially been postponed due to COVID-19. In a release, Appalachian RC&D said, “We could not in good faith risk the health of our supporters, friends and farmers. We hope to hold the tours later this year, but we will continue to monitor the situation and will make an announcement regarding a rescheduled date when appropriate. This was a tough decision, and we appreciate all of the kind words and support we have received.”
🔹 On June 19, Walters State received its first report of a positive COVID-19 case. The individual who self-reported the positive case attended a one-night, non-credit class on Wednesday, June 17, in the college’s Public Safety Building on the Morristown campus. The college began contacting all of the students in the class on June 19. The college has contacted the Hamblen County Health Department about the case and will follow its recommendations for keeping the campus community safe and healthy. No other classes have been held in the affected classroom. The classroom will remain closed for the next week while the college conducts a deep cleaning following CDC guidelines. Walters State has been offering classes online since March. Following CDC guidelines for social distancing and COVID-19 screening, the college recently opened its campuses to small groups of students enrolled in classes that include skills-based labs, such as science, health, and public safety courses. All individuals who visit a Walters State campus or attend a class are required to complete a daily Covid-19 screening, wear a mask while on campus, and follow social distancing measures.
🔹 Appalachian Sustainable Development has launched the Central Appalachian Family Farm Fund (CAFFF) to help offset some of the impact of the pandemic to our most vulnerable farmers & consumers. With funding provided by Farm Aid, CAFFF will provide mini-grants in the amount of $500 each to local & regional farmers. Beginning, limited-resource & socially disadvantaged farmers are encouraged to apply. Mini-grants are to be used to offset loss of income and to help you direct your products to food-insecure communities. Applications are due by close of business on June 26, 2020, for consideration. Apply here: https://bit.ly/2AxDo6w.
🔹 Curbside pickup is available to patrons of Sullivan County Public Library. To be as contact-free as possible to protect you and library staff, please follow this procedure: Call the library or go to the library catalog at www.scpltn.org to put holds on items you want. When library staff calls to let you know your hold items are at the library, make an appointment to pick up your items. Park your car in the library parking lot, and open your trunk lid or hatchback. Library staff will wear PPE and bring items to your car. Show your library card or ID through the closed vehicle window. Library staff will place the items in your vehicle. If you have wifi hotspots or large items to return (items that won't fit in the drop box slots), return these items to the bins set up at each location. Library staff will not come to the car to receive returns and are not accepting any donations at this time.
Friday, June 19
🔹 Today, the Tennessee Department of Education released the fifth set of school reopening toolkits in a series of more than 20 resources and guidance documents to assist districts as they plan for the upcoming school year. Today’s release makes available three classroom example videos along with four more reopening toolkits providing considerations, recommendations, and best practices to help district and school leaders dive deeper as they make local plans for the 2020-21 school year. The school reopening example videos are located on the Department’s YouTube channel.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced new guidelines and testing requirements for reopening long-term care facilities, and outlined how the Commonwealth will direct $246 million, primarily from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, to support long-term care facilities in their response to COVID-19. In addition, the governor is directing the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to make public facility-specific data regarding COVID-19 cases and deaths associated with long-term care facilities. VDH’s state-specific guidelines for nursing home reopening require licensed nursing homes, certified skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and certified nursing facilities (NFs) to conduct baseline and ongoing testing of all facility staff and residents while those facilities are in the first phase of the reopening process. Testing recommendations for latter phases of the reopening process are under development and will be informed by what is learned in the initial part of reopening. Facility-specific data can be found here.
🔹 The Local Business Recovery Fund reached an important milestone in donations today. The regional effort to provide grants to struggling businesses reached $250,000 in donations. In the first round of grant awards, the fund shared $98,650 in grants to 22 businesses. First round grants were awarded to businesses from Big Rock and Bluefield, Virginia, to Greeneville and Erwin, Tennessee, as well as the cities of Johnson City, Bristol TN/VA, and Kingsport. Within the next few weeks, more than $150,000 will be dispersed to businesses that have applied for a grant through RegionAHEAD.com. There is still time to donate to the fund online by going to RegionAHEAD.com or by sending a check to Local Business Recovery Fund, 603 East Main Street, Johnson City, TN, 37601.
🔹 All employees who tested positive for COVID-19 at Scott’s Strawberry & Tomato Farms Inc. are cleared and have recovered from the virus, according to a press release. Employees who tested positive were field workers and never had any contact with Scott’s Farm Market in Unicoi. With support from the local and regional health departments, all team members were quarantined for the recommended amount of time, in accordance with CDC guidelines, and have since recovered. All field workers must wear gloves and masks and continue to receive daily clinical screenings and temperature checks before each shift. The farm, strawberry stands and Scott’s Farm Market are open and have continued sanitation measures in an effort to keep employees and costumers safe. According to FDA.gov, there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. For market hours and information or to find strawberry stand locations, visit www.scottfarmstn.com.
🔹 In accordance with recommended guidelines from federal, state and local health officials, and based on continuing guidance from the College’s COVID-19 Task Force, Virginia Highlands Community College is pleased to announce it is preparing for a Monday, Aug. 31, start date for the fall 2020 semester. The semester will include of a variety of course delivery options. For courses and degree plans that work well with online course delivery, robust online options will be available. However, because of the importance of hands-on learning, lab-based courses as well as technical and occupational programs will include on-campus and hybrid instruction. Examples include biology, chemistry, music, diesel mechanics, welding, HVACR, machining, electrical, CDL, administration of justice, horticulture, nursing, medical assisting, radiography, EMT/EMS, pharmacy tech, and phlebotomy. Protocols and measures will follow Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders and the recommendations of the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia.
Thursday, June 18
🔹 Historic Jonesborough will be hosting a 4th of July Block Party focusing on shopping local throughout downtown. The event will take place on Saturday, July 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. along Main Street from Fox Street to First Avenue. Jonesborough businesses will be utilizing the area in front of their stores and restaurants to offer sidewalk sales, displays, additional seating and more. This year would have been the 50th Anniversary for the Annual Jonesborough Days Festival but, due to COVID-19, that celebration has be postponed until next year.
🔹 Dolly Parton’s Stampede in Pigeon Forge will open for its first dinner shows since March on Friday, July 3. “We are excited to have our longest-running dinner show open on July 3 as our area celebrates the biggest holiday weekend of the summer and as we get back to entertaining families with this unique show,” Jim Rule, CEO of World Choice Investments, LLC said. “Like our other operations, we will be observing the guidelines provided by the Tennessee Pledge.” For more information and reservations, go to dpstampede.com or call (865) 453-4400.
🔹 Virginia Highlands Community College will host a virtual commencement ceremony for its class of 2020 graduates on Sunday, June 21, at 3 p.m. via livestream to YouTube and Facebook. The ceremony will feature two student speakers and honor 484 graduates who earned a combined total of 607 degrees and certificates during the 2019-2020 academic year. Whereas graduation ceremonies are traditionally held at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, state and federal guidelines related to COVID-19 necessitated alternative arrangements for the class of 2020. A digital commencement program as well as the Sunday, June 21, broadcast may be accessed via links found at vhcc.edu/graduation2020.
🔹 Today, the Tennessee Department of Education released the fourth set of school reopening toolkits in a series of over 20 resources to provide districts with considerations and guidance as they locally decide the best course of action for the fall. This series of reopening toolkits and guidance is intended to help district leaders dive deeper into considerations, recommendations, and best practices for the upcoming school year. The department released an Overview Guide for LEAs last week, which provides broad considerations and questions for districts as each seeks to make the best local decisions for the upcoming school year.
🔹 To help ease COVID-19 concerns, the Town of Greeneville has announced health guidelines for its 4th of July celebration. The 8th annual American Downtown, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 4, has been modified to a citywide celebration to keep from attracting a large crowd to downtown as in previous years, according to organizer Amy Rose. A limited supply of masks will be available at Gosnell’s Stereo and Music on Tusculum Boulevard, where the celebration will kickoff with a concert by Aaron Walker Band at 6 p.m. Hand sanitizing stations will be located at Gosnell’s and the final concert location of the evening, Hardin Park. Following the concerts, and prior to the fireworks how, a caravan-style Andrew Johnson Bank Parade will be held throughout town. Organizers have received approximately 70 requests of locations for the caravan to pass. The route is being mapped and will be announced soon. To social distance at the fireworks show at Greeneville High School, individuals and families are asked to stay with their vehicles or bring blankets to designate their seating areas in the same manner as at Hardin Park. In addition to modifying the parade, COVID-19 precautions resulted in cancellation of the hot dog eating contest, T-shirt sales, and Kids Zone for 2020, Rose noted. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/TownofGreeneville or www.greenevilletn.gov.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that new recovery marketing funds are available to destination marketing organizations (DMO) across the Commonwealth that have been heavily impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The WanderLOVE Recovery Grant Program, which is administered by the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC), will provide up to 50 grants to DMOs of up to $10,000 each. WanderLOVE, a new integrated summer campaign created by VTC, will provide travel inspiration for road trips, outdoor recreation, hidden gems, small towns, and its signature LOVEworks program. Grant recipients will be equipped with creative assets and a toolkit to implement in their own marketing. Applications for the DMO WanderLOVE Recovery Grant Program open on June 18, 2020 and will close on July 2, 2020. Awardees will be announced by July 15, 2020. Grants are open to any of Virginia’s 114 recognized DMOs. Funds must be used for recovery marketing and may be used for participating in the VTC co-ops, local advertising, out-of-state marketing, and other allowable items. DMOs may apply for DMO Recovery Grants here.
🔹 Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced members and objectives of the statewide COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force, which was convened to support the holistic needs of Tennessee children in response to extended school building closures. Gov. Bill Lee charged Commissioner Schwinn to convene the COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force in response to the pandemic’s long-term effects on Tennessee’s school districts and students. The goal of the taskforce is to help communities come together to check on our kids. The Task Force will convene bimonthly through June and July 2020, with monthly meetings August through December 2020. Jeff Moorhouse, Director of Kingsport City Schools, will serve on the panel.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today presented the third phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to continue easing public health restrictions while mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The Commonwealth does not yet have a targeted date for entering Phase Three. As many states are experiencing a surge in new infections, Virginia’s case counts continue to trend downward. Virginia’s hospital bed capacity remains stable, the percentage of individuals hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test is trending downward, no hospitals are reporting PPE shortages, and the percent of positive tests continues to decline as testing increases. The governor and Virginia public health officials will continue to evaluate data based on the key health indicators laid out in April. In Phase Three, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing and teleworking, and the requirement that individuals wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals allowed in social gatherings will increase from 50 to 250 people. All businesses should continue to follow physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and keep enhanced workplace safety measures in place. Restaurant and beverage establishments are required to maintain six feet of distance between tables, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 75 percent occupancy, and recreation and entertainment venues at may operate at 50 percent occupancy, or a maximum of 1,000 persons. Swimming pools may also expand operations to free swim in addition to indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction. Overnight summer camps will remain closed in Phase Three. Phase Three guidelines for specific sectors can be found here.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Unified Command Group announced today that nearly all of Tennessee’s 700 long-term care facilities have completed the required COVID-19 testing of residents and staff, as part of the state’s efforts to protect the health of vulnerable populations. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, 690 long-term care facilities responded to a TDH survey in late May and reported their intent to test staff and residents. Of the 690 facilities responding to the survey, 667, or 96.7 percent, have thus far completed the required COVID-19 testing for residents and staff. UCG also continues to monitor closely the increases in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations in certain regions of Tennessee, as businesses have reopened and more individuals have been leaving their homes more regularly. COVID-19 hospitalizations have climbed gradually since reopening to represent approximately four percent of all hospitalized patients in Tennessee, occupying 400 hospital beds in the state. TDH currently has 640 staff members performing COVID-19 contact tracing activities statewide in coordination with county health departments and TDH’s central and regional offices. Contact tracers are critical to Tennessee’s COVID-19 response efforts in gathering information from positive cases on symptoms, health condition, and activities prior to and during diagnosis, notifying close contacts of potential exposure to positive COVID-19 cases, and communicating with positive cases and their contacts to monitor symptoms and provide support throughout the 14-day quarantine period. TDH is recruiting and training an additional 650 contract tracers for its central, local, and regional health offices to augment and support this effort further.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG) has developed the TN Strong Mask Movement, partnering with more than 30 flagship brands to distribute close to 300,000 free or low-cost cloth face coverings, at a projected value of more than $3 million, across the state. Now, residents can stay safe while wearing brands synonymous with Tennessee from the worlds of sports, education and business. Each business will distribute branded cloth face coverings at little to no cost across their own channels or with the help of the State of Tennessee, which could include employees, fans or nonprofit partnerships. Companies can visit https://tn.gov/governor/covid-19/economic-recovery/mask-movement for additional information. The general public can also visit the link above to order a TN Strong branded mask.
🔹 Medical students from East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine are making plans for the Second Annual Quillen 100 to be held on Aug. 1 at Bristol Motor Speedway. As a non-profit health organization started by Quillen students, The Quillen 100 focuses on educating those in the community about lifestyle choices that lead to healthy heart practices by hosting a cycling race around the iconic track in Bristol. All proceeds will again be donated to the Tri-Cities American Heart Association. Last year, The Quillen 100 hosted a community health fair on the in-field of the speedway, with many medical professionals and local businesses in attendance. In light of the current pandemic, the organizers have decided not to hold the health fair during this year’s race. Instead, health information and resources will be posted to the Quillen 100 website for those who are interested. Registration is currently open for the event. To learn more, register or donate, visit www.thequillen100.com.
🔹 Tennessee’s statewide unemployment rate for May 2020 dropped by 4.2 percentage points from the record high set in April, according to data released by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. In May, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate decreased to 11.3%. Additional data changed Tennessee’s preliminary rate for April from 14.7% to 15.5%, which is now the state’s highest unemployment rate on record. Before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Tennessee’s economy, the state’s previous record-setting unemployment rate was 12.9% in January 1983. Tennessee employers added 93,900 nonfarm jobs between April and May. Leisure/hospitality, manufacturing, and other services sectors had the biggest month-to-month increases. You can find a complete analysis of Tennessee’s May unemployment data here. Currently, there are more than 166,000 job openings posted on the state’s workforce development website, www.Jobs4TN.gov. Tennesseans will also find free assistance with improving job search skills, updating resumes, and job training opportunities on the site.
Wednesday, June 17
🔹 The 2020 National Storytelling Festival has been canceled. The event will move to a digital form, with some storytelling sessions beginning in July. More details about the digital format will be available later this summer, as will information on how to register. The event will still take place the first week in October.
🔹 Ballad Health has created a public service announcement (PSA)-style campaign materials for rural, not-for-profit and non-profit hospitals and health systems to download and customize – at no charge. The campaign collateral, which was developed internally at Ballad Health, is available to download at www.balladhealth.org/infectious-disease/staying-safe-healthy-well and outlines safety measures being taken by many healthcare facilities, such as enhanced physical distancing measures, increased infection control and new processes and systems to safeguard their patients’ care journeys. The goal of the campaign is to reassure patients most healthcare services are safe, accessible and – above all – important.
🔹 Rocky Mount State Historic Site is now open for the 2020 season, building on decades of success with additional types of tours that will highlight how the property and its occupants played a prominent role in Tennessee’s development. In light of the global coronavirus pandemic, Rocky Mount has enacted safety protocols. The site will observe social distancing at all times, and visitors will need to wear a mask. Rocky Mount will also have hand sanitizer. For more information, please call (423) 538-7396 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
🔹 The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced a $1.2 million grant award to the city of Kingsport – Kingsport Area Transit Service (KATS), in Kingsport, Tennessee, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed by President Donald J. Trump on March 27, 2020. KATS will use the grant funds for operating, preventive maintenance and administrative expenses, which are necessary to support transit services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. In addition to the CARES Act funding, FTA issued a Safety Advisory that prompts transit agencies to develop and implement policies and procedures regarding face coverings and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, physical separation, and hand hygiene consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance. CARES Act funding can be used to cover 100 percent of these costs.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will extend the contracts of select vendors from the first round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. USDA is exercising this option to extend contracts for current distributors for the next performance period, July 1- Aug. 30, for up to $1.16 billion of food. Between May 15 to June 17, distributors have delivered over 17 million food boxes to approximately 3,200 non-profit organizations across the United States including Guam and Puerto Rico. USDA is continuously evaluating how to expand access to the program in areas that are underserved and is in the final stages of determining cities and states who have been affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19 and where additional food boxes are in demand. These underserved areas will be specifically targeted with distributors who will assist in filling the gaps.
🔹 Early data assessing the primary language of those who received COVID-19 tests at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), and tested positive, illustrates the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on racial or ethnic communities. Of the first 18,491 patients tested for the novel coronavirus, 1,063 speak 37 languages other than English, according to analysis of electronic health records by VUMC’s Office of Health Equity. Although this group represents 5.7% of those tested, they are 19.4% of those positive and the highest number reside in two adjacent Nashville ZIP codes. To prioritize access to care among all people amid the pandemic, the Office of Health Equity, led by Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, vice president for Health Equity for VUMC and associate dean for Health Equity at Vanderbilt School of Medicine, is leading a workstream within the enterprise’s COVID-19 Command Center. Wilkins and colleagues, Elisa Friedman, MS, Sunil Kripalani, MD, MSc, and others across VUMC, are working to disaggregate data by language, as well as race, ethnicity, ZIP code and insurance status about who has been tested, tested positive, hospitalized or deceased. Black and other racial and ethnic communities as well as low-income or other vulnerable populations, such as homeless or incarcerated individuals, are at higher risk of severe outcomes and death from COVID-19. Wilkins is using the rapid flow of real-time data to improve and institute protocols that prioritize health equity across local and national health systems.
Tuesday, June 16
🔹 Cave Springs Campground will not be opening this weekend as originally planned. For the most up to date information about recreation sites and their status, please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation.
🔹 There are a couple of schedule changes for the June History Happy Hour at the Chester Inn Museum. The June program, originally scheduled to be held at the museum on June 18, has been rescheduled as an online presentation on June 25 at 6:30 p.m. It will be offered through the Zoom platform and will also be streamed live on the Chester Inn Museum’s Facebook page. Go to the Chester Inn Museum’s Facebook page for the link to the meeting room and for the password to login. The speaker and topic have changed due to travel cancellations related to the pandemic. The updated presentation is “Printing in the Victorian Period” with speaker Jacob Simpson, assistant director of the Cincinnati Type & Print Museum. Jacob is the former Exhibits Coordinator for the Heritage Alliance and will be joining from his location in Cincinnati, OH.
🔹 The Knoxville Museum of Art will reopen beginning Wednesday, July 1, 2020, with limited hours and extensive precautions to ensure the health and safety of visitors and museum staff. The museum closed on March 16 in response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As always, admission to the KMA is free. The KMA will be open on a restricted schedule, Wednesday-Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Attendance will be limited to 25 visitors per hour and reservations will be required by signing up on www.eventbrite.com. Visitors will be asked to wear face coverings. Disposable masks will be available for visitors who need them.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, between 3-5 p.m. This is to test for current virus infection and is not antibody testing. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling, and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at SVCHS’ Administration building in Meadowview, Virginia. Appointments are available on Thursday, June 25, 2020, between 3-5 p.m. at SVCHS’ administration building, located at 13191 Glenbrook Avenue, Meadowview, Virginia 24361. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 The latest report from faculty researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine shows that the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached its highest level to date on June 15, when more than 400 patients were reported hospitalized across Tennessee. The researchers stress that with few exceptions, the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations has not yet put acute stress on the Tennessee hospital system — but a recent rise in cases, coupled with new modeling of hospitalizations, highlights that the situation must be closely tracked moving forward. Most COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Middle Tennessee, the Memphis Delta region and Southeast Tennessee around Chattanooga. The largest increases were in the Memphis Delta region and Southeast Tennessee around Chattanooga. The rise in hospitalizations has increased as the number of positive cases has grown but has not yet put stress on the state’s hospital system, Graves said. Tennessee has not yet seen the surge in hospitalizations as other neighboring states. While the cases are growing, the growth is primarily in younger populations, which the CDC and other research has generally shown to have a lower likelihood of requiring hospitalization. When more cases occur in more vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, hospitalizations are more likely to spike. But even as cases continue to increase so will hospitalizations, even if they represent a small proportion of total cases. If current transmission trends continue, the state may reach 1,000 concurrent hospitalizations in late July or early August.
🔹 A resident of Dickenson County has been confirmed to have COVID-19. This is the county’s first case. Dickenson County had been among the only three counties in Virginia – the others are Bath and Bland – without a confirmed COVID-19 case. Each of Virginia’s 35 health districts and 38 cities – and now 93 out of 95 counties -- has recorded at least one case of COVID-19. The Cumberland Plateau Health District includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties. Prior to today’s update, the health district had reported 36 cases (18 in Buchanan, eight in Russell and nine in Tazewell) and two hospitalizations (both in Russell). The health district continues to report zero COVID-19-related deaths. For the most accurate and up-to-date information online, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/cumberland-plateau, www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
🔹 The Pinnacle is planning to move forward with the organization and support of its annual charity 5K run/walk that raises money to support regional United Way organizations. This year’s charity event will follow all state guidelines to provide a safe environment for participants. The charity run is an important fundraising function that provides much-needed support for regional community organizations that are in great need during these unprecedented times. Local officials are currently evaluating whether or not events, like The Pinnacle 5K, will be allowed. With concerns over COVID-19 and the spread within the region, race organizers have had to develop a plan to provide as much safety to participants as they can. For more information about The Pinnacle 5K run/walk event, visit https://www.athlinks.com/event/the-pinnacle-5k-runwalk-153023.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, First Lady Pamela Northam, and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) Director and CEO Alex Nyerges today announced a special program to assist visual artists impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic: the Virginia Artist Relief Fellowship Program. Forty visual artists from the Commonwealth will be selected to each receive a $5,000 grant. To be eligible, applicants must live and work in Virginia, be 21 years of age or older, and derive a significant part of their income from their artwork including sales and lectures. Applications must be received online between June 16, 2020, and July 10, 2020. Recipients will be notified of grant awards on July 24, 2020. Complete eligibility requirements and the application can be found on the museum’s website at www.VMFA.museum.
🔹 Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 26 top high school juniors and seniors from across the state were able to participate virtually in the 33rd annual Governor’s School for the Scientific Exploration of Tennessee Heritage offered this month by the Center of Excellence for Appalachian Studies and Services at East Tennessee State University. This year’s program was in doubt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Governor’s School leaders were able to transition this summer’s School to online delivery, thanks to the support of the Tennessee Department of Education. The Tennessee Governor’s Schools provide challenging and high-intensity programs for rising 11th and 12th grade students nominated by high school faculty. The ETSU Appalachian Studies School is the only Governor’s School dedicated to studying the history of Tennessee, and the only one focused on the Appalachian mountain region. Students participate in a wide range of learning experiences, including paleontology, environmental studies, traditional music and dance, and the history of the diverse cultures and peoples who have inhabited this region for thousands of years.
🔹 Dozens of colleges and universities across Tennessee are joining with the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and several other partners to officially launch a short-term social media marketing campaign called #ItsGoTimeTN. The purpose of the campaign push is to support and encourage recent high school graduates and returning students who have not yet finalized their college-going plans to do so quickly since there are only 10 weeks left before classes start on most college and university campuses in August. Application counts at colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system are currently down 20-25% year over year for fall enrollment due to COVID-19 uncertainties. A new website in support of the campaign has been created at ItsGoTimeTN.com along with social channels on Twitter and Instagram @ItsGoTimeTN to assist partners in connecting with prospective students, their parents and families.
🔹 New data from TERAVOLT, a global consortium that tracks outcomes of people with thoracic cancers affected by COVID-19, offers clues as to why they experienced a high death rate of 33% when the coronavirus swept across Europe. While the majority of those who died were hospitalized, only 9% were admitted to intensive care units, according to a study published in The Lancet Oncology. Most died from complications of COVID-19, not the progression of cancer. The study is based on the first 200 patients for which TERAVOLT received outcomes data. Of the 152 hospitalized patients, 134 or 88% met the criteria for ICU admission, but only 13 of those patients were admitted to an ICU. Only five were mechanically ventilated. Most of the patients were hospitalized in Italy, France and Spain, which were “particularly hard hit” by the pandemic, the study noted.
Monday, June 15
🔹 The Kingsport Aquatic Center is happy to welcome guests back for its popular Lazy River water aerobics class beginning today, June 15. This class will take place outside in the ECU Lazy River, where participants will exercise against and with the current of the river. In June, the Lazy River class is offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8:30 and 9:45 a.m. Guests must pre-register for class by calling the KAC front desk at (423) 343-9758. Water Aerobics classes are $6 for KAC/YMCA members, $5 for members of the Kingsport Senior Center and $8 for non-members. Locker rooms are still closed at this time, so guests should arrive ready to swim. Locker rooms will not be available for changing after class, either, but bathrooms and on deck showers are open. This class comes as part of the Kingsport Aquatic Center’s phased reopening. Guests can also reserve lane time for lap swim and individual water aerobics in three pools—the HMG Pool, PCF Warm Pool, and new outdoor pool—by calling the front desk. For more information about how to reserve your class spot or lane time, visit swimkingsport.com.
🔹 In a NASCAR season marked by historical firsts, the 36th running of the NASCAR All-Star Race will move 159 miles northwest from Charlotte Motor Speedway to the World’s Fastest Half-Mile, Bristol Motor Speedway, for the first time. The July 15 prime-time race will include fans in attendance at a Speedway Motorsports facility for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. “While Charlotte will always be recognized as the birthplace and traditional home for the All-Star Race, the current data surrounding the pandemic in North Carolina makes Bristol a better option for fan access this summer,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith.
🔹 Rethinking live theatre that did not involve streaming or virtual meeting has created an interesting hybrid of drive-thru display, live theatre production and retro drive-in movie fun that we call the Encore Drive-In Theatre! Experience some of Encore’s favorite performers recreating many of your favorite musical moments from the past 14 seasons, from the comfort and socially distanced safety of your vehicle; live musical fun for the entire family! Encore Drive-In Theatre takes place at Litz Farms in Morristown on Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20. For more information, directions & tickets, please visit www.etcplays.org/etc-drive-in.
🔹 The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will change how race and ethnicity data are presented, beginning today. This update will provide a more detailed look at the effects of COVID-19 on minority populations across Virginia. VDH will combine race and ethnicity information into one category and will expand the number of racial identities from three to seven. Previously, race data was reported as one of three categories: White, Black or African American, and Other. Ethnicity data identified individuals as either Hispanic or Latino or Not Hispanic or Latino. The new reporting method will expand racial and ethnic categories to the following: Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, Latino, Native American, White, Other Race, and Two or More Races.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) and the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) announced Tennessee families are now eligible to receive financial support for their children’s nutritional needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. This support is provided through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. Under the new P-EBT program, families of children who receive free or reduced meals at school or attend a Community Eligibility Provision school may receive financial assistance to replace school meals during the months of March, April and May due to COVID-19 school closures. The program will provide parents with $5.70 per child for each day that child qualifies for P-EBT. Parents who already receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits do not need to apply. The funds began arriving on the EBT card they already use beginning June 12. Parents who do not receive SNAP benefits, but whose children do qualify for free or reduced school meals, will need to apply for P-EBT online here beginning June 15. The application period will end June 29, 2020. Individuals who need assistance completing their P-EBT application or have general questions about the program are encouraged to call the TDHS hotline at 1-833-496-0661 and select option 3. Qualifying families will receive P-EBT support in two installments, one for meals in March and April initially, and then one additional disbursement later next month for May meals.
🔹 To ensure the Appalachian Highlands has a sufficient supply of lifesaving blood donations, Marsh Regional Blood Center has resumed its community-wide blood drives. With a national shortage of blood supply due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, local residents are encouraged to donate if they are able. As many as three lives can be saved each time someone donates blood – and donations to Marsh Regional stay local to help people in this region. Marsh Regional continues to take appropriate measures to reduce donors’ potential exposure to COVID-19, as well as extra disinfection and sanitization efforts and additional physical distancing precautions wherever possible. COVID-19 does not pose any known risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives, and blood donation centers always take steps to prevent team members and donors who are not feeling well or who have a fever from reaching the donor area. Additionally, donors are required to wear a cloth face covering, such as homemade mask, bandana or buff, at all times on in collection centers or mobile units, and they might be requested to wait in their cars until it’s their turn to give. For a limited time, everyone who gives blood with Marsh Regional will receive a $10 Food City gift card.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced more than $14.66 million for a new Economic Resilience and Recovery Program to respond to the unprecedented economic conditions facing Virginia and address the near and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative was created through a restructuring of Growth and Opportunity for Virginia (GO Virginia) funding. The program will focus resources on economic resilience and recovery while staying true to the GO Virginia mission of creating higher-paying jobs that strengthen and diversify regional economies. The GO Virginia Board has approved a policy to implement the Economic Resilience and Recovery Program with up to $14.66 million in GO Virginia funds. Each GO Virginia regional council may apply for up to $1 million to support strategic initiatives in response to the economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the GO Virginia Board approved flexible policy changes to accelerate the deployment of funding. Applications will be accepted through the nine GO Virginia Regional Councils. For more information on the regional councils, click here.
🔹 After a successful virtual 5K race for World Bee Day, Tennessee State Parks will host two virtual races for Independence Day weekend, running July 3-6. The parks will host the Red, White and Raptors virtual 5K or 1 Miler that weekend. It will also host the Virtual Firecracker Glow Run on those dates. A virtual race is a race that can be run or walked from any location. You get to run your race at your own pace and time it yourself. Whether the course is a personal treadmill or a neighborhood sidewalk, participants of all skill levels who like to run, walk, or a combination of both, can register for the virtual race. A portion of the proceeds from the Red, White and Raptors virtual race will benefit the Tennessee State Parks Birds of Prey program, which helps raptor rehabilitation and upkeep throughout the state parks. The event is open to all skill levels. This race has a $20 registration fee for the 5K and includes a virtual bib, medal and a certificate of donation. The one-mile run has a registration fee of $15 and includes a virtual bib and a certificate of donation. Registration for the Red, White and Raptors virtual race is at redwhiteraptors.itsyourrace.com. The Firecracker Glow Run, also open to all skill levels, is for either one mile or 5K. A portion of the proceeds from this race will benefit the Friends Group of Montgomery Bell State Park. The race has a $25 fee for the 5K and $15 for the one-mile run. Both include a virtual bib, medal and a certificate of donation. Registration for this virtual race is at firecrackerglowrun.itsyourrace.com.
Sunday, June 14
Saturday, June 13
Friday, June 12
🔹 Dollywood’s inaugural Flower & Food Festival presented by Covenant Health, originally scheduled for mid-spring, now begins when Dollywood reopens to season passholders on June 15. Social distancing guidelines will limit the capacity of the parks on a daily basis. As a result, season passholders will be required to reserve the date and time they wish to visit, and general admission guests will purchase a date-based ticket to ensure all have a safer, socially-distanced experience. Reservations can be made at www.Dollywood.com/reservations and on the Dollywood mobile app where a how-to video will demonstrate the process. Guests should book their reservations early to ensure the date of their choice.
🔹 All Kingsport Area Transit Service (KATS) bus routes will resume service on Monday, June 15. The buses and vans will continue to be taken out of service each day from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in order to thoroughly sanitize each vehicle. The Dial A Ride ADA/65/Job Assist van service will continue providing trips for eligible passengers as well. The KATS lobby will also be reopening for service. Remember, KATS service runs Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Social distancing rules still apply in the buses with cones placed strategically on seats to ensure this safety measure. There will be a 9-passenger limit at any given time on each bus. Should a situation arise where someone needs a ride but would surpass that limit, the KATS driver will communicate with that passenger and the KATS dispatcher to ensure a ride will be provided as soon as possible. Masks are highly recommended. If passengers do not have their own masks, KATS will provide a mask while supplies last. Plexiglass barriers were installed on each transit vehicle to add additional safety.
🔹 Church Hill, Rogersville, Hancock and Johnson County Health Departments will modify free COVID-19 testing hours effective Monday, June 15, 2020. Those seeking testing should call their local health department Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for further information.
🔹 The Chuckey Depot Museum in Jonesborough will be reopening to the public on Friday, June 19. Once re-opened, the museum will follow a reduced schedule of being open Friday through Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. until further notice. In order to ensure the safety of the public and volunteers, several changes have been implemented to the depot for the foreseeable future. No more than 24 people will be allowed in the museum at a time and a stand-alone sanitizer station will be put at the museum's entry door along with the one that is placed in the waiting room. Guests are encouraged to wear masks while visiting the museum.
🔹 The Nashville Symphony’s Board of Directors voted today to suspend all concert and event activity through July 31, 2021, and to furlough a total of 79 musicians and 49 full-time staff members – including Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero – effective July 1. This announcement comes at a time of tremendous disruption due to the deep and widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the Nashville Symphony has already been forced to cancel or reschedule more than 65 concerts and events since early March, with losses directly caused by the pandemic projected to total $8 million, or nearly 30% of the Symphony’s annual income. Based on extensive financial scenario planning, as well as epidemiological projections for how the COVID-19 pandemic may continue to unfold in the coming months, the Nashville Symphony’s board and management team have determined that suspending concert activity for the next year will provide a sufficient foundation for the Symphony to conserve its resources until the orchestra and its concert hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, are able to resume activity. As new epidemiological information becomes available, along with timely data from the Symphony’s revenue studies and audience surveys, the Symphony’s management team will assess whether the orchestra and the Schermerhorn may be able to resume activity sooner. The Symphony is currently working to reschedule concerts originally planned for the 2020/21 concert season to the 2021/22 concert season. Current season ticket holders will be able to keep their existing seats for the postponed season, and the Symphony will be contacting all ticket holders about their options within the next few weeks.
🔹 Starting Sunday, June 14, Kroger Mid-Atlantic will return to normal operating hours. Kroger Mid-Atlantic adjusted hours in mid-March to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Stores in Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic Division, which includes Virginia, West Virginia and parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, will open at 6 a.m. each day and close at 10 p.m., 11 p.m. or midnight. Customers can visit the Kroger website to view exact hours for local stores. Pharmacy hours will not change. Fuel centers will open at 6 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. Senior and high-risk shopping hours will remain for the time being, but will be extended from 6-8 a.m. on Tuesday through Thursday each week.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that the Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation (FAACT), Virginia’s cross-agency, cloud-based, data-sharing and analytics platform, is expanding to help the Commonwealth mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and maintain an adequate supply of resources. FAACT was instituted in 2018 and significantly expanded in 2019 to help Virginia communities confront the challenges posed by the opioid epidemic. In a single platform, FAACT combines data from a variety of state and local organizations to generate actionable insight about the contributing factors to opioid use and the most effective ways for communities to respond. Now, Virginia is using this framework to support its continued response to COVID-19. Data included within FAACT is updated frequently, in some cases, as often as every 15 minutes, to provide Virginia’s leaders with near real-time information to make critical response decisions. As a result, the Commonwealth will be able to quickly identify hospitals in need of supplies and pharmaceuticals, hospitals and regions that have surge capacity (i.e. available hospital beds and ventilators or the ability to quickly stand up an overflow hospital), and locations with the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 cases.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health is updating the format for sharing of data on COVID-19 to provide a more comprehensive look at the pandemic in Tennessee. The new format will begin June 12, 2020, and will include the addition of probable cases to the daily case counts, and a report of total polymerase chain reaction, or PCR tests completed. These data are updated at 2 p.m. Central time daily on the TDH website at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html. The total number of COVID-19 cases will include both laboratory-confirmed cases and probable cases as defined in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance case definitions. The full data report will break these numbers down into confirmed and probable cases for the state and for each county, and will provide figures for confirmed and probable deaths. Demographic information will be reported for the combined total of both confirmed and probable cases. TDH figures for tests completed will comprehensively include those who have been tested multiple times, to provide a more accurate picture of the amount of COVID-19 testing taking place in Tennessee. TDH is only reporting PCR test results. Tennessee’s county health departments continue to offer COVID-19 testing at no charge to anyone who wishes to be tested. Find a map of health department locations and contact information online at www.tn.gov/content/tn/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced a new way for local governments to support agriculture- and forestry-based businesses during the COVID-19 emergency through the governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund Planning Grant program. In response to the ongoing public health crisis, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), which administers the AFID Planning Grant program, will expedite award decisions for applications addressing COVID-19 related challenges. Newly revised program guidelines also provide broad flexibility in the types of projects that can be supported and allow for a reduced local match requirement for economically distressed communities. Funding available through the AFID Planning Grant program is designed to empower localities to develop creative solutions tailored to their unique needs.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is taking a number of important precautions this year as the state recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The COVID-19 pandemic has created new dangers for older Tennesseans who are considered more at risk for severe health complications from the disease. To help protect the elderly, the TDHS Adult Protective Services (APS) program has implemented several changes while conducting investigations into allegations of abuse, neglect (including self neglect), and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults including conducting home visits from outside the home when possible and talking to clients through the door or window, using video apps to be able to safely see and communicate with clients in nursing homes, and utilizing two dry erase boards in one case so that a deaf client could communicate with staff without having to pass a notebook back and forth. Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at www.tn.gov/humanservices.
🔹 The Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency will begin a Commodity Distribution June 23, 2020, at the Hawkins County Bus Shop at 1722 E. Main St. Items will be distributed through a drive-thru option on a first come, first served basis, to income eligible households until all commodities are gone. This will provide for the safety of recipients as well as the volunteers and staff. All recipients must be residents of Tennessee. Each recipient must have a Light Blue colored commodity ID card in order to pick up their commodities. An ID card is obtained by completing an application at the Neighborhood Service Center. We strongly encourage each recipient to complete the application the week prior to the date of your distribution, this will reduce your wait time during the distribution. However, staff will be available on site during the distribution to assist in acquiring a commodity card. If someone is picking up your commodities, they must have your ID card and be authorized on your application; limits to pickup are 10 orders. The distribution will begin at 10 a.m. and will end at noon, or earlier if food is no longer available.
🔹 Today, COVID-19 diagnostic testing data reported by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will reflect a sharp increase in PCR SARS-CoV-2 tests completed in Virginia. Today’s testing report includes 43,000 PCR tests. Two laboratories began electronic reporting to VDH this week, allowing a backlog of negative tests to be included in today’s testing report. Positive test results from these labs were hand entered into the system when they were received to support follow-up by public health staff. The addition of these negative tests will result in a decrease in the percent of positive PCR tests. One lab had roughly 18,000 results and the other had around 13,500 results. The remainder of the figure reflects regular daily reporting. VDH reports labs by lab report date on its website. These results will be presented based on the actual date the laboratory reported the test result.
Thursday, June 11
🔹 The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are reopening more than 20 recreation sites June 11 and 12 across the forests. The Forests are revisiting closure decisions and are opening some sites while working closely with state and local partners and permitted recreation providers. The decision to reopen recreation areas is being made on a case-by-case basis. The Forest Service is reopening sites in phases using a site-by-site approach that includes an assessment of facility cleanliness, maintenance status, and health and safety. The agency is committed to maximizing public access while ensuring the safety and well-being of employees, partners and volunteers. Information about recreation sites status can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation.
🔹 On Monday, June 1, Ballad Health reached a new milestone in its journey to create a common and interoperable health technology platform for all the region’s hospitals and Ballad Health care sites. This system will provide unprecedented access for patients and their doctors, regardless of their affiliation with Ballad Health. Despite an aggressive timetable, made more challenging by the global pandemic limiting access to its integration partners to virtual support, the health system launched the sophisticated Epic electronic health records (EHR) system in physician practices that had been part of legacy Mountain States Health Alliance, joining legacy Wellmont Health System facilities, which have utilized Epic since 2014. The Epic ambulatory launch was also part of larger Ballad Health overhaul to upgrade its computing infrastructure to improve speed, reliability and security. In the past six months, the health system has combined its two legacy networks, and launched a major project to replace 10,000 computers and convert the entire system to Windows 10.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today issued guidance for Virginia public and private higher education institutions as they develop plans to safely reopen their campuses and resume in-person instruction. This guidance document was developed by the Office of the Secretary of Education, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and the Virginia Department of Health, and was informed by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The governor is directing all of Virginia’s colleges and universities to create detailed reopening plans that demonstrate compliance with this new guidance. For more information, read the guidance document available here.
🔹 Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee plans to distribute fresh produce and dairy boxes to families in need on Saturday, June 20 from 9-11:00 a.m. at its location at 1020 Jericho Drive in Kingsport. The fresh produce and dairy boxes are made possible due to the partnership with the USDA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
🔹 Fun Fest is offering a special commemorative shirt to highlight the festival’s recent hiatus status for 2020. Festival staff have worked with Action Athletics to set up an online store. Shirt sales start at $18 for all sizes. Additional shirt styles will be available for sale at various prices. All pick-ups will be done at the Action Athletics store, located at 889 W. Center St., Kingsport, TN 37660. Shipping is also an option for a $10 fee. There is a two-week window for pre-orders. The online store will close at midnight on June 28 to allow time for items to be ordered and printed. After that time, no orders will be accepted. The target date to have orders ready for pick-up at Action Athletics is July 10, pending product availability. Visit https://funfest20.itemorder.com/sale to place your order.
🔹 Tennesseans are showing increased levels of anxiety and depressive disorder post COVID-19. While a national survey conducted in 2019 found that 8.2% of adults have symptoms of anxiety and 6.6% had symptoms of depressive disorder in the previous seven days (CDC, 2020), these numbers were considerably higher in the most recent Tennessee Poll conducted from April 22-May 1 by the Applied Social Research Lab (ASRL) at East Tennessee State University. Slightly more than half (50.4%) of respondents reported they had trouble sleeping in the week prior to the poll – 19.4% had trouble sleeping most or all of the time, 17.7% had trouble sleeping occasionally or a moderate amount of time, and 13.3% had trouble sleeping some or a little of the time. Similarly, a majority (53.5%) reported that they had felt nervous, anxious, or on edge at some point in the previous week. Many also reported feeling depressed (43.4%) and lonely (42.8%). Finally, roughly one in five respondents (18.1%) reported they had experienced physical reactions, such as sweating, trouble breathing, nausea, or a pounding heart when thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released new data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending June 6, 2020. Statewide, 21,417 new claims were filed, along with 292,234 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 699 new claims were filed.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that total General Fund revenue collections fell 20.6% in May, which is slightly better than expected. This is primarily due to delaying the individual tax due date to June 1, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on payroll withholding and retail sales. “The restrictions we put in place to protect the health and safety of Virginians during this pandemic resulted in loss of jobs and of income, and our state revenues reflect that,” said Northam. “As our economy slowly begins to open up, we will continue to closely monitor revenue collections and take responsible steps to guide our economic recovery.”
🔹 Using electronic health record (EHR) data to simulate drug trials for pregnant patients could one day offer a solution to the current practice of delivering babies pre-term if an expectant mother contracts COVID-19, according to a position paper published in “Nature Medicine.” First author Anup Challa and senior author David Aronoff, MD, director, Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) propose that using EHR data to emulate randomized, controlled trials could offer an alternative to delivering all pregnant patients with COVID-19. VUMC has EHRs for more than 2 million patients, which allows investigators to design and conduct “trials” that simulate not only a real trial’s treatment strategies (drug vs. no drug) and outcomes, but also eligibility criteria and random assignment to treatment at baseline. Such trials are arguably “the only ethical way to gather human drug exposure data for pregnant people on a significant scale and across all classes of drugs,” the authors said.
Wednesday, June 10
🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate located in historic downtown Bristol, Virginia-Tennessee, has announced plans for reopening its doors on Thursday, June 11, following a months-long closure due to the threat of COVID-19. In addition, the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) will launch its second annual Bristol Sessions Super Raffle to help ease the financial burden placed on the organization since the museum's closure. Free museum admission will be offered to healthcare workers and one guest of their choice through Aug. 30, 2020, as a "thank you" for their service to the community during the COVID-19 health crisis. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets online prior to their visit, but tickets may also be purchased at the front desk. Guests will be asked to provide their names and email addresses for the purpose of contact tracing. If you have a fever or may be exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with symptoms within a two-week period, please plan to reschedule your visit for another date. Plans to hold concerts in the museum's "acoustically perfect" Performance Theater are still being evaluated. The Bristol Sessions Super Raffle proved to be a major fundraiser for BCM last year as winners walked away with more than $250,000 in cash and big-ticket prizes. This year's Raffle will do the same, and tickets are on sale now for $100 each. Each ticket gives participants two chances to win items such as a 2020 Ford Mustang, a 2020 Toyota Tacoma SR 4x4, an all-inclusive 7-day vacation to a Sandals Resort in Jamaica for two, and much, much more. The drawing will be held on Sunday, September 13 from noon until 4:00 p.m. Participants do not have to be present to win. Tickets can be purchased at BristolSessionsSuperRaffle.org. For more detailed information on museum health and safety guidelines and hours, visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org. To learn more about the Bristol Sessions Super Raffle, visit BristolSessionsSuperRaffle.org.
🔹 Barter Theatre announced plans today to officially begin its 2020 season of live productions with a special series: Barter at the Moonlite. The first production, “The Wizard of Oz,” will premiere July 14, at the Historic Moonlite Drive-In Theatre, located off of Lee Highway in Abingdon, Virginia. In her announcement video, Producing Artistic Director Katy Brown thanked patrons for their continued loyalty during the theatre’s closure and explained that plans for the remainder of the 2020 season would be released in phases throughout the year. Brown also mentioned in her announcement sponsors, Food City and J A Street & Associates, who were responsible for leasing and helping prepare the grounds of the historic Moonlite Drive-In Theatre for Barter’s use. In addition to the video announcement, Barter released a subsequent video explaining that producing at the Moonlite Drive-In was the only way for the theatre to produce this summer while staying in compliance with government safety restrictions. Tickets for both of the productions (“The Wizard of Oz” and “Beauty and the Beast JR”) in the Barter at The Moonlite series will go on sale on bartertheatre.com starting June 16.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today extended Executive Orders Fifty-Seven and Fifty-Eight, which were originally signed in April and were due to expire on June 10. Executive Order Fifty-Seven, originally signed on April 17, implements several policies designed to expand Virginia’s health care workforce to assist with the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response. The order allows for the expanded use of telehealth and authorizes out-of-state licensees to provide in-state care at hospitals, nursing facilities, dialysis facilities, physician offices, and other health care facilities. Northam also extended Executive Order Fifty-Eight, originally signed April 23, which helps ensure Medicaid and Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS) members have continued access to care during the ongoing public health emergency. The two executive orders will remain in effect for the duration for the COVID-19 state of emergency unless amended or rescinded by a further order.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia schools will receive $66.8 million through the federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to expand distance learning opportunities, fund services for students disproportionately impacted by loss of class time, and provide financial assistance to higher education students and institutions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately $23.4 million—one third of GEER funds—will be distributed throughout Virginia’s higher education system, with $18.3 million allocated to public and private four-year institutions and Richard Bland College. The governor will also distribute $175,000 of GEER funds among Virginia’s five higher education centers. In addition to allocating funding directly to every local school division, the ESSER K-12 funding includes a $23.9 million state set aside to fund state-level initiatives.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in coordination with his Unified Command Group will release guidance today on requirements and options permitting Tennessee’s long-term care facilities to provide limited visitation options while keeping their resident populations safe from COVID-19. The UCG guidance is being released in connection with a forthcoming executive order and will permit new forms of visitation beginning Monday June 15, 2020. Separate provisions for visitation involving accommodations for support for residents with disabilities and other critical assistance or end-of-life care also remain in effect.
🔹 Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG) has called upon the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the university’s Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS) to assist in the collection and analysis of survey data. The group will conduct surveys every other week throughout the summer to track citizens’ sense of safety and economic well-being as the state reopens. The first round of data was released online today at core19.utk.edu. According to the data, the economic impacts of COVID-19 are just as real as the health impacts to many Tennesseans. Overall, 77% of respondents support the Tennessee Pledge, and most report taking additional precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The survey polled 1,100 Tennesseans in both metro and rural areas and covers such COVID-related topics as health and economic concerns, personal financial impact, activity reengagement, COVID-19 prevention and Tennessee Pledge.
🔹 To replenish blood supplies that have been affected by COVID-19, Marsh Regional Blood Center has resumed its community-wide blood drives and is holding a four-day blood drive event in honor of World Blood Donor Day, scheduled for June 11-14. The World Blood Donor Day drives will be held at Marsh Regional’s collection centers: 111 W. Stone Drive, Suite 300, Kingsport; 2428 Knob Creek Road, Johnson City; and 1996 W. State St., Bristol. To encourage physical distancing, Marsh Regional will vary its hours of availability: Thursday, June 11: 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport collection centers); Friday, June 12: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport collection centers); Saturday, June 13: 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Kingsport collection center); and Sunday, June 14: noon-4 p.m. (Kingsport collection center). All donors who give during the World Blood Donor Day event will receive a special-edition T-shirt. Additionally, for a limited time, everyone who gives blood with Marsh Regional will receive a $10 Food City gift card. Marsh Regional continues to take appropriate measures to keep donors safe, as well as extra disinfection and sanitization efforts. All donors are required to wear a cloth face covering, such as homemade mask, bandana or buff. An appointment is required before giving blood at any blood center – donors should call (423) 408-7500, (423) 652-0014 or (423) 282-7090 or visit www.marshblood.com for more information about appointments or to schedule a blood drive at a local business, church, school or community organization.
🔹 The business meeting for the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen on June 16, 2020, will allow a limited number of public to attend to comment on agenda items. However, residents wishing to make comments on agenda items are strongly encouraged to use email or a Google form to share their thoughts. If citizens would like to attend the meeting, held in City Hall at 7 p.m., the courtroom has a limited physical capacity of 16. Once the courtroom is full, the public is welcome to wait in the lobby until it is their turn to give their public comment. Citizens that attend are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing and wear their masks during the course of the meeting. The meeting will be available via livestream on the city website (www.kingsporttn.gov). Viewers can watch by clicking on the ‘Livestream Video’ box on the homepage. The meeting will also air on Charter channel 192. The meeting audio will be posted to the city website within two days of the meeting. The Google form link for BMA comments is https://bit.ly/BMA_June16_2020. The email submission form is available at https://www.kingsporttn.gov/government/comments-or-questions/.
🔹 Wilderness Resorts and Waterparks officials today announced that Soaky Mountain Waterpark will officially open for business on Saturday, June 27, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The new, massive state-of-the-art 50-acre waterpark is located at 175 Gists Creek Road in Sevierville. Due to the COVID-19, waterpark officials are strongly encouraging guests to purchase their daily admission tickets in advance at soakymountainwaterpark.com due to restricted capacity levels. Season pass holders will be accommodated. Masks will be optional in the park and not allowed in or on any water attractions.
Tuesday, June 9
🔹 Hands On! Discovery Center has announced a phased reopening beginning Tuesday, June 16, with modified safety precautions in place. During this first phase, the Discovery Center will have an adjusted schedule and will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. with limited capacity. Guests are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance on the Discovery Center's webpage. Annual membership card holders are also asked to register their visit online in advance. Two blocks of time are available for pre-purchased tickets: a morning block from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. or an afternoon block from 2-5 p.m. Face masks are required for everyone age 4 and older for the duration of the visit. All guests must use hand sanitizer upon entry. Guests are asked to social distance at least 6 feet from other guests. Paleo tours, Tesla Experience shows, Eastman Discovery Lab programs, and guided art studio programs are temporarily suspended. Certain exhibits may be modified or temporarily offline to ensure proper sanitation and cleanliness. Some exhibits may be temporarily closed, including the Paleo Tower. Additional cleaning measures are being implemented for all areas of the Discovery Center, including daily deep cleanings. Extra hand sanitizing stations and portable hand washing stations have also been added. Tickets may be purchased online at https://visithandson.org/tickets.
🔹 The Channels Natural Area Preserve will reopen Wednesday, June 10, with a few changes in place to protect both visitors and sensitive natural resources. The parking lot off Virginia Highway 80 will be limited to 10 vehicles at one time. Visitors are asked to come back later should the lot be full when they arrive. Parking will not be permitted along Highway 80. “No parking” signs have been posted, and violators will be ticketed. Once inside the narrow Channels formations, visitors need to be especially mindful of social distancing guidelines. Visitors should keep ample distance from others, and alter routes when other visitors are encountered so as to avoid passing too closely. Groups of more than four persons should avoid going into the Channels at one time. The preserve is owned by the Virginia Department of Forestry and is part of The Channels State Forest in Washington and Russell counties. Updates related to Virginia natural area preserves and COVID-19 are posted at www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/nap-covid-19.
🔹 The Abingdon Farmers Market will return to the Abingdon Market Pavilion on Saturday, June 13, from 10 a.m. until noon. The market will continue to be held weekly on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. At this time, there will not be a Tuesday Market. No one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted in the farmers market. On-site shopping is allowed, as long as physical distancing guidelines are adhered to. At this time, only 50 customers at a time will be allowed into the market. Patrons can still pre-order at https://www.facebook.com/groups/AbingdonFarmersMarketDirect/.
🔹 The Board of Directors of the Appalachian Fair announced Tuesday that this year’s fair, scheduled for Aug. 24-29, has been canceled. The board made the decision based on guidance and recommendations from the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Department, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the CDC, according to a news release. Plans are already in the works for next year’s fair, which is set for Aug. 23-28, 2021.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced a phased approach that allows Virginia schools to slowly resume in-person classes for summer school and the coming academic year. The K-12 phased reopening plan was developed by the Office of the Secretary of Education, Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Department of Education and is informed by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All PreK-12 schools in Virginia will be required to deliver new instruction to students for the 2020-2021 academic year, regardless of the operational status of school buildings. The PreK-12 guidance is aligned with the phases outlined in the Forward Virginia blueprint and provides opportunities for school divisions to begin offering in-person instruction to specific student groups. Local school divisions will have discretion on how to operationalize within each phase and may choose to offer more limited in-person options than the phase permits, if local public health conditions necessitate. Entry into each phase is dependent on public health gating criteria, corresponding with the Forward Virginia plan. School divisions will have flexibility to implement plans based on the needs of their localities, within the parameters of the Commonwealth’s guidance.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, between 3-5 p.m. This is to test for current virus infection and is not antibody testing. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling, and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at SVCHS’ administration building in Meadowview, Virginia. Appointments are available on Thursday, June 18, 2020, between 3-5 p.m. at SVCHS’ administration building, located at 13191 Glenbrook Ave., Meadowview, Virginia 24361. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 The Johnson City Community Health Center and the Johnson City Downtown Day Center, which are managed by the East Tennessee State University College of Nursing, a part of ETSU Health, have implemented policies to help ensure that patients continue receiving important medical care throughout the pandemic. “The Johnson City Community Health Center and the Johnson City Downtown Day Center are available for insured and uninsured patients during these uncertain times,” said Silas Tolan, executive director of ETSU College of Nursing Community Health Centers. “If you are recently uninsured due to unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are here for you. Our services are offered on a sliding fee scale for the patient portion of the bill, and the slide is based on household size and current income. The sliding fee scale is offered to uninsured and insured patients alike.” To make an appointment, call the Johnson City Community Health Center at (423) 926-2500 or the Johnson City Downtown Day Center at (423) 439-7371.
🔹 Starting on June 9, the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) COVID-19 data dashboard will reflect 13,000 additional tests that were backlogged. Over the next couple of days, this new information will be slowly added to the current data, which will result in an influx of results. A Richmond area laboratory had previously been providing test results via fax, which had to be entered manually by VDH staff, contributing to the backlog. VDH staff had prioritized positive test results, which means the remaining backlog largely includes negative tests. The lab is now submitting test results electronically. This change alleviates by half the reporting backlog of test results. VDH continues to work to eliminate that backlog.
🔹 Vanderbilt University and the global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca have signed a new agreement that will enable AstraZeneca to advance two coronavirus-neutralizing antibodies discovered by the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC) into clinical development as a potential combination therapy for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. The agreement announced today builds on the recent collaboration between AstraZeneca, Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). The VVC is part of VUMC, while ownership of “inventions” by VUMC’s employees are assigned to Vanderbilt University (VU) under an intellectual property and associated technology transfer agreement between VU and VUMC. After evaluating the ability of more than 1,500 monoclonal antibodies to bind and neutralize the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2, in the laboratory, AstraZeneca signed an exclusive license to six candidate antibodies in Vanderbilt’s portfolio. The company plans to progress two of these antibodies into clinical evaluation as a combination approach within the next two months. The antibodies target two distinct parts of the surface “spike” protein that enables the virus to bind to and fuse with the host cell membrane. The goal is to neutralize the virus and to limit its ability to infect healthy cells.
Monday, June 8
🔹 Northeast State Community College will start classes one week earlier this fall and end the semester by Thanksgiving. Classes will begin Aug. 17 and end Nov. 24. The college will observe the Labor Day holiday, but there will be no fall break, which is typically two days. The Tennessee Board of Regents approved the compressed semester schedule change. The decision is designed to protect students and employees from a possible resurgence of coronavirus infections in late fall. The fall schedule will contain a variety of teaching modalities to include in-person, online and hybrid course offerings. Any courses that are held in person this fall will include social-distancing and sanitation protocols that will be in effect across all campuses. A committee has been charged to consider course modality changes and scenarios should COVID-19 outbreaks occur before Thanksgiving. The college will be sending a washable mask to all students before the fall semester with information about the fall schedule with protocols for campus and classroom access.
🔹 Cabins and lodges at Natural Tunnel State Park will reopen Friday. Campgrounds and yurts are currently open. Possible interruptions in service may occur, so visitors are encouraged to call the park at (276) 940-2674. The Visitors Center, Cove Ridge Center, Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center and John Anderson Wilderness Road Blockhouse remain closed. The chairlift is operating on an altered schedule. The swimming pool will remain closed for the season. All ranger-led programs are canceled. Trails for hiking and biking remain open. Picnic tables, grills and restrooms are also open.
🔹 The Tennessee Valley Fair Executive Committee has decided that the 2020 fair, scheduled to be held September 11-20, will not be taking place. Due to difficulties in planning caused by COVID-19, organizers could not create the safe and enjoyable fair experience that guests have come to know and love. “We look forward to brighter days ahead when we can gather again to celebrate with everyone,” a statement reads. “We are already focusing on how to bring you a fresh experience next year and the many years to come. Thank you so much for your support, and we look forward to seeing you September 10-19, 2021!”
🔹 Not since World War II has there failed to be a Tennessee State Fair held in Nashville, but, due to health concerns imposed by COVID-19, the more than 150-year-old event this year is being shuttered, although fair officials note that plans are still in the making for some activities to be open for the public's participation. Members of the Tennessee State Fair Association board held lengthy sessions twice last week to discuss what “the right decision should be” with regards to producing this year's fair, which was scheduled for Sept. 11-20. Staff are developing plans to have a number of activities during the 10-day period that the fair was scheduled to be held. Plans being considered include contests, exhibits, the presence of certain carnival-like vendors, and virtual and/or digital events. Additional announcements are to be made in the weeks ahead. For more information about the Tennessee State Fair, visit tnstatefair.org.
🔹 Mountain Home National Cemetery will resume committal services for families who are interring their loved ones on June 9. Mountain Home National Cemetery has remained open for interments and visitation throughout the pandemic. Unfortunately, as a matter of health and safety, the cemetery began deferring committal services and military funeral honors on March 23. Families with interments scheduled on or after June 9 will be offered the option of a committal service at the time of interment. Military funeral honors, customarily provided by the Department of Defense and volunteer honor guards, will be based on local availability. Mountain Home National Cemetery continues to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In doing so, it will limit the number of individuals attending committal services, require all attendees to practice physical distancing between individuals not from the same household, ensure all attendees and employees wear face coverings, encourage frequent use of hand sanitizer and ask sick individuals to stay home. In keeping with federal, Tennessee, and local guidance, committal and memorial services at Mountain Home National Cemetery will be limited to 10 family members and guests at the service. Cemetery employees, funeral home personnel and military honors providers will not count toward the family’s limit on attendees. Families may continue to choose a direct interment without a service and opt for a memorial service later when all restrictions have been lifted. Memorial services for veterans and eligible family members who were interred without a committal service between March 23 and June 8 will commence in July. Cemetery representatives will be reaching out to these families in the coming weeks to discuss their options and schedule a memorial service, if desired. Families may also contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office or the cemetery directly to schedule a memorial service after June 29.
🔹 The Blountville Ruritan Club would like the community to know that it will be having an Independence Day parade this year. The annual Blountville Ruritan Independence Day Parade will be Saturday, July 4, at 2 p.m., starting at Oak Street/Keystone Drive on the east side of town and ending at the old Sullivan County courthouse in downtown Blountville. Line-up for the parade begins about 1 p.m. Participants should line up on Oak Street, Cherry Street and Keystone Drive. Stay on one side of the street to allow traffic to continue to pass. Signage will be in place to help facilitate line-up. Search for Blountville Ruritan on Facebook for more details.
🔹 The Unicoi County Health Department is hosting a COVID-19 drive-through testing event for the community June 10. Nurses will collect nasal swabs from those who want to be tested, and test results will be available within 72 hours. You do not have to live in the county to be tested at this event. Sample collection for testing will be offered at the Town of Unicoi Tourist Information Center from 3-6 p.m. No appointment or pre-registration is needed.
🔹 COVID-19 is affecting all of us, but it is disproportionately affecting the families Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee serves. In one week, requests to its team for essential services -- food, healthcare, rent assistance, behavioral health -- increased by more than 6,000%. Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee is uniquely positioned to provide out-of-school, virtual support, and its mentors continue to serve as a vital source of consistency and connection. Yet, in the midst of this crisis, Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee faces an $80,000 fiscal year budget shortfall. You can help the organization bridge the gap by donating by June 30 at TennesseeBig.org/Shortfall or by texting DONATE to 865-290-7762.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced a temporary statewide moratorium on all eviction proceedings in Virginia. The governor requested this moratorium in a letter sent to Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Lemons this weekend. The Chief Justice’s order issued today remains in effect through June 28 and modifies the court’s earlier Declaration of Judicial Emergency in response to COVID-19. The temporary moratorium will halt all eviction proceedings for a period of nearly three weeks, as the Northam administration implements a comprehensive rent relief program for the thousands of Virginians facing housing insecurity in the midst of this public health crisis.
🔹 U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee today announced that three local cities have received Department of Justice grants to respond to the public safety challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19. The grants are available under the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program, authorized by the recent stimulus legislation signed by President Trump. Other jurisdictions can determine if they are eligible for funds and may apply immediately by visiting this website. The Justice Department is moving quickly, awarding grants on a rolling basis and aiming to have funds available for drawdown as soon as possible after receiving applications. The city of Kingsport received $75,845, the city of Johnson City received $52,724, and the city of Morristown received $43,683.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley today announced that revenues for May were $981.9 million, which is $197.3 million less than the budgeted monthly revenue estimate. State tax revenues were $184.7 million less than May 2019 and the overall revenue for the month represented a negative growth rate of 15.83%. “May sales tax collections represent consumer spending that occurred during April, when Tennesseans were staying at home and many businesses were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Eley said. “While sales of autos, apparel, furniture and restaurants dropped extensively, building materials and food stores sales experienced considerable growth. The state also realized large drops in gasoline tax receipts, motor vehicle title and registration taxes and mixed drink revenues.”
🔹 The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers to guard against tax fraud and other related financial scams related to COVID-19. In the last few months, the IRS Criminal Investigation division (CI) has seen a variety of Economic Impact Payment (EIP) scams and other financial schemes looking to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers. CI continues to work with law enforcement agencies domestically and abroad to educate taxpayers about these scams and investigate the criminals perpetrating them during this challenging time. Coronavirus-related (COVID-19) scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
Sunday, June 7
🔹 Barter Theatre announced today, via their social media pages, that the details of the start of their live 2020 season will be released Wednesday, June 10, at 7:30 p.m. on Facebook. The post read “Join us Wednesday at 7:30 pm on Facebook for the announcement that we have all been waiting for. Katy Brown will share when, and where, Barter's first live 2020 production will be. Don't miss it!”
🔹 Be Red Cross Ready is a free preparedness education curriculum for communities designed to help people understand, prepare for, and respond appropriately to disasters. Be Red Cross Ready webinars will be offered at 1 p.m. (CST) Tuesdays, June 9, 16, 23 and 30. To register, visit the following link: https://bit.ly/VirtualRedCrossReady.
Saturday, June 6
🔹 Washington County Public Library - Jonesborough and Gray branches - will be participating in the Second Harvest Summer Feeding program. Both libraries will be distributing weekend food boxes to any family in need. We will begin the program on Monday, June 8, and will continue through the summer until supplies run out. In order to receive your food boxes, you will need to call us from our parking lot during our business hours (10 am.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday) and give us your name, phone number, the number of people in your household, and the number of children in your household. Once we get your information, you may drive up to our curbside service location and an employee will bring out your box and place them in your vehicle.
Friday, June 5
🔹 The historic General Morgan Inn in Greeneville will reopen its guest rooms at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 15, according to General Manager Bronson Winters. New protocols at the hotel include increased deep cleaning, hand-sanitizer stations in public areas, plexiglass partitions at the front desk check-in area, and separate designated entrance and exit doors for the public, he said. The hotel temporarily closed its doors three months ago as a precaution due to the coronavirus pandemic. Brumley’s Restaurant will reopen at a later date for dinner and weekend brunch only with a special menu, Winters said. Reservations are now being accepted for guest rooms and future group events at the hotel, located at 111 N. Main St. in historic downtown Greeneville. For more information, call the hotel at (423) 787-1000.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will soon be announcing his plans for reopening schools across Virginia. Once those details are released, VHSL staff along with the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), will review the Governor’s guidelines and develop a plan to reopen athletics and academic activities that are not in conflict with his plan.
🔹 The Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency will begin a Commodity Distribution in Bristol on June 16, 2020, at Realife Church at 1317 Weaver Pike and in Kingsport on June 17, 2020, at Christ Fellowship Church at 260 Victory Lane. Items will be distributed through a drive-thru option on a first come, first served basis, to income eligible households until all commodities are gone. This will provide for the safety of recipients as well as the volunteers and staff. All recipients must be residents of Tennessee. Each recipient must have a Light Blue colored commodity ID card in order to pick up their commodities. An ID card is obtained by completing an application at the Neighborhood Service Center. Each recipient is encouraged to complete the application the week prior to the date of your distribution, this will reduce your wait time during the distribution. However, staff will be available on site during the distribution to assist in acquiring a commodity card. If someone is picking up your commodities, they must have your ID card and be authorized on your application; limits to pickup are 10 orders. The distribution will begin at 10 a.m. and will end at noon, or earlier if food is no longer available.
Thursday, June 4
🔹 Due to COVID-19, the Town of Gate City has canceled its July 25 concert featuring Hootie and the BroFish and Matchbox 2.0. Town Manager Greg Jones said organizers hope to reschedule the event for July of 2021.
🔹 Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Kingsport Diabetes Association will be holding its June meeting via conference call. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 9, at 7 p.m. Retired CVS Pharmacist David Thompson and KDA member Grant Thompson will be presenting. To access the meeting, dial 1-978-990-5184, access code 2692346, and then #. Please mute your phone or try to be in a quiet space during the meeting. Feel free to unmute during the meeting for questions or comments. Everyone is welcome.
🔹 Pivoting to online delivery continues for University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture summer field days, with the Green Industry Field Day scheduled for June 16 going virtual. Four online sessions will be offered for industry professionals ranging from landscape contractors, arborists, garden center operators and nursery producers. The field day is free to attend but pre-registration is required. Registration is available online at tiny.utk.edu/greenindustryrsvp. For more information about other UT Institute of Agriculture field days, visit agresearch.tennessee.edu or contact your local county Extension office.
🔹 Barter Theatre is continuing its virtual event series “Inside Barter” into June. Inside Barter events are gatherings held every Thursday evening over Zoom, where Barter artists discuss productions and share insight into their artistic experiences. To register for Inside Barter Events, visit bartertheatre.com.
🔹 Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians (GSCSA) will be selling Girl Scout Cookies by way of a drive-through cookie booth on Saturday, June 6, at the Johnson City Girl Scout Service Center, 1100 Woodland Ave., from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Since the disruption of cookie booths due to COVID-19, GSCSA has sold nearly 27,000 boxes of cookies through the national and local Digital Cookie store, but still have around 120,000 boxes on hand. In the interest of girl safety, this “booth” will only be worked by adult volunteers. The sale will be outdoors, physical distancing guidelines will be followed, and masks will be worn by those working the booth.
🔹 Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group continues to advance the state’s reopening plan, issuing updated guidelines today for close contact service businesses, exercise facilities and recreation activities under the Tennessee Pledge. In addition, the ERG added recommendations for large community events to the previously issued guidance for attractions and large venues. Events like fairs, festivals, expos and parades may be held in accordance with social distancing guidelines, and the ERG has provided additional recommendations to mitigate COVID-19 transmission. Updated guidelines for close contact services, exercise facilities and recreation activities now focus on social distancing measures rather than strict capacity limits. In addition, the guidelines for close contact businesses also provide guidance for resuming certain services that require the removal of face-coverings. ERG also expanded guidance for attractions and large venues to include recommendations for large community events such as fairs and festivals. To protect Tennesseans from the spread of COVID-19, venues should implement measures to encourage social distancing, reduce occupancy and crowd density, encourage the use of cloth face coverings and increase sanitization.
🔹 The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) wants to ensure all Virginians, including those participating in ongoing protests, know how to access publicly-available COVID-19 tests. The nature of large protests means the virus may spread more easily there, especially if protesters are not wearing masks. VDH has communicated with Local Health Districts where protests have occurred. It is encouraging those districts to share information with protesters about community testing events and pharmacy locations where COVID-19 tests are available. Individuals who have attended protests may be at higher risk of infection of COVID-19. VDH suggests protesters wear masks, wash hands frequently, stay six feet apart from others in crowds, and, if symptoms appear, stay home and call their health care provider. All Virginians may get tested if they experience symptoms of COVID-19 or if they believe they have been exposed to others with infections. Find publicly-available tests at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/covid-19-testing-sites/.
🔹 The Town of Greeneville is moving forward with the eighth annual American Downtown celebration with live music, fireworks and a parade beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 4. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 celebration is being transformed from a downtown focus into a citywide event, according to organizer Amy Rose, public relations manager for the Town of Greeneville. The Andrew Johnson Bank Parade will be caravan style. Entries will be vehicle only. The caravan will travel slowly throughout the city, including a portion of U.S. Highway 11E (Bypass), so no floats, horses or walking entries will be allowed. Separate locations throughout the city have been identified for concerts by Aaron Walker Band, Imperial Inc. featuring 7 Figgas, The Flying J’s, and Strong Ties bluegrass gospel. The goal is to include the concert locations along the caravan route, both of which will be announced soon. The American Downtown Fireworks show will continue this year behind Greene High School’s Burley Stadium. Spectators are encouraged to practice social distancing to enjoy the 10 p.m. show. Food trucks for American Downtown will be located citywide. Locations will be announced soon. The Kids Zone has been canceled due to safety concerns. For kids, American Downtown will offer a new Superhero Art Contest, created by Rose’s niece, Khloe Overbay. To enter, kids and teens can draw or color a representation of their superheroes and submit them by email to email@example.com or drop them off at Town Hall. Prizes will be awarded in age groups ranging from 5 to 18. For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/TownofGreeneville or www.greenevilletn.gov.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s administration today outlined new spending plans for state government that reflect significant revenue reductions due to the economic impact of COVID-19. In March, the administration and the General Assembly agreed on $397 million in recurring reductions at the onset of COVID-19, and the administration is proposing an additional $284 million in reductions for FY 20-21, bringing the total to $681 million in reductions. Hiring and expenditure freezes have also been in place since March. The state will close the current fiscal year on June 30 with unbudgeted non-tax revenues, agency savings and reserves. In FY 20-21, the state will utilize reserves to lessen the impact of immediate spending reductions, allowing for thoughtful review of business practices for greater efficiencies and creative delivery of vital services as well as the development of strategic plans to reduce the employee workforce over the next two years. The state has reserve funds totaling $4 billion, including the Rainy Day Fund, which will reach $1.2 billion after an additional deposit of $325 million at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released new data on unemployment claims for the week ending May 30, 2020. Statewide, 22,784 new claims were filed, along with 302,260 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 694 new claims were filed.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has already approved more than $545 million in payments to producers who have applied for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. FSA began taking applications May 26, and the agency has received over 86,000 applications for this important relief program. FSA will accept applications through August 28, 2020. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion in financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities. In order to do this, producers will receive 80% of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date nationwide, as funds remain available.
🔹 The Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act – bipartisan legislation he supported that provides the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) additional flexibility for the more than 85,000 Tennessee small businesses who have received forgivable loans through the program. The bill triples the amount of time small businesses have to use the funds and extends the deadline for small businesses to apply for a PPP loan from June 30, 2020, to December 31, 2020.
🔹 Pediatricians at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are stressing the continued importance of well-child visit for infants, children and adolescents, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. If your child had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is doing well, parents and children should follow isolation guidelines to avoid contact with other children and families (and especially people who are older than 65 or have chronic illnesses).
Wednesday, June 3
🔹 The Tusculum University softball program has announced the date for its Summer Prospect Camp announced TU head coach Julie Huebner. The one-day camp will be held at Red Edmonds Softball Field located on the Greeneville campus and will be held Tuesday, June 30 from 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Coach Huebner and her staff will teach advanced softball skills with the campers having the opportunity to showcase their ability. Participants will complete drills, increase their knowledge of the game and meet members of the Tusculum softball team. For more information, contact Coach Huebner at (423) 636-7300 ext. 5131 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
🔹 The Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia’s office in Jonesborough has reopened to the public. The archives located in the Visitor’s Center remain closed. Interested researchers should contact the Heritage Alliance directly at (423) 753-9580 for assistance. The Architectural Salvage Warehouse will resume regular operations on Saturday, June 6. The warehouse will be open from 8 a.m. to noon on the first and third Saturdays of the month through the end of September. The Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum has also reopened to the public. This is the first stage of the museum’s reopening, and some changes have been made. Decisions regarding History Happy Hour and all other programs on a case by case basis. Follow the Heritage Alliance and Chester Inn Museum on Facebook to receive up-to-date information.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Education today announced an additional $5 million dollars will be available for Tennessee school districts to provide compensatory services and support innovative approaches to the remediation of students with disabilities due to extended COVID-19 related school closures. These one-time, compensatory grant funds will be disbursed to districts July 1 as an increase in districts’ federal IDEA part B formula funding. Allocations are based on each district’s relative share of the state’s IDEA part B allocations for the most recent year for which the department has final allocations (FY20). Districts will then be able to budget these additional funds in concert with their FY21 allocation for IDEA part B for the purposes of providing compensatory services required by law.
🔹 East Tennessee State University’s Future Operations Workgroup, which was tasked with developing a plan for academics and services to return to campus, released its recommendations today for a phased return beginning this month. The report includes a series of operational stages, 1-4, designed to address the need for loosening or restricting physical distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ETSU moved all of its teaching online and the majority of its employees have been working remotely since March. This was Stage 1 of the university’s plan. In recent days, the university entered Stage 2, or the process of transitioning back to campus. A soft opening will begin on June 15, at which time some employees will return to their offices working on rotational schedules, while others continue to work remotely. This period of transition will be in preparation to welcome the public back to ETSU by July 1. All summer courses will be taught online as planned; however, some experiential learning opportunities may be offered in-person on a case-by-case basis. The university will transition into Stage 3 at the beginning of the fall semester when ETSU fully plans to offer face-to-face instruction whenever possible and to have students living within its residence halls and observing appropriate safety precautions that will be outlined in the Residence Life Operations Plan. The recommendations also outline decisions that will need to be made regarding calendars and other events during the fall semester. ETSU will continue to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the State of Tennessee and other entities in making those decisions. Some decisions will be subject to approval from the university’s Board of Trustees.
🔹 The Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (TNAAP) is strongly encouraging families during the COVID-19 pandemic to contact their doctor’s office for newborn, child and adolescent medical and behavioral health care for appointments for urgent, preventive, chronic and specialty care issues. ETSU Health Pediatrics has utilized rapid innovations and adjusted its clinical procedures so that patient visits can be conducted safely in the doctor’s office, through online telemedicine video or phone visits from the family’s home, or by combination. The State of Tennessee considers well child visits and vaccinations essential services. For families who do not want to come into the clinic, ETSU Health has implemented telemedicine for both well and sick visits. Currently the clinic has separate times and procedures in place for well and sick visits in order to help prevent the spread of COVID. The clinic staff will take the temperature and ask a few questions of all patients and their families upon entering the clinic. All the staff, the patients 2 years and older and their parents/guardians are required to wear masks during all visits to the clinic. In addition, only one parent/guardian is allowed back in the clinic with the patient. For more information or to schedule an appointment with ETSU Health Pediatrics, call (423) 439-7320 or visit www.etsuhealth.org.
🔹 Nonprofit organizations from Johnson City to Memphis in all nine Tennessee Congressional districts will receive more than $300,000 from Humanities Tennessee in the first round of CARES Act relief funding. The 64 recipient organizations provide public humanities programming in communities throughout Tennessee. The average award is $5,000. Second round applications are being accepted through June 15, with awards to follow by the end of the month. For eligibility criteria, visit www.HumTN.org.
Tuesday, June 2
🔹 After continued evaluation of both the local and global impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the PDGA and Visit Johnson City staff have made the difficult decision to postpone the world championship event scheduled for August 22-29. This event will be postponed until 2021, with previously awarded 2021 World Championship bids moving back to 2022. New dates for each event will be released when they are available, and future announcements will address any changes to points qualifications for these competitions. Visit www.2020promastersworlds.com for more information.
🔹 To ensure the Appalachian Highlands has a sufficient supply of lifesaving blood donations, Marsh Regional Blood Center has resumed its community-wide blood drives. Marsh Regional continues to take appropriate measures to reduce donors’ potential exposure to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as well as extra disinfection and sanitization efforts and additional physical distancing precautions wherever possible. COVID-19 does not pose any known risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives, and blood donation centers always take steps to prevent team members and donors who are not feeling well or who have a fever from reaching the donor area. Additionally, donors are required to wear a cloth face covering, such as homemade mask, bandana or buff, at all times on in collection centers or mobile units, and they might be requested to wait in their cars until it’s their turn to give. Visit www.marshblood.com for more information.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today signed Executive Order Sixty-Five and presented the second phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to continue safely and gradually easing public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. The Governor also amended Executive Order Sixty-One directing Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond to remain in Phase One. Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures. Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting, and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction. The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two. Phase Two guidelines for specific sectors can be found here.
🔹 By Executive Order No. 34 issued by Gov. Bill Lee on May 6, 2020, the Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold its regular monthly meeting electronically on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, at 6 p.m. In light of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and to help prevent its spread and in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, there will be no physical access permitted by the public at the physical location of the meeting. The meeting will be conducted electronically, and members of the public can attend and listen to the meeting electronically via www.k12k.com - Homepage - Latest News or watch live on the KCS Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/KptSchools). Alternatively, the audio archive of the meeting will be available at www.k12k.com - Board - Board Schedule & Notes within two business days of the meeting.
🔹 The much-awaited opening of the State Street Farmer’s Market in Bristol is set for 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 6, with some slight changes from recent years. In an effort to provide additional room for social distancing, the market has been relocated to the Bristol, Tennessee Municipal Parking Lot just off Shelby Street. Ample parking is available in the adjacent lot, which can be accessed from Anderson Street. Only two customers will be permitted at each vendor’s table at a given time. Others should wait at the 6-foot marker for their turn. Vendors will handle items and bag them for customers. The market will initially be open on Saturdays only from 8 a.m. to noon.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group announced a new relief program for Tennessee businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tennessee Business Relief Program will direct approximately $200 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds through the Department of Revenue directly to small businesses that qualify. The Tennessee Business Relief Program amounts awarded will be based on the annual gross sales of the business. More details will be posted on the Department of Revenue’s website in the coming days.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, between 3-5 p.m. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at SVCHS’ Administration building in Meadowview, Virginia. Appointments are available on Thursday, June 11, 2020 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. at SVCHS’ Administration building located at 13191 Glenbrook Avenue, Meadowview, Virginia 24361. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 PINK® Jeep® Tours is taking visitors through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with a new perk. “To keep social distancing, guests now have the unique opportunity to explore from the comfort of ‘their own’ pink Jeeps with our expertly trained guides behind the wheel. To limit potential exposures, each tour in our open-air, iconic pink Jeeps is a single-family or private tour right now,” PINK® Jeep® Tours President John Fitzgibbons explained. “There’s no better way for you and your family to enjoy a great time in the great outdoors – together.” PINK® Jeep® Tours is embracing a number of safety protocols to keep employees and guests safe. Protective see-through shields were installed between guides and guest areas on each tour vehicle. Jeeps will be sanitized between each use. Guests and employees are required to have a touchless temperature check showing a body temperature less than 100.4 degrees. Face masks must be worn at all times and are complimentary if guests arrive without their own. PINK® Jeep® Tours expanded to Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains last year. For more information, visit www.PinkJeepTours.com or call (844) 710-PINK (7465).
🔹 The Town of Jonesborough has created a plan for a phased reopening. As additional federal and state recommendations are released, amendments to the town’s plan may be issued. Phase two of the town’s plan began on May 27 and includes the opening of Town Hall with social distancing practices and guidelines in place, glass shields installed at all service counters to promote physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitizing of public areas and restrooms, etc. The town continues to encourage citizens to make payments by phone at (423) 753-1040, or through online bill pay, bank auto-draft, mail or drop boxes (available at the back of the post pffice parking lot, and the door outside the water department). For more information regarding the town’s reopening plan, visit jonesboroughtn.org.
🔹 In light of COVID-19, tnAchieves has been working to support TN Promise students across the state by implementing new ways to offer encouragement and connect virtually. The TN Promise college cohort now has the opportunity to connect virtually with a tnAchieves staff member on an online platform of choice, including Zoom and Skype. tnAchieves’ virtual coaching sessions provide one-on-one and group setting discussions, allowing students to ask questions, engage with peers and create support systems. To date, over 1,250 students have participated in a coach-led virtual meeting. tnAchieves has also leveraged partnerships with stakeholders statewide to provide virtual community service opportunities to all TN Promise students. With more than 20 webinar options, students can earn community service hours and choose from a variety of topics including leadership, perspectives from college professors and insight to college from current TN Promise students. The webinars also introduce students to numerous careers and fields of study. The tnAchieves staff is continuing to be fully available to all students and parents throughout this unprecedented time. Students in need of support can email email@example.com or visit tnachieves.org for a complete list of tnAchieves contacts.
🔹 From tips on how to follow the latest COVID-19 statistics to information about how to stay safe and healthy, East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health has created a clearinghouse of information related to the pandemic. The webpage, www.etsu.edu/cph/covid19.php, contains public service announcements, useful tools and links to helpful resources. It also features a series of short videos on various aspects of COVID-19. The videos are updated weekly. The most recent installments include a weekly update of the pandemic and a video titled “COVID-19 and the Appalachian Highlands.” The site also hosts longer videos and conference recordings. Visitors to the site can also link to the Tennessee COVID-19 County Status map, which was created by the Geoinformatics and Disaster Science (GADS) Lab in ETSU’s Department of Geosciences, in cooperation with faculty in the ETSU College of Public Health. This map is updated daily with the number of cases and deaths reported by county, as well as the totals of tests performed and recoveries, based on information from the Tennessee Department of Health. This dashboard also provides other location-based resources, including hospitals, urgent care facilities and nursing homes, as well as links to assessment sites, regional statistics, and COVID-19 information and resources. In addition, the GADS Lab has created a corresponding Central Blue Ridge COVID-19 Tracking dashboard that covers not only the counties of Northeast Tennessee but also the neighboring counties of Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia.
Monday, June 1
🔹 The Town of Unicoi is canceling tomorrow’s opening of the Farmers Market and Community Yard Sale in response to today’s announcement of more than 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Scott’s Farms and a total of more than 45 within the county. An announcement will be made once a new opening date has been set, but the town does not expect that date to be within the next three weeks. The Town of Unicoi appreciates the community's understanding as staff continue to work to keep the municipality safe and healthy.
🔹 Mountain Empire Community College is canceling the 16th Annual Mountain Music School, following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for summer camps. MECC Mountain Music School Coordinator Dr. Michael Gilley said the cancellation is “in the best interest of the health and safety of the students, faculty, and staff during this pandemic. We look forward to hosting Mountain Music School in July 2021.” MECC’s Mountain Music School is a week-long event dedicated to the preservation and continuation of Appalachian music and culture. Students from age 10 and up learn to play an instrument of their choice, including beginning and advanced options in “old-time” fiddle, claw-hammer banjo, autoharp, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, shape note singing, and dog house bass. More than 100 students participate each year from all over the nation and world. The majority of youth students attend on scholarship.
🔹 Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) announced his monthly constituent services outreach for Sullivan County, normally scheduled for 9-11 a.m. at the Slater Community Center, will be handled remotely for the month of June. This is not a cancellation of constituent service hours, but another way the congressman can effectively assist his constituents with the extraordinary measures put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Congressman Roe’s staff continues to be available for designated office hours Monday through Friday at 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. to assist First District constituents. To speak with one of the district representatives in our Kingsport office, call (423) 247-8161. All telephone messages left will be returned in a timely manner.
🔹 Tennesseans who utilize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to feed their families now have a new resource to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved Tennessee for a pilot program that allows SNAP benefits to be used to buy food online with Amazon and Walmart. SNAP recipients will be able to use their benefits to buy food on Amazon beginning June 1, 2020. Walmart will accept SNAP benefits at two locations (577 N. Germantown Parkway in Cordova and 4150 Ringgold Road in East Ridge) on June 1 and statewide on June 2. The USDA has additionally announced plans to expand online purchasing to more retailers in the future. Families can access this new resource by entering their Electronic Benefit Card (EBT) information on Amazon's SNAP dedicated website or by following the guidelines Walmart has established for SNAP online purchasing.
🔹 Tennessee State Parks are offering volunteer events at all 56 state parks and two state natural areas, most on Saturday, June 27, for Tennessee Promise scholars to fulfill their community service hours. Space is limited at each site due to COVID-19. Participants are asked to bring masks or face coverings, not attend if they are sick and to volunteer at a site close to their home. Everyone will be asked to remain six feet apart. Students are encouraged to register as soon as possible. Details about service hours can be found at https://tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/tn-promise-saturday.
🔹 The Supreme Court of Virginia issued a fifth order modifying and extending the declaration of judicial emergency. The order will be in effect from June 8, 2020, through June 28, 2020. The declaration may be extended for additional periods as provided in Va. Code § 17.1-330(E).
🔹 Today, June 1, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) joins the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) to remind citizens to drive safely as the state reopens. Many Tennesseans are returning to work, visiting friends and family, socializing at restaurants, and traveling on road trips. As traffic continues to increase across the state, the THSO and the THP encourage drivers to exercise due care and adhere to traffic safety laws. “We are living in unprecedented times,” said THP Colonel Dereck Stewart. “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our way of life, but traffic safety laws remain the same. Our mission remains the same. Troopers will continue to enforce traffic safety to prevent injuries and fatalities, but we need community support. We need all citizens to do their part to keep our roadways safe.”
Sunday, May 31
Saturday, May 30
🔹 The Kingsport Public Library is currently closed to the public, but curbside delivery begins June 1. Curbside service is by appointment only. Appointments can be made by visiting the event calendar at www.kingsportlibrary.org or by calling (423) 229-9465. Appointments are offered 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday, and MUST be made be 3:30 p.m. for same-day pickup. All returns MUST be placed by you in the outside book returns, staff members are unable to take your returns at curbside delivery.
🔹 To provide more accurate information about COVID-19 testing at the community level, Saturday the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will begin reporting COVID-19 data on testing encounters by health district using more accurate ZIP Code information. The new data will impact 37,362 test results that were previously not assigned a health district designation because incomplete patient address information was reported to VDH. Beginning May 30, VDH will report test encounter data using a tiered approach. If a test record is missing a patient address ZIP Code, the ordering provider’s ZIP Code will be used. If neither ZIP Code for the patient or ordering provider is available, the testing laboratory’s ZIP Code will be used.
Friday, May 29
🔹 The Sullivan County Public Library System will be offering curbside pickup weekdays beginning Monday, June 1, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Patrons can place items on hold by logging into the library website, www.scpltn.org, or by emailing or calling their local branch libraries. Patrons with holds on items they no longer want to check out should call their local branch locations to cancel the holds so other patrons can check the items out. Library buildings are not open to the public at this time, and no donations of materials will be accepted until further notice. Patrons should continue to return items in the drop boxes provided. Bins are provided for wi-fi hotspots and items too large to fit into the drop boxes. Call your local branch library with any questions.
🔹 The Washington and Greene County Health Departments modified free COVID-19 testing hours effective Monday, June 1, 2020. Testing by both departments will now take place Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and noon.
🔹 Beginning June 8, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site will reopen the Andrew Johnson Early Home, visitor center, Memorial Building and Tailor Shop. The hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday only. The Andrew Johnson National Cemetery and all park grounds continue to remain open to the public. The historic Andrew Johnson homestead will remain closed. While these areas are open for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. The public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities. Updates about national park operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.
🔹 The business meeting for the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which will be held on June 2, 2020, will allow a limited number of public to attend to comment on public hearing and agenda items. However, citizens wishing to make comments on agenda items are encouraged to email, write or use the below link to a google form to share their thoughts. If citizens would like to attend the meeting, the courtroom has a limited physical capacity of 16. Once the courtroom is full, the public is welcome to wait in the lobby until it is their turn to give their public comment. Citizens that attend are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing and wear their masks during the course of the meeting. The meeting will be available via livestream on the city website (www.kingsporttn.gov). Viewers can watch by clicking on the ‘Livestream Video’ box on the homepage. The meeting will also air on Charter channel 192. The meeting audio will be posted to the city website within two days of the meeting.
🔹 To help all race fans enjoy the 60th running of the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend, Bristol Motor Speedway officials are making the commemorative virtual program available for free download starting at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. In order to download your free copy, please visit the Bristol Motor Speedway website on Sunday at 1:30 p.m., just before green flag drops for the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. You can also look for invitations to download the program on all of the Bristol Motor Speedway social media channels.
🔹 Jonesborough’s 24th Annual Garden Gala will transition to a Virtual Garden Tour this year. Steal some landscaping ideas to use at home after your watch the Virtual Tour, which will debut on Saturday, June 6, at 10 a.m. The virtual garden tour can be found by searching Jonesborough Hidden Gardens on Facebook. Due to the global pandemic, the hosts of the event, the Schubert Club of Jonesborough and the Tuesday Garden Club, decided to shift to a virtual platform.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is implementing new COVID-19 precautions for all visitors entering office lobbies across the state. These rules will impact customers coming into state offices for scheduled in-person appointments beginning Monday, June 1. The new guidelines include arriving alone to drop-off or pick-up documents or take part in scheduled in-person appointments, wearing a mask or cloth face covering, answering COVID-19 health screening questions and passing a temperature check, maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others, and not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Since late March, TDHS offices have been open to customers on an appointment-only basis and this policy will continue to be in effect. Additionally, some interview requirements have been temporarily waived for individuals receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits.
🔹 The Kingsport Art Guild, in an effort to celebrate the visual arts as a source of renewal and resilience, is hosting the 2020 Summer Art Show. Regional artists of all levels, professional, amateur or student, are invited to enter this community event. Membership in the art guild is not required. The show will be held in the Main Gallery of the Renaissance Center and will be open to the public July 12-29 using recommended social distancing guidelines. The gallery is located on the second floor and is open during regular Renaissance Center operating hours. Please check for updated hours of operation as they may fluctuate during this time. The deadline for entry is June 19, 2020. Interested participants may register online only at www.kingsportartguild.com. Guidelines for submitting artwork, entry fees and all information concerning the show may be found on the art guild website, as well. There will be a total of $800 in prizes awarded in the contest. There will be no traditional reception this year. The awards will be announced live online July 11. For further information, contact Kingsport Art Guild at (423) 246-1227.
🔹 The Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency will begin a Commodity Distribution June 23, 2020, at the Hawkins County Bus Shop at 1722 E. Main St. Items will be distributed through a drive-thru option on a first come, first served basis, to income eligible households until all commodities are gone. This will provide for the safety of recipients as well as the volunteers and staff. All recipients must be residents of Tennessee. This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Each recipient must have a Light Blue colored commodity ID card in order to pick up their commodities. An ID card is obtained by completing an application at the Neighborhood Service Center. We strongly encourage each recipient to complete the application the week prior to the date of your distribution, this will reduce your wait time during the distribution. However, staff will be available on site during the distribution to assist in acquiring a commodity card. If someone is picking up your commodities, they must have your ID card and be authorized on your application; limits to pickup are 10 orders. The distribution will begin at 10 a.m. and will end at noon, or earlier if food is no longer available.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) will host a Virtual Summer Camp for environmental education geared for students K-12 in June and July through social media platforms. The camp will begin June 1 and have daily activities intended for enjoyment and education. Each week, camp students can participate in Make a Difference Mondays, Trash Reduction Tuesdays, Wildlife Wednesdays, Earth Friendly Thursdays and Food Waste Fridays. The activities will utilize TDEC staff, including those from Tennessee State Parks and environmental program areas, as well as feature nonprofits Turnip Green Creative Reuse and Urban Green Lab. No registration is required. Those interested may engage daily at 10 a.m. on the Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices Facebook page. Activities will later be shared on Instagram and on the Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices web page, where parents, students and teachers may access them any time. The Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TNSustainability/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/thestateofsustainability/.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Unified Command Group released a new report on the state’s efforts to protect long-term care facility residents from the spread of COVID-19. The full report can be found online here. With long-term care residents comprising nearly 40 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths in Tennessee, Gov. Lee and the Unified Command have implemented a robust response to require all long-term care residents and staff to receive COVID-19 testing. Under new rules from the Department of Health, each nursing home must complete an “intent to test” survey as provided for by the department prior to June 1, 2020, and all nursing home residents and staff must be tested by June 30, 2020. Failure to comply will be considered a serious deficiency, and the department may seek any remedy including but not limited to, license revocation, license suspension, and the imposition of civil monetary penalties.
Thursday, May 28
🔹 Beginning June 1, curbside service will be available Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Jonesborough and Gray locations of the Washington County Public Library. Place holds for items on the online catalog at wclibrarytn.org or call 753-1800 or 477-1550 Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
🔹 Beginning June 1, Virginia Lottery customer service centers in Abingdon, Farmville, Hampton, Harrisonburg, Henrico, Roanoke and Woodbridge will once again be open for business. That means Lottery customers can claim prizes of any size in person at those locations.
🔹 Virginians across the Commonwealth are invited to join Gov. Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam in honoring the remarkable achievements of the class of 2020 during a statewide virtual celebration at 5 p.m., Friday, May 29. The broadcast and streaming event, “Virginia Graduates Together,” is produced by Virginia Public Media (VPM) in partnership with the Office of the Governor and the Virginia Department of Education, and will be distributed by public television stations throughout Virginia. It will include a special address from the Governor and First Lady, musical performances, a keynote speech from United States Women’s National Soccer champion Angela Hucles Mangano, and well-wishes from notable Virginians. It premieres at 5 p.m., Friday, on Blue Ridge PBS, VPM and WHRO, and will stream on Facebook Live and YouTube through WETA and East Tennessee PBS. To learn more, visit VPM.org/grad.
🔹 Kingsport Speedway has released its return to racing guidelines and recommendations for its season opener. Grandstand gates open at 4 p.m. with racing at 8 p.m., Friday, May 29. Today, the speedway released its return to racing guidelines and recommendations. “Our top priority remains the health and well-being of our teams, fans and staff,” said Karen Tunnell, general manager of Kingsport Speedway. “The guidelines and recommendations we released today are us doing our part to keep the community safe as we return to racing.” Fans are encouraged to check their temperature before leaving their houses and stay at home with any COVID-19 like symptoms or a fever greater than 100.4 degrees in the last 14 days. Use of cloth face coverings is highly recommended. Fans are encouraged to practice social distancing, leaving at least 6 feet of space in lines, the grandstands and tier parking. Refrain from hand shaking and other close contact. Avoid waiting in lines and gathering in large groups. Additional sanitizers will be deployed throughout the facility. The full list of guidelines and recommendations, which are largely based on CDC guidelines, can be found on the track’s website and social media sites.
🔹 Tennessee’s healthcare workers and first responders who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response have a new resource to reach out to about feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness, or depression related to work. The COVID-19 Emotional Support Line for healthcare workers is available to call at (888) 642-7886. The support line is a collaborative project among the Mental Health Active Response Team (MHART), the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug, & other Addictions Services (TAADAS), National Association of Social Workers-TN Chapter (NASW-TN) and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Specially trained mental health professionals who answer calls through the line can provide emotional support through active listening, help callers identify and address basic needs, and reference tools for managing stress and making a plan for self-care.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Economic Recovery Group issued new guidelines today for noncontact sports, camps and higher education under the Tennessee Pledge. Under Executive Order No. 38 issued May 22, noncontact sports may resume under certain precautions, including efforts to maintain social distancing, wear masks when feasible and added sanitization measures. Sports that may return under the current guidelines include but are not limited to baseball, softball, volleyball, golf, disc golf, tennis and racket sports, cycling, track and field and other running events, and equestrian. Contact sports such as football, wrestling, and hockey are not permitted except for practicing in a manner that does not involve close physical contact with other persons. Previously released summer camp guidance has been expanded to address the safe reopening of overnight camps. The Economic Recovery Group recommends additional protective measures for residential camps, including thorough pre-screening measures, limited mixing of campers and staff and modified sleeping arrangements, among a number of additional efforts to protect campers and staff. Newly released Higher Ed guidelines recommend a number of safety precautions to protect staff and students. Recommendations to Tennessee colleges and universities include establishing policies for on-campus housing, how to isolate and care for sick students and staff, limiting number of attendees for in-person classes, and other measures.
🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee released an overview of administrative actions taken to address the public health and economic crisis created by COVID-19. Since March, Tennessee has faced two major natural disasters in addition to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. A brief overview of actions can be viewed here.
🔹 The Town of Greeneville announced the eighth annual American Downtown 4th of July Parade will be held caravan style, due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Andrew Johnson Bank Parade, which normally fills Main Street with large numbers of participants and spectators, will be driven in a caravan throughout the city to comply with social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus. A starting time for the parade on Saturday, July 4, is yet to be determined as organizers finalize plans for the rest of the American Downtown celebration, including entertainment and fireworks. A final decision will be made and announced on June 4, according to Amy Rose, public relations manager for the Town of Greeneville. Participants are asked to enter decorated motor vehicles only, and spectators are asked to safely stay home or practice social distancing at their parked cars as the caravan slowly passes by. The caravan-style parade will drive through residential neighborhoods and pass by parking lots in various locations throughout the city. Anyone who would like to see the parade come to them can submit their location via the town’s website, www.greenevilletn.gov, or by calling Parade Organizer Chan Humbert at (423) 329-7400. To participate in the caravan, call Humbert or contact Rose at (423) 639-7105 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All local veterans, organizations, businesses, classic vehicles, churches and anyone wanting to show their patriotism throughout the city are invited to enter, free of charge.
🔹 As the number of COVID-19 cases started rising in New York City earlier this year, two alumni of East Tennessee State University’s Cardiopulmonary Science Program, Rayford Johnson and Jessica Burleson, were among a group of respiratory therapists from across the country who decided they wanted to use their professional abilities to help.Johnson and Burleson have never met and they took separate paths to New York this spring, but both are currently on the front lines, caring for patients on COVID floors in two New York City hospitals. Both said they have never seen anything like what COVID has done to hospitals and patients, and both agree that they would not want to be anywhere else right now.
🔹 Due to the current situation with COVID-19, the Sullivan County Felony Recovery Court will be hosting a virtual graduation via Zoom. Recovery Drug Court is a specialty court designed for adults who have been charged with non-violent offenses and who also have a dependence on drugs and/or alcohol. Three individuals will be graduating at the event.
🔹 The most recent Tennessee Poll by East Tennessee State University finds that although Tennesseans feel that the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest problem facing both the nation and the state, they also believe things are generally going in the right direction for the Volunteer State. The poll, fielded from April 22-May 1 by the Applied Social Research Lab (ASRL) at ETSU, surveyed a random representative sample of Tennesseans across the state. Despite concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and the economic ramifications, a slim majority of Tennesseans (52%) feel that things in Tennessee are going in the right direction, but nearly a third (29%) feel that the state is off on the wrong track and another 18% are uncertain. For detailed information on The Tennessee Poll, including methodology and additional analysis, please visit www.etsu.edu/asrl/tnpoll.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released new data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 23, 2020. Statewide, 26,041 new claims were filed, along with 310,126 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 902 new claims were filed.
Wednesday, May 27
🔹 On Monday, June 1, Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium will reopen the Nature Center and resume some programming, both at limited capacity. Park trails and the animal habitat area are and have been open. Beginning June 1, only 20 guests will be allowed in the Nature Center at a time. Only the upper level and gift shop area will be accessible. Guests should follow the designated flow of traffic through the Nature Center and keep visits brief so that others can enter. Nature programs and barge rides will also resume June 1. Programs and barge rides are limited to 9 participants (plus program leader). At this time, the planetarium, adventure course and zip line remain closed. On June 1, the park will resume rentals of the Pavilion at Lilypad Cove to groups not exceeding 10 people. No other facilities will be available for rent at this time.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, June 2, between 3 and 5 p.m. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health continues to offer free drive up COVID-19 testing for county residents that feel they need to be tested. TN Department of Health COVID-19 assessment sites in the northeast region are Carter County Health Department: Monday-Friday from 9-11 a.m.; Greene County Health Department: Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; Hawkins County Health Department (Rogersville): Monday-Friday between 1-3 p.m.; and Washington County Health Department: Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Testing is also available by appointment only at health departments in Hancock, Hawkins/Church Hill, Johnson and Unicoi counties. Please call these health departments for further information or to schedule an appointment. The health department will conduct nasal swab collection for testing for COVID-19. Test results may be available within 72 hours, depending on the volume of tests that the testing lab receives.Additional information about Tennessee’s assessment sites is available for each county on the Tennessee Department of Health website at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html.
🔹 Due to COVID-19, there will be no in-person programs for the Kingsport Public Library’s summer reading program. Instead, all activities will be available through its social media or through activity packs available for pick up at the library. Programs for children include biweekly story times, author talks, STEM activities, virtual professional performances and more. Look for special event links on the library’s event calendar on the website. Activity packs will be available at the library for pick up, with a new pack each week. Activity packs will be first come, first served, while supplies last.
🔹 BrightRidge Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday evening to invest another $50,000 with the RegionAHEAD fund to assist small businesses as the region begins to fully reopen the economy, while issuing a challenge to other regional electric utilities – public and private – to match the investment. In all, BrightRidge has donated $100,000 to the RegionAHEAD effort. RegionAHEAD, organized by area business and Chamber of Commerce leaders, provides grants to small businesses engaged in the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, food services, retail trade and manufacturing.
Tuesday. May 26
🔹 The pool complex at Natural Tunnel State Park will be closed for the 2020 season due to COVID-19 protocols put in place to look after the safety of all guests and staff.
🔹 Kingsport Public Library, along with the majority of other area libraries, plans to begin a curbside pickup system on Monday, June 1. Curbside service will be by appointment only. Appointments can be made by visiting the event calendar at www.kingsportlibrary.org or by calling (423) 229-9465. Curbside appointments are offered Monday-Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and must be made by 3:30 p.m. for same day pickup.
🔹 The 2020 St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon & ½ Marathon has been rescheduled for Nov. 21, 2020. All registered participants of the 2020 St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon & ½ Marathon will be receiving an email with further information. For more information on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, visit www.RunRocknRoll.com.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today signed Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Governor also directed the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19. Exemptions to these guidelines include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; individuals who are exercising; children under the age of two; a person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible; and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. Northam also signed an amended Executive Order Fifty-One, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration.
🔹 Bristol Motor Speedway and Food City officials announced today a fitting new event name for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at The Last Great Colosseum, The Food City presents the SUPERMARKET HEROES 500. From the cashiers to the stock room workers to those in the fresh departments, along with the truck drivers who transport the food and supplies across the country, Food City will honor all of those who work directly assisting customers and the thousands more behind the scenes with the Food City presents the SUPERMARKET HEROES 500.
🔹 Ballad Health and Premier Inc. today announced they have partnered with 15 leading health systems in America to acquire a minority stake in Prestige Ameritech, the largest domestic manufacturer of face masks, including N95 respirators and surgical masks. PPE products critical for the daily operations of health systems are overwhelmingly sourced overseas, with approximately 80% coming from China and Southeast Asia. The risks associated with this overreliance on Asia came into sharp focus twice this year, as the supply chain was disrupted when a manufacturing plant in China failed to meet FDA requirements for sterile gowns, and again most recently as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe. Prestige Ameritech represents a primarily domestic supply chain, drawing raw materials and production capabilities from the U.S. Prestige also does 100% of its business with U.S. customers.
🔹 With COVID-19 shutting down many in-person summer activities for high school and undergraduate students, East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy has launched a free interactive webinar series for students interested in pharmacy called “Gatton Rx Elements.” The five-week series explores current career options in pharmacy, how to apply to pharmacy school, financial aid options, student life on campus, a virtual tour of Gatton College of Pharmacy and a chance to chat and have virtual coffee with the college’s dean, Dr. Debbie Byrd. The series is taught by Dr. Brooklyn Nelson, clinical assistant professor of Pharmacy Practice. The webinar series is available for current graduating high school seniors and undergrad students who may be interested in pharmacy as a career. Each session lasts from noon-1 p.m., Thursdays, June 18-July 30, on Zoom. The deadline to register is the day before each session. Learn more at www.etsu.edu/RxElements.
🔹 Alumni of East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine are on the front lines of research and studies happening across the world to develop treatments for the COVID-19 virus. Dr. Davey Smith (’96) is leading a clinical trial that is currently underway to evaluate whether the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, given with the antibiotic azithromycin, can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Before coming to Quillen as a medical student in 2016, Dr. Erica Andres (’20) worked as a post-baccalaureate scientist at Vanderbilt University for two years, where she led a collaboration with Gilead in performing experiments to develop remdesivir as an antiviral against coronaviruses.
Monday, May 25
🔹 Ballad Health announced Monday that it will begin lifting some of the visitation restrictions put in place in March out of precaution for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Effective Tuesday, May 26, Ballad Health’s latest visitation policy and patient guidelines will allow: One visitor at a time per inpatient, who has not tested positive for COVID-19. The visitor will be allowed during limited hours each day, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; one designated visitor to accompany patients in the emergency department or pediatric emergency department; one designated visitor or support person for each patient receiving an inpatient procedure or surgery; one support person for laboring and obstetric patients; and two parents or guardians will be permitted in the NICU, PICU and in rooms with a pediatric patient. Hours of visitation are not restricted in these areas. Ballad Health will continue to maintain its policy of not allowing visitors under 18 unless they qualify for an approved extenuating circumstance. Additionally, no visitation of COVID-19 positive patients or patients who are under investigation, except during end-of-life situations, will be permitted. The no visitation policy will continue to apply to behavioral health patients, long-term care patients undergoing outpatient testing, unless that patient needs special assistance.
Sunday, May 24
Saturday, May 23
🔹 The 2020 Josh Dobbs Football Camp, originally scheduled for June 25 at Dobyns-Bennett High School, has been postponed, according to an email from the D-B athletics department.
🔹 The Unicoi Farmers Market and Community Yard Sale will open June 2 in a new home under the Buffalo Pavilion at the Unicoi Visitor Center. Completed only a month ago, the pavilion was designed specifically for the market and will be a treat for vendors in the coming months. The market is held every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Tourist Information Center at exit 32 (off 1-26), June through October. New COVID-19 regulations will be in place to protect the public. For more information or to become a vendor, email email@example.com or contact Patricia Bennett at (423) 735-0517.
Friday, May 22
🔹 The United Way of Greater Kingsport announced Week of Caring, normally held in June, has been rescheduled to Sept. 28-Oct. 2.
🔹 Bristol, Tennessee City Manager Bill Sorah has announced plans for municipal buildings and facilities to reopen to the public. Effective Tuesday, May 26, public access to city offices, including those located in City Hall and the Ewell L. Easley Municipal Annex, will resume. The reopening comes just over nine weeks after buildings were initially closed in response to the then-relatively-new coronavirus outbreak. All visitors to city buildings will be subject to a health screening, which includes a temperature scan and questions related to potential COVID-19 exposure or symptoms. Visitors are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask when entering city buildings, and they will be available for individuals who do not have their own. Members of the public are also encouraged to continue utilizing electronic or other alternate methods of conducting business with the city whenever possible. Payments for utility bills, citations, and current property taxes can be processed online at www.bristoltn.org/paynow. The Nature Center at Steele Creek Park and the administrative offices at Slater Community Center will also reopen on Tuesday; however, exercise facilities at Slater will remain closed. The State Street Farmer’s Market will officially open for the season on Saturday, June 6. Shelter rentals will resume beginning July 1.
🔹 The George L. Carter Railroad Museum on the campus of East Tennessee State University has canceled the 5th Annual Big Train Show for the health and safety of patrons, vendors and model railroad enthusiasts. The train show was originally scheduled for June 5-6 in the ETSU Mini-Dome. Plans are underway to hold the event in the same venue next year. The tentative dates are June 4-5, 2021. For the safety of museum volunteers and weekly visitors, the George L. Carter Railroad Museum remains closed to the public. Dr. Fred Alsop, director for the museum, anticipates a gradual opening with limited visitors allowed to enter the museum at one time.
🔹 The Memorial Day Service at Cumberland Square Park in Bristol has been canceled due to the governor’s restrictions on public gatherings of more than 10 people. The Veteran’s Council will lay a wreath in the park in honor of the military men and women who have given their lives serving in the Armed Forces. Members of the public are invited to visit the park on Memorial Day, in small groups in accordance with the governor’s restrictions, to pay their respects. Believe in Bristol also announced this year's July 4th Star Spangled Celebration has been canceled and the Border Bash Summer Concert series will transition to a virtual platform on the Border Bash Facebook page.
🔹 George Washington and Jefferson National Forests officials will reopen many recreation sites for day use beginning the weekend of May 23, 2020. The decision to reopen recreation areas is being done on a case-by-case basis. All openings will consider health and safety recommendations, employee safety and the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and trained personnel, as reflected in CDC, state and local guidance. Site closures and modified operations may occur, as needed, to protect public health and safety. Campgrounds, and most facilities and day-use areas within campgrounds, will remain closed pending further evaluation. All restrooms will remain shut down. Visitors are responsible for providing their own PPE (including hand sanitizer), and must pack out what they pack in as trash service may not be available. For a complete list of recreation sites and their status, visit fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation.
🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 38, which allows groups of up to 50 people to participate in social and recreational activities while encouraging strong social distancing measures. Effective Friday, May 22, this order supersedes and repeals Executive Order Nos. 30, 33 and 35. The full text of the order is available here.
🔹 PBS Teaching Tennessee virtual learning program will continue through the summer, allowing students and families to have access to education and instructional content during time away from the classroom. All Tennessee families will continue to have access to ReadyRosie, a virtual early childhood education platform made possible through partnership with the governor’s Early Literacy Foundation, through September.
🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is offering a program called Museum From Home, and it includes online tours of the museum's permanent exhibits, fun and educational activities for kids, and an exploration of the current special exhibit, Real Folk: Passing on Trades & Traditions through the Virginia Folklife Program. Museum From Home virtual tours can be accessed online at BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org/bcm-at-home. The museum is currently following guidelines in accordance with mandates passed down from the state of Virginia. A reopen date has yet to be established.
🔹 Tennessee continues to be a national leader in COVID-19 testing. Tennessee has already tested 2.5% of the state’s population and is on track to reach 3% by the end of May, surpassing the White House’s testing criteria of 2% per month for a safe reopening.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that Virginians can now use COVIDCheck, a new online risk-assessment tool to check their symptoms and connect with the appropriate health care resource, including COVID-19 testing. COVIDCheck is a free, web-based, artificial intelligence-powered telehealth tool that can help individuals displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19 self-assess their risk and determine the best next steps, such as self-isolation, seeing a doctor, or seeking emergency care. This resource assists in identifying users who are at higher risk of COVID-19 and can help individuals find a nearby testing site. It is not to be used in place of emergency medical care. COVIDCheck users who say they are experiencing symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19 are screened for occupational and medical risk factors and are given one of five care levels in accordance with the Virginia Department of Health’s categories. Virginians can visit vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covidcheck to learn more and use COVIDCheck.
Thursday, May 21
🔹 The Joy of Soccer camps at Tusculum University in Greeneville have been rescheduled. The Coed and ID Camp, originally slated for June 21-25, will now be held July 12-15. It will be a day camp for boys and girls, ages 13 and under. It will run from 2-8 p.m. Sunday, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Wednesday (with lunch provided). Cost is $130 per camper. The camp will be held in conjunction with the Girls High School Team and ID Camp (also that week), but training will be separate. Girls ages 14 and older are invited to join the ID Camp and those high school teams for a full overnight camp experience. The cost is $215 per camper. Call (423) 636-7321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
🔹 Heritage Alliance’s History Happy Hour was set to launch for a fourth season in March. Due to public closures related to the coronavirus, the first two meetings were cancelled. The May program, originally scheduled for May 21, has been pushed back to May 28 and is going to be offered online through the Zoom platform. Go to the Chester Inn Museum Facebook page for the link to the meeting room and for the password to login. You can also access this information via the Heritage Alliance’s website, www.heritageall.org.
🔹 Wilderness at the Smokies officials announced today that their resort will be reopening on Thursday, May 28. The resort has been working with state and county guidelines to create a Safer at Play Program that outlines in detail all of the safety precautions in place at the resort. For more information on this program visit https://bit.ly/3e2YWGd. Another safety precaution that the resort is implementing is that no day passes will be sold at this time in order to keep waterpark occupancy manageable. Only guests of the resort will be able to use the waterparks.
🔹 By Executive Order Number 34 issued by Gov. Bill Lee on May 6, 2020, the Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold a special called meeting and regularly scheduled work session electronically on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 6 p.m. There will be no access permitted to the public at the physical location of the work session. The work session will be conducted electronically, and members of the public can attend and listen to the work session electronically via www.k12k.com - Homepage - Latest News or watch live on the KCS Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/KptSchools). Alternatively, the audio archive of the work session will be available at www.k12k.com - Board - Board Schedule & Notes within two business days of the work session.
🔹 Two heavily-trafficked areas in Tri-Cities, Boone Beach and South Holston Dam, will have portajohns onsite by the Memorial Day weekend. Permanent restrooms, large-group pavilions and playgrounds at TVA recreation sites will remain closed.
🔹 A majority of Tennesseans will seek out a COVID-19 vaccine if it becomes available, but not everyone will be “among the first” to get vaccinated, according to the most recent Tennessee Poll conducted by the Applied Social Research Lab at East Tennessee State University. The poll, which surveyed 618 Tennesseans from April 22-May 1, 2020, asked respondents where they go for news they can trust on the coronavirus and how quickly they would get vaccinated if a coronavirus vaccine became available.
🔹 The USDA Forest Service will open a series of trailheads and access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail on May 22. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests in Georgia, Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina, Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia will participate in the coordinated reopening. The Triple Crown in Virginia will remain closed, which includes Dragon’s Tooth trailhead. To recreate responsibly outdoors, avoid congregating at parking areas, refrain from gathering in large groups and maintain a 6-feet distance from others, especially when passing other hikers.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released new data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 16, 2020. Statewide, 28,692 new claims were filed, along with 314,487 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 872 new claims were filed.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. This is to test for current virus infection and is not antibody testing. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling, and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
Wednesday, May 20
🔹 To replenish blood supplies that have been affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Marsh Regional Blood Center has resumed its community-wide blood drives. Donors will receive individualized directions to maintain proper physical distancing measures, including a new requirement for donors to make an appointment before giving at any of its collection centers and many of its mobile drives. For more information, visit www.marshblood.com.
🔹 East Tennessee State University’s Reece Museum and Mary B. Martin School of the Arts and community supporters are expanding the geographic boundaries of artists’ residency for a special collection of art reflecting the current times. These entities have joined in an initiative to purchase artwork created in 2019 or 2020 for “Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic,” which will be housed in the Reece Museum’s Permanent Collection. Originally defining “local art” as artwork made by artists living and/or working in Johnson City and Washington County, initiative administrators have broadened that definition to include artwork made by artists living and/or working in Tennessee’s First Congressional District. This district includes Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties. All other criteria for eligibility remain as previously announced. Guidelines and more information can be found on the Reece Museum website at www.etsu.edu/cas/cass/reece/pandemic.php.
🔹 Tennessee continues to advance the state’s reopening plan under the Tennessee Pledge, as the Economic Recovery Group issued updated guidelines today for restaurants and retail, along with new guidelines that enable attractions and larger venues to reopen with social distancing and capacity restrictions on or after May 22. The State continues to meet the White House gating criteria with a downward trend in case growth, increase in testing capability and sufficient hospital capacity. The updated guidelines enable restaurants and retail to increase capacity as long as social distancing protocols remain in place. Restaurants should continue to space tables 6 feet apart, or install physical barriers where adequate separation isn’t possible. Bars remain closed unless used for seated, in-restaurant dining where there is 6 feet of separation between customer groups. Live music is permissible with appropriate precautions, which include maintaining at least 15 feet of separation between performers and audience in order to reduce potential exposure. Large, non-contact attractions and venues including concert and performance venues, amusement and water parks, auditoriums, theaters and dinner theaters, zoos, large museums and more can also reopen safely under new Tennessee Pledge guidelines.
🔹 Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee received a donation of more than $10,000 from the employees of Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS). “We have been fortunate that our doors have remained open, and all of our employees have continued to work,” said John A. Stewart, NFS president. “Many of our friends and neighbors in Unicoi County have not been as fortunate.” Stewart learned about the challenges facing Unicoi County residents and coordinated the Feeding Our Friends fundraiser. NFS employees opened their hearts, giving more than $10,000 in a week’s time. The funds will be dedicated for use in Unicoi County. The need for food assistance is at an all-time high due to the effects of the pandemic. Food bank officials are asking for the community’s continued support through monetary donations.
🔹 TriPride is pleased to announce a partnership with GLSEN Tennessee and other Tennessee-based organizations to celebrate LGBTQ+ graduating seniors and graduating eighth graders. The private, virtual graduation ceremony and celebration is scheduled to take place on June 6, 2020, at 2pm CST, 3pm EST. Participants will be given a private URL to view and participate in the ceremony, but friends and family will be invited to watch. LGBTQ+ students anywhere in Tennessee are encouraged to go to www.glsen.org/event/graduate-pride and submit their information. To participate, the student must be part of the graduating class of 2020 from any Tennessee high school or middle school, regardless if the school is public, private, or homeschooling. Graduating students are asked to post a picture from their senior year on Twitter or Instagram with #gradPRIDEtn to be shared and highlighted during the event. Additionally, photos may be emailed to email@example.com.
🔹 A free weekly webinar for local businesses focusing on reopening strategies begins Thursday, May 21, at 4 p.m. “Recover Together: Reopening Discussion and Best Practices” will be moderated and presented by Mark Bays, director for the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at East Tennessee State University, and Aundrea Y. Wilcox, TSBDC senior business counselor and KOSBE executive director. Attendees will gain insight from local business owners on how COVID-19 has influenced their future business strategies. Pre-registration is required. For more information or to register for the webinar, contact Mark Bays, TSBDC director, at (423) 439-8505 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about upcoming “Recover Together” webinars, visit www.tsbdc.org/etsu.
🔹 The University of Tennessee System’s COVID-19 task force has released a report that provides guidance, recommendations and best practices to reopen its campuses in the fall. Campus-specific plans will be released in the coming days and weeks. The systemwide report focuses on education regarding COVID-19, managing the campus environment and its facilities, student transitions on and off campus, re-imagining classes and recommendations around student health. The UT System’s task force report, along with comprehensive information regarding COVID-19, can be accessed at tennessee.edu/coronavirus.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that households in 13 new states – Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia – will soon be able to purchase food online with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Once operational, online purchasing will be available in 36 states and the District of Columbia, home to more than 90% of SNAP participants. In addition, Secretary Perdue also announced an expansion of independently owned and operated retail stores beyond those included in the original pilot. Soon more SNAP authorized retailers, under multiple store banners, will be accepting SNAP benefits online. “We are expanding new flexibilities and innovative programs to make sure Americans across this country have safe and nutritious food during this national emergency,” said Secretary Perdue. “Enabling people to purchase foods online will go a long way in helping Americans follow CDC social distancing guidelines and help slow the spread of the coronavirus. USDA is mandated with the noble goal of feeding Americans when they need it most, and we are fulfilling that mission with new innovative programs during this national emergency.”
🔹 The Virginia Cave Board released a statement, citing Gov. Northam’s Executive Order Sixty-One, discouraging caving during the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement cites likely breaks in social distancing guidelines and potential for human-to-bat transmission of COVID-19 among other hazards present in caves and during caving. While the executive order eases restrictions on campgrounds and other businesses, social distancing guidelines are still in place and must be maintained. Caves, in their nature, have poor ventilation and tight, enclosed spaces that make compliance with these guidelines difficult among members of a caving team.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced Kentucky, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia have been approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) signed by President Trump, which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures. For the 2019-2020 school year, Tennessee had approximately 663,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or approximately 66% of children in participating schools.
Tuesday, May 19
🔹 After being closed for two months due to the the COVID-19 pandemic, WonderWorks Pigeon Forge announces that it will be reopening on May 22, 2020. The new COVID-19 safety protocols that have been adopted include reduced capacity and hours, enhanced cleaning efforts, social distancing measures, hand sanitizer stations, employee health screenings and employee personal protective equipment (PPE). The attraction also has a few interactives closed for the time being, including the ropes course and the rock wall. Guests are encouraged to review all safety rules prior to their visit on the web page devoted to COVID-19: https://www.wonderworksonline.com/pigeon-forge/covid-19.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today shared new resources to protect Virginians from eviction and support individuals who have lost their job or income due to COVID-19. These tools include StayHomeVirginia.com, a new website to help Virginians navigate housing programs, services, and resources. The website offers guidance on working with landlords, financial institutions, and other organizations to use eviction and foreclosure protections during this health crisis. Resources include relief for private mortgage holders, multifamily complexes, and tenants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
🔹 BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will waive Medicare Advantage member costs for doctor’s office and virtual visits to in-network primary care and behavioral health care providers from May 19 through September 30, 2020. “Many Tennessee seniors may have been following safety protocols and postponing health care visits over the past few months,” said Todd Ray, senior vice president and general manager of senior products. “We hope this enhanced coverage will bring peace of mind, help remove barriers and encourage people to seek the routine and preventive care they need.” In addition to these efforts, BlueCross has invested in a number of advancements to support better health for Tennesseans impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. These include continuing to pay the full costs of COVID-19 testing and paying full treatment costs for COVID-19 care, including hospitalizations, through May 31, 2020. For additional information on the BlueCross response to COVID-19, visit BCBSTupdates.com.
🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced the final distribution of $10 million in Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants to support smaller hospitals that are facing financial strain due to the ongoing response to COVID-19. Local recipients include Franklin Woods Community Hospital ($136,545), Hawkins County Memorial Hospital ($250,000), Johnson County Community Hospital ($500,000), Sycamore Shoals Hospital ($136,545), and Unicoi County Hospital ($136,545).
🔹 The Fairfax Health District has confirmed a case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. This is the first case of MIS-C reported in Virginia. The child was hospitalized on May 5 and has since been discharged and is recovering at home. To protect privacy, no other patient information will be disclosed.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need. Beginning May 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses. Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap.
Monday, May 18
🔹 Nickelsville Days, originally scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, has been canceled, with plans to perhaps hold the event later in the year.
🔹 Duffield Daze, held annually on Labor Day weekend, has been canceled.
🔹 Camping is scheduled to reopen at Natural Tunnel State Park on May 22, and the chair lift is scheduled to be operational. Park guests are still asked to observe the 6-feet distance rule, with group sizes limited to 10 people. Cabins will open at a later date. The visitors center and camp stores will remain closed. In addition, the Cove Ridge Center, John Anderson Wilderness Road Blockhouse and the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center will continue to be closed. Tunnel programming will resume at a later date.
🔹 Live music scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday evenings as part of the annual Sounds of Summer series sponsored by Bristol, Tennessee’s Department of Parks & Recreation has been canceled for the months of June and July. A decision about August and September events will be made later in the summer, said Coordinator Angie Rutherford. Now in its 24th season, the Sounds of Summer is the longest running concert series in downtown Bristol, often attracting hundreds to the stage under the iconic country music mural at Downtown Center. City leaders are basing decisions on guidance from regional health officials.
🔹 East Tennessee State University is offering high school seniors in Tennessee a new opportunity to attend their first year tuition-free. “The COVID-19 crisis is causing financial burdens on families that we could have never anticipated, and we do not want to see high school seniors, many of whom have already missed out on traditional milestones, to also miss out on the opportunity to attend a four-year university,” said Dr. Joe Sherlin, vice president for Student Life and Enrollment at ETSU. More information is available at www.etsu.edu/free. Students may visit the website to fill out a form expressing their interest in Free Freshman Tuition, and a member of ETSU’s Undergraduate Admissions Office will contact each student directly. Questions about ETSU Free Freshman Tuition should be directed to email@example.com.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD) has completed building the third pandemic unemployment program provided through the federal CARES Act signed into law by President Donald Trump. TDLWD is now processing Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), in addition to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). Individuals who have exhausted their Tennessee Unemployment Compensation claim, or their benefit year has ended, need to refile to obtain the additional weeks of benefits provided through PEUC. Claimants can refile their claim by accessing their account on Tennessee’s workforce development website, www.Jobs4TN.gov.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced a diverse set of education stakeholders participating in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Work Group to help chart a path forward for determining how schools can safely reopen later this year. The group is comprised of representatives from Virginia’s public and private early childhood, K-12, and higher education systems, and includes teachers, superintendents, parents, college presidents, state agency personnel, special education advocates, museum directors, and student perspectives.
🔹 To support America’s small businesses as they help restart the economy, Spectrum today announced it will provide one month of free services to any new customer that signs up for Spectrum Business as their connectivity provider. Local businesses interested in the offer, which applies to all of the company’s internet, phone and TV services, can learn more at Business.Spectrum.com/reopen or by calling 1-833-537-0730. The offer for a free month of Spectrum Business services is available immediately throughout Tennessee.
Sunday, May 17
🔹 The first of six Downtown Cruise-Ins will be held Friday, May 22, in Rogersville. Main Street will be closed Friday beginning at 4 p.m. and the cruise-in will take place from 6-9 p.m. Organizers encourage owners of classic vehicles from 1989 and earlier years to participate. Live music will be provided by Ivy Road, and downtown stores and restaurants will stay open longer to accommodate cruise-in traffic. Participants are asked follow social distancing guidelines, and anyone who is sick should stay home.
Saturday, May 16
🔹 The Kingsport Farmers Market will open Saturday, May 23, according to a Facebook post from market manager Jim LaFollette. “The market will look different than what you are use to. There will be signs telling which way to go thru the market. We will observe the social distance rule. We will be there for you so please be patient. Thank you in advance.” All market programs, including Saturdays with the Chef, Evening with the Market and the Homegrown Gardening series, have been suspended until further notice. Anyone who needs to redeem SNAP benefits may do so at the market kiosk. Wednesday markets will begin on June 3. To learn more about the Kingsport Farmers Market, please visit kingsportfarmersmarket.org.
🔹 The Town of Unicoi’s annual Freedom Fest, scheduled for July 4, has been canceled to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The decision comes after Johnson City announced the cancelation of its Fourth of July celebration a few weeks ago and the CDC continues to encourage social distancing. While larger events like Freedom Fest won’t be held this year, Shelton confirmed that the Unicoi Farmers Market & Community Yard Sale will begin June 2 as previously scheduled.
🔹 Ober Gatlinburg will be following the guidance of Gov. Lee’s Economic Recovery Group by reopening The Aerial Tramway and Mountain Activities on May 22. Ober Gatlinburg will be implementing protocols under the guidance of the state government and health organizations that encourage employees and guests to take responsibility for the safety of others around them.
Friday, May 15
🔹 Natural area preserves differ from Virginia State Parks and have very small parking areas for 10 or so vehicles. Because of overuse, the Channels Natural Area Preserve in Washington and Russell counties is now closed to public access through at least June 10. Anyone planning to visit a natural area preserve should: Check www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/nap-covid-19 before leaving home for the latest information on closures; have alternate plans in case the small parking area is full upon arrival. (Parking areas hold only 10 or so vehicles. If it's full, visitors should wait for a space to open, act on their alternate plan or come back later. Do not park elsewhere); stay on marked trails; leave no trace; and practice social distancing. No groups greater than 10 are permitted. If you're sick, stay home. All preserves are routinely monitored by staff and local law enforcement.
🔹 The second annual Bristol Burnout presented by Mycroft Signs has been postponed to Saturday, Aug. 29, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced today by officials from the Bristol Motor Speedway Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities. The high-intensity workout competition showcases area athletes who are competing to support more than 100 child-based agencies throughout the Appalachian Highlands region. Fitness enthusiasts can form two-person teams for the chance at victory. Numerous CrossFit facilities from the region are also joining in and will bring multiple teams. Crossfit superstar and three-time Crossfit Games champ Matt Hewett, who made his Bristol Burnout debut last year, is expected to return to the competition. The event will be held at the BMS South Building, located just inside the South Entrance of the Speedway off Volunteer Pkwy / Hwy 11E. To learn more, visit SCC Bristol Burnout.
🔹 The Kingsport Parks and Recreation department has made the difficult decision to cancel its Summer Program for 2020. While the decision is one out of caution for the safety and health of summer program participants, staff have come up with unique and fun ways kids can still get involved and have fun this summer. For more information, visit www.kingsportparksandrecreation.org.
🔹 Haynesfield Aquatic Center will not open this summer, and all organized activities that had been planned at the Bristol, Tennessee, pool have been canceled for the 2020 season, Director of Parks & Recreation Terry Napier announced Friday. The City also has canceled a series of nature camps that were scheduled at Steele Creek Park and a summer youth program sponsored by the Bristol, Tennessee Police Department. Napier said the public will not be able to rent paddle boats at Steele Creek Park or ride the Steele Creek Express, a small train that runs through park, this summer either because the City did not hire seasonal staff to operate these attractions. No decision has yet been made regarding the opening of Steele Creek’s Splash Pad or picnic shelter rentals, which are currently on hold.
🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music has canceled this year’s Pick Along Summer Camps. “We are so proud of our kids and will miss them more than anything this summer!” a statement reads. “We encourage parents to keep their children’s curiosity of music alive in the meantime with free YouTube music lessons. Post videos of home performances on social media and tag the Museum (Instagram: @birthplaceofcountrymusicmuseum | Facebook: Birthplace of Country Music Museum) so we can see their progress!”
🔹 Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group announced today it will lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and retail to instead focus on social distancing best practices effective May 22 and issue guidelines to facilitate the safe reopening of larger, non-contact attractions on or after May 22. New Tennessee Pledge guidelines will be released early next week. Six counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – may continue to follow individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with state and local health departments.
🔹 More than 100 new students previously admitted to TCAT Elizabethton will report for student orientation on Monday, May 18. The students will follow the same novel coronavirus protocols established for existing students who reported on May 4, according to Patricia Henderson, student services coordinator. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, online instruction began at TCAT on March 23. With some restrictions, TCAT Elizabethton resumed in-person classroom instruction after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowed prohibitions to expire on April 30. College President Dean Blevins said instructors were given the option to continue online classroom if they so desired Among restrictions that still apply, Blevins said all people arriving on campus will be asked questions related to COVID 19 symptoms.
🔹 Patrons of Sullivan County Public Library will be able to return any checked out items to the drop boxes at each location beginning Monday, May 18th at 9 a.m. Patrons may return books in the blue drop boxes and audio/video materials in the tall silver drop boxes in front of each location. Contact your local branch if you have items to return that will not fit in the drop box slots. Return of Wi-Fi hotspots will be by appointment only. No donations are being accepted at this time. Patrons with holds on items they no longer want to check out should call their local branch location to cancel the holds so other patrons can check the items out. Library buildings are not open to the public at this time, and there is currently no curbside pickup. Call your local branch library with any questions.
🔹 East Tennessee State University’s Reece Museum, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts and community supporters are building a special collection that will be housed in the Reece Museum’s Permanent Collection titled “Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic.” The purpose of the joint initiative is to purchase artwork created in 2019 or 2020 from artists who live and/or work in Johnson City or Washington County. Artists must be at least 18 years of age and live and/or work in Johnson City or Washington County, Tennessee. There is no entry fee to participate, and each artist may submit only one entry. The deadline for submissions is June 19. All artists whose work is selected will receive an equal dollar amount of at least $200 based on the number of artists juried into the “Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic” special collection. To obtain guidelines for submission or artwork, to make a financial gift to support this effort, or for more information, visit the Reece Museum website at https://www.etsu.edu/cas/cass/reece/pandemic.php.
🔹 Recognizing the needs of the people and the communities where we operate, Eastman Foundation has committed $1 million toward supporting global response organizations in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Eastman Foundation will provide funding to organizations for food, shelter, medical personal protective equipment for frontline workers and community support.
🔹 Across the Appalachian Highlands, resilient workers, makers and volunteers are dedicated to supplying the personal protective equipment health care professionals need to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. One such example is a regional effort underway to manufacture face shields. Production of several types of the emergency face shields, including one designed by faculty at East Tennessee State University, began in March when Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission issued a statewide request for personal protective equipment. Dr. Keith Johnson and Bill Hemphill from ETSU’s Department of Engineering, Engineering Technology and Surveying immediately went to work developing a prototype that would be comfortable to wear. They used copolyester previously donated by Eastman as well as other materials commonly available at hardware stores. Meanwhile, STREAMWORKS, an educational program in Kingsport, began producing 3D printed headbands for face shields in its STEM Gym. Both groups had almost everything they needed to begin manufacturing, with the exception of one very important piece – the clear copolyester for the actual face shield. Eastman Polymer Technology Division teams quickly turned out rolls of PETG, a material typically used for medical devices. Nearly 5,000 emergency face shields designed by ETSU have been donated thus far. The university has worked alongside the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Northeast Tennessee Healthcare Preparedness Coalition, ETSU Health and Ballad Health to deliver the face shields as well as donations of supplies and personal protection equipment to health care facilities across the region and state.
🔹 The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) Family of Companies today announced that it will provide a special Thank You Pay to hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates to acknowledge their dedication to maintaining safe, clean and stocked stores. The one-time Thank You Pay, which will be $400 for qualified full-time associates and $200 for qualified part-time associates, will be paid out in two installments on May 30 and June 18. As part of its ongoing investment in associate and customer safety, the Kroger Family of Companies also announced today that it will continue its COVID-19 Emergency Leave guidelines to provide paid time off to associates most directly affected by the virus or experiencing related symptoms.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. This is to test for current virus infection and is not antibody testing. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling, and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 As Tennessee gradually reopens with new safety guidelines for businesses, the state is conducting some of the best levels of COVID-19 testing in the nation, according to a new Harvard Global Health Institute study. Harvard notes that Tennessee is conducting thousands of tests per day to better track and contain the spread of COVID-19 statewide.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the extension of three nationwide waivers, giving child nutrition program operators the flexibility they need to continue to feed children while promoting social distancing and keeping families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, schools and local program sponsors have used flexibilities provided by USDA to find creative ways to feed kids, such as setting up drive-thru pick-ups and delivering meals on bus routes. With the extension of these waivers, these innovative models can continue, without interruption, while state and local social distancing orders remain in place.
Thursday, May 14
🔹 The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden Show has been postponed until October 1, 2020. The annual gardening event, which takes place at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson, was previously scheduled for July 9, 2020, but will be delayed due to health and safety concerns for employees and visitors. Due to limited personnel available in October, outdoor garden talks, exhibitor booths and the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic will not be included on the program.
🔹 Piccadilly Kingsport notified customers Thursday afternoon that it will not reopen. The email reads: “We are so grateful to be able to be part of the Kingsport - Tri-Cities community over the years. Unfortunately, we will not be reopening this location. We love you Kingsport. Please consider visiting our other locations across the South in your future travels.”
🔹 Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians (GSCSA) announced it will be selling Girl Scout Cookies by way of a drive-through cookie booth from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 6, at the Johnson City Girl Scout Service Center, 1100 Woodland Avenue. In the interest of youth safety, the booth will be manned only by adult volunteers.
🔹 This year, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Fallen Officer Memorial Service is being conducted virtually. This is due to the coronavirus pandemic and the precautionary measures that have been recommended by the CDC and health officials. The virtual service will be streamed on Friday, May 15, at 6 p.m. on the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
🔹 Are you at home and needing something fun to do in order to kill the time? Want to learn more about how you can reduce waste and give new life to your garbage and recyclables while making art? Join AmeriCorps member Lilith Erbach for the McKinney Center's free Reusing Everything, Making Art, Keeping Engaged (R.E.M.A.K.E.) program. The program aims to educate and inform individuals in a fun and engaging environment where their creativity can thrive. This service-learning initiative is perfect for adults and teenagers, and can be modified for children. The project is a perfect summer learning opportunity for those ninth grade and above. Some of the projects featured will consist of making tin can planters, weaving with magazine pages, making mini jar terrariums, and creating jewelry out of plastic bottles. Each meetup is designed to utilize items attendees can find in their own home. The program will begin on May 23 and will be held every second and fourth Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. until July 11. The classes will be held via Zoom in order to make the class more accessible, and to protect the health and well-being of all attendees, volunteers and staff members involved. To register for the first event, visit mckinneycenter.com, click register, and find Tin Can Planters under featured events.
🔹 Virginia State Parks plans a gradual reopening of some facilities as the commonwealth slowly eases public health restrictions put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19. Statewide and park-specific operational plans have been developed to comply with group size limitations and social distancing requirements. Anyone planning to visit Virginia State Parks for the remainder of spring and through summer should anticipate changes to normal park operations. Some facilities remain closed, and other amenities will not be available. Park guests are encouraged to recreate at parks close to home. Strict social distancing requirements will remain in place. Group sizes are limited to 10 people. Guests must keep at least 6 feet apart from other guests. Anyone who is sick or has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should stay home. Guests should check www.virginiastateparks.gov for the latest information about individual parks before they leave home. As of May 14, trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use, boat ramps and picnic tables and grills (for groups fewer than 10) will open at most facilities. Opening for Memorial Day weekend are: restrooms, campgrounds (except at Twin Lakes), camping cabins and yurts, boat and bike rentals (varies by park) and the chairlift at Natural Tunnel (on a limited schedule). All swimming pools will remain closed through the 2020 summer season.
🔹 In Tennessee, motor vehicle registration renewals due in May have been extended to June 15, 2020. Gov. Bill Lee extended the deadline for obtaining these renewals through Executive Order No. 36. To avoid any unnecessary face-to-face contact amid COVID-19, the department strongly encourages motorists to renew their registration online at tncountyclerk.com. If you do not have online access or your county does not have online renewals, you can find your local county clerk’s address on the tncountyclerk.com website and mail in your renewal.
🔹 Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee released a statement recommending that the government increase SNAP benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent survey of the Feeding America network, every single one of the 200 member food banks reported a significant increase in need for food assistance in their communities, with an average 60 percent increase in demand. “We believe SNAP benefits should be increased by 15 percent so we can help feed families who are already and newly struggling against hunger,” the statement reads. “SNAP is proven to help safeguard the food security of people in times of need and its strength is unparalleled. In fact, for every meal the Feeding America network provides, SNAP provides nine.” For more information on Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, visit www.netfoodbank.org or Facebook.com/netfoodbank, or call (423) 279-0430.
🔹 House Commerce Committee Chairman Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) today announced a $500,000 grant for the Johnson County Community Hospital through the Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grant program. Established in partnership with the Department of Economic & Community Development (TNECD) and the Department of Finance & Administration, the Rural Hospital Readiness Grant program is designed to support small and rural facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. All funds are capped at $500,000 per hospital; they provide temporary resources for facilities facing a financial strain related to patient declines because of the COVID-19 pandemic and while federal funds are still being processed and allocated to health facilities.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 9, 2020. Statewide, 29,308 new claims were filed, along with 325,095 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 1,101 new claims were filed.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that April revenue collections fell 26.2%, primarily due to the extension of individual and corporate income tax deadlines until June 1 to provide relief to Virginians amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The governor deferred individual and corporate income tax payments due between April 1 and June 1, until June 1, 2020. The extension applies to taxable year 2019 final payments and extension payments, and the first estimated payment for taxable year 2020.
🔹 The Virginia Department of Health today released testing data broken out by PCR (diagnostic) and antibody (serology) tests. Antibody tests make up less than nine percent of overall tests. When these tests are removed from total results, there is minimal change in the percent positive of tests and no difference in overall trends. The Virginia Department of Health defines a case as confirmed when there is a positive PCR test. A goal in monitoring the number of testing encounters and the percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive is to gauge the capacity of the healthcare system to perform COVID-19 testing. In the past three weeks the number of antibody tests being utilized has increased in Virginia. Due to this change, going forward the Virginia Department of Health will provide a breakdown of the COVID-19 test data by all test types and by only PCR tests.
Wednesday, May 13
🔹 The Kingsport Aquatic Center will begin a phased, limited reopening on May 18. Some operations have changed to comply with the Tennessee Pledge. The KAC’s priority is safeguarding both guests and its team, so it is following guidelines from the CDC, the White House, the state of Tennessee and the Sullivan County Regional Health Department. At the direction of the SCRHD, the KAC can allow no more than 10 people in the indoor pool area at any time for lap swim and individual exercise in a lap lane. Pool time must be reserved in advance by calling the front desk at (423) 343-9758 to ensure ample pool space and social distancing protocol. At this time, the KAC plans to open the warm pool and new outdoor lap pool for lap swim and individual water exercise on June 1. Swim team practice and aerobics classes are projected to resume in mid-June.
🔹 Alcatraz East Crime Museum will be reopening, following the COVID-19 closure, on May 15, 2020. The museum, located at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is taking new safety measures to help keep visitors safe and healthy. To help “police” these new safety rules, the museum is introducing their mascot, “Doc” (law enforcement abbreviation for Department of Corrections). Guests will see various signage and friendly safety reminders from Doc throughout the museum. Museum changes will include reduced hours and capacity, heightening cleaning efforts, spatial distancing protocols, employee health screening and employee PPE. Guests are encouraged to review all safety rules prior to their visit on the museum web page devoted to COVID-19: https://www.alcatrazeast.com/covid-19/.
🔹 The LENOWISCO Health District will schedule community testing sites for COVID-19 at locations across Lee, Scott and Wise counties during the month of May. Those who are uninsured or underinsured, as well as those with symptoms of illness are encouraged to call for an appointment. Testing resources are limited, and only those pre-screened and approved for testing will be admitted, and only by appointment. For the most accurate and up to date information, please visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lenowisco/.
🔹 The Cumberland Plateau Health District will schedule community testing sites for COVID-19 at locations across Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties during the month of May. Those who are uninsured or underinsured, as well as those with symptoms of illness are encouraged to call for an appointment. Testing resources are limited, and only those pre-screened and approved for testing will be admitted, and only by appointment. For the most accurate and up to date information, please visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/cumberlandplateau.
🔹 Marsh Regional Blood Center is experiencing an urgent need for blood donations and encourages all eligible donors to come out and give. COVID-19 does not pose any known risk to blood donors during the donation process or by attending blood drives. Marsh Regional always takes steps to prevent team members and donors who are not feeling well or who have a fever from reaching the donor area, and they are now taking additional social distancing precautions wherever possible. Plus, Marsh Regional continues to take appropriate measures to reduce donors’ potential exposure to COVID-19, as well as extra disinfection and sanitization efforts. To make an appointment, call (423) 408-7500.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, May 19, between 3 and 5 p.m. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
🔹 The city of Bristol, Tennessee will continue distributing free, reusable face masks to city residents on Saturday morning as part of a statewide plan to equip all Tennesseans with personal protective equipment. Masks will be given out in the parking lot of the Bristol, Tennessee Municipal Building, 801 Anderson St., from 9 a.m. until noon, on Saturday, May 16. Please remain in your vehicle and drive around to the distribution site. Supplies are limited, and you must be present to receive a mask.
🔹 Tennesseans are closely following news about the COVID-19 pandemic. They express concern about themselves or a loved one being infected and they are making choices accordingly, finds the most recent Tennessee Poll. The Applied Social Research Lab (ASRL) at East Tennessee State University surveyed 618 Tennesseans from April 22-May 1, 2020, about their thoughts, concerns and actions related to COVID-19. This field period was uniquely situated as the statewide stay-at-home order expired and Tennessee entered into phase one of its reopening plan.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Saltville Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Testing is not available on a walk-in basis. Insurance information will be collected at the time of the appointment scheduling and insurance will be billed for the test. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. The tests will be offered to the first 24 people who call and request testing. Depending on demand SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (276) 496-4492.
Tuesday, May 12
🔹 The Virginia Creeper Trail will reopen effective Tuesday, May 12, at 5 p.m.; however, facilities and services along the trail will remain closed. The Center for Disease Control’s guidelines related to social distancing will be required for use of the trail during the COVID-19 pandemic along with other steps aimed at protecting public health. All visitors should plan to bring their own water and hand sanitizer. Most trash receptacles will not be available so trail users should plan to “pack-in and pack-out.” Routine trail maintenance will be limited. For more information, visit vacreepertrail.org.
🔹 Tennessee Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA) campgrounds are now open to leisure camping after a statewide lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Locations are adhering to guidelines and recommendations from local health organizations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most KOAs have chosen to responsibly invite guests by altering cleaning procedures, offering unique social distancing activities, offering contact-free check-in and more. Visit KOA.com to learn more and make reservations.
🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order Nos. 36 and 37, extending the state of emergency declaration from May 18, 2020 to June 30, 2020, in order to extend certain provisions facilitating the State’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The full orders can be found here.
🔹 Despite the temporary closure, Hands On! Discovery Center employees have been working hard to create educational opportunities for the children and families in our region. Over the past several weeks, the Discovery Center has produced Facebook Live videos each weekday at 1:30 p.m. The videos, which feature programs that can be done at home, focus on art and different areas of science. Families can learn about basic chemistry, biology, and physics, among many other topics. Each program is designed to complement what students are learning in their virtual classrooms. The videos are also recorded and uploaded to the Discovery Center's YouTube channel, along with Tennessee curriculum standards. Additionally, Hands On! is now offering several exciting Discovery Kits that allow families to have an art or science programmatic experience in their own home. Two types of kits are available, both providing fun and interactive learning opportunities for students. Discovery at Home Kits include topics such as bubbles, the solar system, engineering, and sculpture. Discovery Rental Kits may be rented for one week and include exciting subjects like the laws of motion, density, and magnets. Also available for rent are kits that include fossils, miniature Imagination Playground Blocks, and Keva Planks. Most kits are $10 each and are currently available for local pick-up. More information can be found at visithandson.org.
🔹 Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) are leading a nationwide study to determine the rate of novel coronavirus infection in U.S. children and their families. The study, named the HEROS (Human Epidemiology and Response to SARS-CoV-2) study and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), aims to gain insight into how many children ages 1 to 21 have been infected, the percentage of those infected who develop symptoms of COVID-19 and any differences in immune responses to the virus between children and adults within the same household. It will also examine whether infection rates differ between children who have asthma or other allergies and children who do not, including the impact of topical steroids used to treat asthma and allergies.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today issued Executive Order Sixty-Two, allowing specific localities in Northern Virginia to delay entering Phase One of the “Forward Virginia” plan to ease restrictions on certain business operations that were put in place in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Northam has said that Virginia as a whole may enter Phase One on Friday, May 15, as outlined in Executive Order Sixty-One, based on achieving certain health metrics. Executive Order Sixty-Two allows the Northern Virginia localities to delay implementation of Phase One until midnight on Thursday, May 28, to allow those localities more time to meet the health metrics.
🔹 First Horizon National Corp. (NYSE:FHN) today announced that First Horizon Bank has helped more than 13,000 small businesses secure loans totaling approximately $2.1 billion through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These PPP loans will help sustain nearly 300,000 jobs at businesses in communities across its network. In addition, approximately 22% of the loans secured went to women-owned, minority-owned and low- to moderate-income tract designated businesses.
🔹 Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley today announced that revenues for April were less than the monthly revenues from the previous year. Overall state revenues for April were $1.3 billion, which is a negative growth rate of 39.75% compared to last year and $693.8 million less than the state budgeted. “The signs of economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic have begun to appear in Tennessee’s April tax receipts,” Eley said. “April sales tax revenues, reflecting March taxable sales activity, were weakened as the state began to withdraw from its usual patterns of consumer spending by mid-month. Franchise and excise tax receipts, along with Hall income and business taxes are also notably reduced due to filing extensions that will allow individuals and businesses to report their taxable activity later in the year.” The Tennessee Department of Revenue extended the due date for certain taxes on April 6, 2020; those can be found at https://www.tn.gov/revenue/news/2020/3/31/tennessee-extends-certain-tax-deadlines-due-to-covid-19.html.
🔹 Borden Dairy was awarded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) largest contract through its new Farmers to Families Food Box Program as part of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program (CFAP). The contract will enable Borden to supply 700 million servings of fresh fluid milk for free to qualifying 501(c)3 organizations starting this Friday, May 15. Borden will supply milk to consumers in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest regions, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Non-profit organizations interested in receiving a production donation from Borden should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, May 11
🔹 The Cherokee National Forest will reopen developed recreation sites beginning May 15 using a site-by-site approach, including assessment of facility cleanliness, maintenance status, and health and safety of recreation areas. Expect reopenings to not be quick or permanent. Some day-use sites, such as shooting ranges, picnic areas and small campgrounds, are currently scheduled to reopen on May 15. Additional sites and campgrounds are schedule to open May 24. Most remaining campgrounds will likely open the first week of June. Projected opening dates may vary depending on circumstances, and it may be necessary to not open or to close areas again if conditions change. Most boat launches, trails and the general forest area, including river corridors, have remained open to hiking, biking, boating, dispersed camping, hunting, fishing, etc. For information on the projected schedule of Cherokee National Forest recreation site opening dates and locations by Ranger District, visit www.fs.usda.gov/cherokee.
🔹 The George L. Carter Railroad Museum announces that the Annual East Tennessee State University Train Show, scheduled for Memorial Center on Friday, June 5, and Saturday, June 6, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The university has decided not to hold any public gatherings on campus through June, necessitating the show’s the cancellation. The organizers wish to thank those vendors who had committed to the show and express their disappointment to both vendors and attendees over the cancellation. Plans are already underway for the show’s return in June 2021.
🔹 The Town of Unicoi’s annual Freedom Fest, scheduled for July 4, has been cancelled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision comes after Johnson City announced the cancellation of its Fourth of July celebration a few weeks ago and the CDC continues to encourage social distancing. While larger events like Freedom Fest won’t be held this year, the Unicoi Farmers Market & Community Yard Sale will begin June 2 as previously scheduled. The programs department is working to create new guidelines and procedures similar to other regional farmer’s markets and will announce those within the coming weeks.
🔹 The Heritage Alliance will host its first Virtual Field Trip Day on Monday, May 18. Throughout the day, the Alliance will offer tours and activities online for students learning from home. The day will include a look at its one room schoolhouse Oak Hill School, an interactive tour of Main Street Jonesborough, a tour of the third-floor bedroom of the Chester Inn Museum, an interactive artifact exploration and much more. The Heritage Alliance will be streaming and posting content for students from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The day will also include visits to the Christopher Taylor House, the Chuckey Depot Museum and the Old Jonesborough Cemetery, with some surprises thrown in. To help cover expenses, the Heritage Alliance suggests a donation of $5-7, which covers the normal fee for a student during a field trip. Donations can be made online at www.heritageall.org.
🔹 Tennesseans’ thoughts related to the COVID-19 pandemic are the primary focus of the latest statewide Tennessee Poll conducted by the Applied Social Research Lab (ASRL) at East Tennessee State University. ASRL will release a series of poll results from the Tennessee Poll 2020 poll beginning later this week. The poll surveyed 618 Tennesseans from April 22-May 1, 2020, via telephone and has a margin of error of +/- 3.9%. Results will be provided for topic areas by likely voter status, as well as other key demographic characteristics. In addition to questions pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Poll asked a series of questions related to the current state of Tennessee and the nation, as well as citizens’ voting preferences for the fall 2020 elections.
🔹 Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN Tri-Cities makes its first virtual match in May. The organization is still working to match children in our region who need a mentor. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, email email@example.com or visit www.tennesseebig.org.
🔹 Federal guidelines the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development follows to administer the Tennessee Unemployment Compensation (TUC) program state an individual must be willing and able to work to receive unemployment benefits. Not returning to work when there is available employment may be considered a “refusal of work” and could potentially disqualify claimants from receiving TUC benefits. The federal CARES Act provides provisions for individuals who have traditionally been ineligible for state unemployment benefits, but those provisions do not apply to employees apprehensive about returning to work because of health concerns. Under federal law, workers who have been placed on a temporary layoff related to COVID-19 who can work, and do not qualify for any other Unemployment Insurance provisions through the state or under the CARES Act, must return to work if called back. Employees and employers can find answers to commonly asked questions about returning to work on the Department’s website, www.tn.gov/workforce.
🔹 The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced a $3.75 million grant to Appalachian Community Capital (ACC) for the ARC-ACC Emergency Business Response Assistance Program to strengthen and stabilize the Region's Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other mission-driven development finance lenders serving small businesses impacted by COVID-19 related losses. Through this partnership, the ARC-ACC Emergency Business Response Assistance Program will help designated community-based lenders cover operational costs and offset some of the income they are losing by suspending or reducing payments from their borrowers during the COVID-19 crisis. Lenders will be able to use the funds for operational support and for direct technical assistance to Appalachian small business and non-profit borrowers. ARC anticipates 400 businesses will be served; $15 million in leveraged private investment will be attracted; and 200 jobs will be retained across the 13-state Appalachian Region. ACC will administer the program, supervise progress, and monitor implementation. To participate, CDFIs or other mission-driven development finance lenders serving the Appalachian Region must either be a member of Appalachian Community Capital or previously funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. ACC expects to deploy the initial funding later this month.
🔹 Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) today announced a commitment of more than $3.3 million for Operation #SmilesMatter, a grant program to help Tennessee dentists acquire much needed supplies, equipment and technology as they prepare to reopen their practices following COVID-19-related closures. Delta Dental will be funding a $1,000 “allowance” or credit available to all dentists in Tennessee, regardless of whether they participate in Delta Dental’s network, to purchase dental products. Dentists can learn more about participation in Operation #SmilesMatter at https://tennessee.deltadental.com/ppe.
Sunday, May 10
Saturday, May 9
🔹 The 72nd annual Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon has been canceled. In a statement posted on Facebook, organizers said, “Over the past several weeks we have monitored the COVID-19 pandemic very closely to fully understand how it might impact our 2020 summer festival. We have already put an incredible amount of effort and expense into planning, modifying operations and modeling out every precautionary measure possible to ensure the safety of our staff, artists and attendees. In the end, we found that we are unable to safely hold the 72nd annual Virginia Highlands Festival this summer as scheduled (July 24-August 2). Although there will be statements later this week and plans for reopening arts and entertainment venues throughout Virginia, the uncertainty of what will be safe for our artists and audiences, as well as our financial position, necessitated making a decision now. Over the next few days, we will be in touch with our artists, vendors, sponsors, advertisers and patrons to issue refunds, transfer reservations to next summer, and continue work on our Plein Air Abingdon festival, which will take place Oct. 8-10.”
🔹 Based on state guidance and what we believe to be best practices for public events at this time, all Bristol Dragway May events are postponed. We will continue to monitor the situation while our team develops new guidelines for racing operations to ensure the safety of all. Updates will be provided on the Bristol Dragway website and social channels.
🔹 Northeast State Community College announced it will soon start disbursing to students the federal emergency financial assistance provided under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently approved by the U.S. Congress. Northeast State has received $2.2 million to help college students cover costs related to the disruption of campus operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These may include eligible expenses such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The College will distribute 90 percent of the funds to eligible students (as outlined below) and 10 percent through special payments to students with additional needs, through an application process. Students eligible for payments are degree-seeking students who were enrolled full- or part-time on or after March 13 for the Spring 2020 semester. Students who have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are eligible. Students who have not filed a FAFSA but who are eligible to file also may receive emergency fund grants. These student populations are not eligible for emergency funds: students who initially enrolled exclusively in distance education courses as of March 13, 2020; high school dual-enrollment students; non-degree-seeking students, and employees in special-industry training programs at the College. Northeast State students may set up direct deposit at https://www.northeaststate.edu/Admission/Business-Office/Student-Account-Suite/ by clicking the “Set up Electronic Refunds” button. Then click on the Student and Staff button and log into the account with a current student ID number and password. From there, enter banking information for electronic refunds.
🔹 East Tennessee State University conferred more than 2,200 degrees today during its Virtual Commencement Ceremony at 10 a.m. The ceremony included special congratulatory remarks from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and country music superstar Dolly Parton, as well as special music from the ETSU Chorale. A link to each college ceremony is available at www.etsu.edu/classof2020.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Sixty-One and presented a detailed framework for the first phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. The Phase One guidelines will be implemented when the data meets the public health criteria outlined by the Commonwealth. Phase One guidelines for specific sectors are available at virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia.
Friday, May 8
🔹 This year’s annual Rhododendron Festival at Roan Mountain has been canceled. The organizer of the event, the Roan Mountain Citizens Club, announced the closure on the club’s Facebook page on Thursday
🔹 In the interest of public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nashville Symphony has extended the suspension of all concert activity at Schermerhorn Symphony Center through July 3, 2020. The orchestra has also postponed two scheduled performances at Ascend Amphitheater and has cancelled the entirety of its Community Concerts series in June. The list of postponed or canceled Nashville Symphony concerts can be found at NashvilleSymphony.org/coronavirus.
🔹 Following the guidelines from the State of Tennessee and Knox County Health Department, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame will reopen on June 1, 2020. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame closed on March 16, 2020, in support of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The WBHOF will follow Knox County Health Department guidelines for 50% capacity, and 10 guests per event. Our team will be tested prior to work to ensure they are not sick, and we ask that guests do not come to the WBHOF if they are sick or have been in contact with a COVID-19 patient. Safe social distancing, 6 feet apart, will be practiced by WBHOF staff and visitors. The WBHOF team will be wearing masks and will ask that visitors wear masks while at the hall. Only one entrance from the parking lot on Hill Avenue to the WBHOF will be utilized.
🔹 With so many individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, Kingsport runners decided to hold a virtual event they call "Virtually Crazy: Kingsport's First Socially Distant 8K." During the month of July, runners from around the Tri-Cities will compete virtually against each other, while raising money for local businesses, nonprofits and individuals affected by the pandemic. Unlike traditional races, runners won’t gather at a start line — instead they'll follow social distancing guidelines, select a route and run at their own convenience, tracking their time with popular apps like Garmin and Strava to see how they stack up to the competition. During the month of July, the runners will also be able to nominate and vote for the organizations and individuals they believe most deserving of the funds raised. With the entire event being run by volunteers, and with overhead costs covered through donations of time and money by Kingsport residents, all money raised will go directly to the people who need it most. Details at https://virtuallycrazy.run.
🔹 Hawkins County has been awarded CARES Funds made available through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program. CARES is short for Coronvirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Hawkins County has been chosen to receive $30,807 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county. Hawkins County has also been awarded Federal Funds made available through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program. Hawkins County has been chosen to receive $21,608 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county.
🔹 Erwin Utilities is proud to announce that it has partnered with the United Way of Unicoi County and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to help Unicoi County residents during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Erwin Utilities and the United Way of Unicoi County will collectively match up to $10,000 in donations from the community. Additionally, TVA will match up to $10,000 through its COVID-19 Community Care Fund, which helps local power companies, like Erwin Utilities, meet immediate needs in their communities related to COVID-19. To reach this collaboration’s maximum potential, a communitywide minimum goal of $10,000 in donations has been established. Those who are interested in donating are asked to mail a check to the United Way of Unicoi County at P.O. Box 343, Erwin, TN 37650 or contribute through the United Way of Unicoi County PayPal account at www.e-u.cc/info/relief/. The PayPal site will accept credit card, debit card, or PayPal contributions.
🔹 The U.S. Department of the Treasury and IRS today announced that nearly 130 million Americans have received Economic Impact Payments, worth more than $218 billion, in less than five weeks. These totals do not include the more than $2.5 billion delivered to U.S. territories for payment to territory residents. Individuals in Tennessee have received 2,881,709 Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) worth $4,980,110,718.
🔹 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced grants totaling $1,044,387 to HRSA-funded community health centers for expanded testing through funding made available by the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. Individual award recipients in Northeast Tennessee were $192,454 – East Tennessee State University, $243,409 – Rural Medical Services, Inc., and $608,524 – Rural Health Services Consortium, Inc.
🔹 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded $1,603,213 to Community Health Centers in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District to expand coronavirus testing. Local providers receiving funding include Clinch River Health Services Inc. in Dungannon ($138,814) and St. Charles Health Council Inc. in Jonesville ($356,074).
🔹 East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy celebrated the Class of 2020 with a Virtual Hooding and Commencement for its 68 graduates on Friday, May 8. The Class of 2020 is the 11th graduating class of Gatton College of Pharmacy, and the first class at the college to celebrate its commencement virtually.
Thursday, May 7
🔹 The VHSL Executive Committee during its May meeting today voted (31-0-1) to cancel all spring sports and activities for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. “This extremely difficult decision was made knowing the great disappointment our student-athletes, academic activity participants, coaches, administrators, parents, and their communities will experience. We share those same feelings as well,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun. “We especially grieve with those senior athletes and activity participants who will not have an opportunity to represent their school or wear their school jersey one final time after years of hard work and dedication.”
🔹 A plan has been approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court to reopen courts in Sullivan County. Most courts within Sullivan County plan to reopen the week of May 11. The maximum number of individuals allowed in each courtroom will be 10 exclusive of judges, necessary court personnel and court security. Video hearings are strongly recommended and will be utilized as much as possible. For all in-person hearings, everyone entering the courtroom will be screened to be sure they do not have any symptoms of illness and elevated temperature taken by infrared thermometer. It is suggested the attorneys, clients and witnesses bring and wear an appropriate mask.
🔹 Appalachian Orthopedics has resumed elective surgery, or scheduled nonemergency surgery, for its patients. Since the state has eased restrictions preserving the stocks of health care resources, including personal protective equipment, ventilators, etc., Appalachian Orthopedics will offer elective and emergency surgical treatment.
🔹 As large summer conferences and mass gatherings remain in doubt amidst continued social distancing recommendations from public health officials, the Tennessee Valley Corridor announced today it is shifting its Annual Summit and 25th anniversary celebration to a series of special online events this summer. Originally scheduled to be held July 15-16 at Milligan College in Johnson City, the Corridor's Annual Summit will instead convene participants online for a series of weekly Summit sessions beginning Thursday, July 16, for five consecutive weeks. Each session will highlight many of the same speakers, topics and organizations, but the new virtual format aims to maximize participation during the continued COVID-19 crisis. For more information about the Tennessee Valley Corridor and the National Summit, visit www.TennValleyCorridor.org or email TVC Executive Director Darrell Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
🔹 The LENOWISCO Health District has activated drive-up testing sites for COVID-19 at each local health department in Lee, Scott and Wise counties. Testing is being conducted in the parking lot of each health department Monday through Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. by appointment only, after being screened on the phone by a nurse. In order to be approved for testing, you must call in advance for a screening interview. Those that are approved for testing will receive an appointment time. You must bring a valid ID to the testing site. To avoid lengthy wait times, please come to the site at your appointed time and bring your documentation with you. To request a screening, please call: Lee County Health Department at (276) 346-2011; Scott County Health Department at (276) 386-1312; and Wise County/City of Norton Health Department at (276) 328-8000.
🔹 The Cumberland Plateau Health District has activated drive-thru testing sites for COVID-19 at each local health department in Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties. Testing is being conducted in the parking lot of each health department Monday through Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. by appointment only, after being screened on the phone by a nurse. In order to be approved for testing, you must call in advance for a screening interview. Those that are approved for testing will receive an appointment time. You must bring a valid ID to the testing site. To avoid lengthy wait times, please come to the site at your appointed time and bring your documentation with you. To request a screening, please call: Buchanan County Health Department at (276) 935-4591; Dickenson County Health Department at (276) 926-4576; Russell County Health Department at (276) 889-7621 and Tazewell County Health Department at (276) 988-5585.
🔹 The City of Bristol, Tennessee, will begin providing free face masks to city residents on Friday, May 8, as part of Gov. Bill Lee’s plan to provide all Tennesseans with personal protective equipment. Beginning at 1 p.m on Friday, May 8, the city will be distributing the reusable, cloth masks in the parking lot on the Alabama Street side of the Ida Stone Jones Community Tennis Center. Supplies are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. You must be present to receive a mask. For additional information, please contact the Department of Community Relations at (423) 764-4171 or email@example.com.
🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 35, amending Executive Order No. 30 to allow for the reopening of small group, non-contact entertainment, and recreational venues according to new Economic Recovery Group guidelines. Read the full text here.
🔹 Yesterday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 34, extending Executive Order No. 16 to allow for government bodies to hold meetings remotely until June 30 to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Tennessee.
🔹 Dr. Robert Pack, executive director of East Tennessee State University’s Addiction Science Center, will moderate a panel discussion, via webinar, on how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting efforts to address the opioid crisis. The webinar, which is part of the 2020 Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) Virtual Annual Meeting, will be held on Friday, May 8, from 1-2 p.m. For more information or to register, visit www.aspph.org/aspphevents/2020virtualannualmeeting/.
🔹 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded $9,365,606 to 29 health centers in Tennessee, to expand COVID-19 testing. For a list of award recipients, visit https://bphc.hrsa.gov/emergency-response/expanding-capacity-coronavirus-testing-FY2020-awards.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has released data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 2, 2020. Statewide, there were 37,319 new claims filed and 321,571 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 1,781 new claims were filed.
🔹 To view the Times News COVID-19 blog for March 11-May 6, click here.