COVID-19 Closures and Updates

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 news@timesnews.net.

Thursday, Nov. 26

News updates

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on unemployment claims for the week ending Nov. 21. Statewide, there were 6,873 new claims and 51,624 continued claims.

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Girl Scouts, churches partner to provide Thanksgiving meals

Black Friday bargain hunters change strategy because of pandemic

Mayors urge caution during upcoming holiday season

Wednesday, Nov. 25

News updates

🔹 Barter Theatre has received $10,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) Recovery Marketing Leverage Program (RMLP), designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging limited local marketing dollars through a local match of the state grants funds. Barter Theatre will use the VTC Recovery Marketing Leverage grant funds to facilitate digital marketing efforts and website optimization targeted at bringing new visitors to the Abingdon and Tri-Cities area. 

🔹 Many Tennessee counties experienced changes in their unemployment rates during October 2020, according to newly released data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD)Unemployment in 93 of Tennessee’s 95 counties increased in October. Davidson and Sevier counties saw their rates decrease during the month. TDLWD has produced a report with a complete analysis of Tennessee’s October 2020 county unemployment data. You can find information for each county and statistical area hereTennessee employers are ready to help the state’s economy rebound by hiring individuals to meet their business needs. Jobs4TN.gov, Tennessee’s workforce development website, currently has over 240,000 open positions for workers of varying skill levels.

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COVID-19 in SWVA: Region sees 80-plus spike in cases

COVID-19 in NET: Daily cases climb over 250

Natural Tunnel cancels Christmas Lighting of the Tunnel

Region A.H.E.A.D. moves forward with effort to support health care heroes

Tuesday, Nov. 24

News updates

🔹 The Northeast Tennessee public health region will be closed over the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, Nov. 26, and Friday, Nov. 27. This includes health departments in Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins/Church Hill, Hawkins/Rogersville, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties, as well as the regional office in Johnson City. Health department services and COVID-19 drive-through testing will resume on Monday, Nov. 30. There will be extended COVID-19 testing between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. in Carter, Greene, Hawkins (Rogersville) and Washington counties on Nov. 30. All other health departments will follow regular weekday testing hours.

🔹 Even though economic activity is still below pre-pandemic peak levels, a report from Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office shows signs of economic recovery. The Tennessee Quarterly Business and Economic Indicators report for the third quarter of 2020 showed 16,470 new entity filings, representing a strong 42.2 percent increase over the same quarter in 2019. Initial filings have now seen positive year-over-year growth for 35 consecutive quarters. “The pandemic made a significant impact on our economy, but Tennessee’s entrepreneurial spirit and business-friendly environment has seen some Tennesseans start their own businesses,” said Secretary Hargett.

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COVID-19 in SWVA: Region sees 19 cases

COVID-19 in NET: Daily cases drop below 100

Ballad Health identifies cluster of positive COVID-19 cases at Wexford House

Editorial: Don't believe the misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines

Gas prices push cheaper ahead of Thanksgiving holiday

Birthplace of Country Music announces plans for 2021 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

Monday, Nov. 23

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COVID-10 in SWVA: Region sees 75 cases

COVID-19 in NET: Region pushed past 360 daily cases

3rd major COVID-19 vaccine shown to be effective and cheaper

Be an angel for a shelter pet this Christmas season

Mount Carmel approves 'Santa Run' despite sticky issue of throwing candy

Sunday, Nov. 22

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COVID-19 in SWVA: Region sees 24 cases

COVID-19 in NET: Region pushed past 350 daily cases

Salvation Army will serve traditional Thanksgiving dinner

Reimagined Santa Train distributes gifts in Weber City

Junior League's Jingle & Gingerbread gets a holiday makeover

Sunday Scrapbook: A Poetic Plea

Saturday, Nov. 21

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COVID-19 in NET: Region sees fewer than 300 cases for second day

COVID-19 in SWVA: Region sees 44 cases

LENOWISCO Health Department director recommends school divisions stop in-person classes until after holidays

Kingsport Chamber still strong even in midst of pandemic

SW Virginia schools preparing for small crowds at basketball games

Friday, Nov. 20

News updates

🔹 The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will be conducting routine maintenance to the VDH external website (www.vdh.virginia.gov) on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 between the hours of 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. During this time, the website as well as the COVID-19 data dashboards will be unavailable. VDH will continue to keep you updated throughout the scheduled maintenance on the expected recovery time or any issues which may increase system downtime. For more information on COVID-19 during VDH website routine maintenance visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

🔹 East Tennessee State University’s Office of Professional Development will offer a virtual Holiday Cooking series with Chef Sheridan Nice Dec. 3 and 10.  The course will meet two hours each Thursday and cover several recipes appropriate for holiday meals. The cost of the course is $100.00 for the series, or $55.00 for an individual class. To learn more or sign up, visit etsu.edu/professionaldevelopment and click “registration” or call the ETSU Office of Professional Development at 800-222-3878.

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COVID-19 in SW Va: 27 cases in LENOWISCO Health District

COVID-19 in NET: Region sees six deaths, 274 cases

Hawkins school system performs 'reset,' moves to virtual instruction until Nov. 30

Editorial: Tennessee needs a statewide mask mandate

United Way hits 87% of fundraising target despite challenging year

Thursday, Nov. 19

News updates

🔹 The Organization of Student Representatives (OSR) at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine is hosting a virtual 5K fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 28, to benefit the Willow Unit at Woodridge Hospital. Registration for the virtual 5K is $5 per person, and registration is currently open at https://www.etsu.edu/com/sa/default.php. The registration deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 5 p.m.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has released data on unemployment claims for the week ending Nov. 14, 2020. Statewide, there were 6,182 new claims, along with 53,976 continued claims.

🔹 As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Tennessee continue to rise at a concerning rate, the Tennessee Hospital Association (THA) and hospitals across the state are stressing the importance of wearing masks in public with the launch of the “Masking Makes a Difference” campaign. To further support this message, chief medical officers and chief nursing officers from hospitals across the state have signed a letter urging Tennesseans to continue to take COVID-19 precautions like wearing a mask in public.

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Santa Train gift distributions scheduled for Saturday

Northeast Tennessee reports record number of COVID-19 deaths

Nine COVID-19 deaths reported in Wise County

CDC warns Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving

Ahead of holidays, Tennessee one of 14 states without mask mandate

Scott County, Gate City receive tourism grants

'They'll remember this the rest of their lives': Youth football league defies pandemic

Hawkins cancels parades, but there's still Christmas fun to be had

Wednesday, Nov. 18

News updates

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today signed House Bill 5005, Virginia’s revised biennial budget. The governor called the General Assembly into special session on Aug. 18 and has worked with legislative leaders to enact a spending plan that protects key priorities, preserves the Commonwealth’s financial options, and addresses critical challenges that Virginians are facing amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A full list of legislation signed by the Governor during the special session can be found here.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee today announced a new ad as part of the continued “Face It, Masks Fight COVID-19” campaign. The new ad promotes responsible decision-making by Tennesseans as the state continues to fight the spread of COVID-19 and is airing across the state on broadcast, cable, radio, outdoor and digital media. The PSA launches in addition to a COVID-19 website from the Tennessee Department of Health that provides Tennesseans with improved tools to make informed decisions for their health. The website can be found at https://covid19.tn.gov/. Watch the ad here.

🔹 The Northeast Tennessee public health region will be providing free drive through flu vaccinations on Thursday, Nov. 19. Drive through COVID-19 testing will not be available on this day at health departments in Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins/Church Hill, Hawkins/Rogersville, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties. Health department COVID-19 drive-through testing will resume on Friday, Nov. 20.

🔹 Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site will present “VISIONS OF CHRISTMAS: 1859” on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 2-6 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $2.50 for children 12 and under. Admission for groups of 10 or more will be $4 for adults and $1.50 for children 12 and under. Please call 423-926-3631 or email tiptonhaynes@outlook.com to make a reservation for the 1859 Christmas candlelight tour or for more information. Masks will be required while inside the visitor center and on the tour.

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Fatal outbreaks at Wise, Scott nursing homes not listed on state website

COVID-19 in NET: Region's daily cases push past 360

Dolly Parton adds pandemic hero to list of accomplishments

Pfizer: COVID-19 shot 95% effective, seeking clearance soon

Editorial: Are we doing enough to stop the spread?

St. Paul's Christmas Bazaar moves online

Three Hawkins schools go virtual due to spike in COVID cases

Two grades at Rock Springs Elementary to be virtual until Nov. 30

Tuesday, Nov. 17

News updates

🔹 Tennessee has been selected as one of four states to participate in a pilot program for delivery of the Pfizer Inc. COVID-19 vaccine now under development. This program is designed to address distribution challenges posed by requirements for ultra-cold storage of the vaccine. Tennessee will participate in the pilot along with New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas, states chosen based on their differences in size, population diversity and immunization infrastructure. Lessons learned through this program will help support all states in development of effective immunization programs for this COVID-19 vaccine. Providers who wish to administer COVID-19 vaccine may find more information online at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/covid-19-vaccine-information.html.

🔹 The Salvation Army will be providing Thanksgiving dinner to those in Kingsport who may not have food of their own. This annual event will be held at 11:30 a.m. at The Salvation Army, located at 505 Dale St. in Kingsport. There will be safe distancing protocols in place therefore there will be limited seating for those who choose to dine in. Take-away meals will be available for those who do mot want to dine in.

🔹 Holston Electric and Holston Connect announced it will close all branches to walk-in traffic beginning Wednesday, Nov. 18, due to continued surges in COVID cases in the community. Customer service representatives can be reached by calling (423) 272-8821 during normal business hours. Bill payment options are available through the mobile app, kiosks and by calling (423) 272-8821 and using the interactive voice payment option.

🔹 The Symphony of the Mountains Brass Quintet and Mountain Strings performed live concerts in September and October for delighted masked and safely distanced audiences. With rising pandemic cases and a request from community leaders to pause live events, the orchestra management has chosen to present the annual Holiday Concert in a virtual live-stream. The free concert will be streamed on YouTube Saturday, Dec. 5, at 4 p.m. The YouTube link for the concert will be provided on the symphony web site approximately one week before the concert. For more information visit www.symphonyofthemountains.org or call the Symphony office at 423-392-8423.

🔹 “Cameras On versus Cameras Off: Virtual Resilience in the Appalachian Highlands” is the focus of the inaugural Town Hall sponsored by the ETSU Ballad Health Strong BRAIN Institute (SBI). The SBI facilitates the development and dissemination of evidence-based practices that prevent, reduce and mitigate the negative effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on health and health disparities. It also strives to inform the citizens and workforce of the Appalachian Highlands region on the importance of being resilience-informed. This free public discussion will be held Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 11 a.m. via Zoom. Those wishing to participate may visit https://bit.ly/3f5cTVz to register and obtain the Zoom link.

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NET daily case levels ease, but five more deaths reported

Lee care facility dealing with COVID-19 outbreak as SW Va. adds four deaths, 43 cases

Lee County Schools move to all-remote classes until end of November

Let's pray for all those working to bring us vaccine

Monday, Nov. 16

News updates

🔹 One Acre Cafe will serve its traditional Thanksgiving lunch from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Nov. 25. The meal will be served as takeout only this year. This meal is free to any community member who is present to receive the meal. Donations are not required but are always appreciated if you are able help. You must be present at the café to receive a free meal. Everyone is asked to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Unified Command Group is making more COVID-19 testing options available for Tennesseans statewide leading up to and just after Thanksgiving. The Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee National Guard will extend operating hours at 35 county health departments, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., local time, on Mon., Nov. 23, and Mon., Nov. 30. A complete, statewide list of all COVID-19 testing sites is available at https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html.

🔹 Several student organizations at East Tennessee State University are sponsoring a collection drive for personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene products now through Friday, Nov. 20. Students are collecting hand sanitizer, masks, face shield, gloves, and other PPE/hygiene products in donation bins on campus. The bins are located on the first floor of Sherrod Library and the D.P. Culp Student Center in the Starbucks common area and near the elevators on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The donations will benefit Hermitage Health and Rehabilitation Center.

🔹 Throughout the pandemic, East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health has mobilized its expertise and resources, posting almost 100 COVID-19 educational videos, updates, and public service announcements, which have surpassed 25,000 views. To view the College of Public Health’s video resources, visit www.etsu.edu/cph/covid19.php.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced more than $1.9 million in matching grants will be awarded to 161 local tourism initiatives as part of Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) Recovery Marketing Leverage Program (RMLP). VTC revised its traditional Marketing Leverage Program to create the RMLP in an effort to support tourism initiatives in responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. A full list of Recovery Marketing Leverage Program grant recipients can be found here.

🔹 Younger parents were much less likely than older parents to say they planned to vaccinate their children and themselves against COVID-19, according to a research letter published online in medRxiv by authors at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Only 52% of parents age 18-35 were likely to vaccinate their children against COVID-19, compared with 67% of parents 36-45 and 69 percent of parents 46 and older. Overall, 63% of parents are willing to vaccinate their children against COVID-19 and about 60% are likely to get the vaccine themselves.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Corrections continues to aggressively test inmates and staff for COVID-19 and has taken steps toward soon being able to acquire test results in minutes as opposed to days. The department recently began weekly testing of infirmary staff to better ensure the safety of inmates and staff in this vulnerable setting. The entire staff at facilities with infirmaries can be tested weekly if necessary.

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NET sets record for daily COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 in SWVA: Region sees slowdown in daily cases

Sunday, Nov. 15

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194 new COVID-19 cases reported in Sullivan County among 464 in Northeast Tennessee

COVID-19 in SWVA: Region sees 48 cases

Rogersville's free Thanksgiving dinner will be delivery only

Saturday, Nov. 14

News updates

🔹 Symphony of the Mountains will replace its annual live-audience holiday concert with a free virtual concert. On Saturday Dec. 5 at 4 p.m., the Symphony of the Mountains Strings will live-stream a concert on YouTube. The program will include holiday favorites and traditional carols. Featured soloists are Sean Claire, SOTM's concertmaster, and Matthew Wilkinson, SOTM's principal cellist.

🔹 The Sullivan Central basketball team is under quarantine. The Cougars' Hall of Champions games against Unaka and Hampton have been canceled. The team is scheduled to return to practice Sunday, Nov. 22 and start play in the Food City Thanksgiving Classic at Sullivan East the following day.

🔹 The Tusculum University athletic department has announced its policy for spectators for the upcoming 2020-2021 basketball season. The TU season will tip off next Saturday (Nov. 21) when Tusculum hosts Wingate University for a South Atlantic Conference doubleheader at Pioneer Arena. The policies below affect only Tusculum home basketball games for the 2020-2021 season. Fans wishing to attend an away game during this basketball season should verify the fan policies on each school’s website before traveling. Tusculum has established a seating capacity of 250 fans (10% capacity) for its home basketball games during the 2020-2021 season. Masks and face coverings are required and fans should observe physical distancing at all times. Fans may sit in groups only if members reside in the same household. Groups must sit at a minimum of six-feet apart. Anyone who does not abide by these policies will be asked to leave the facility.

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SW Va. posts 49 new COVID-19 cases

Three new COVID-19 deaths, 323 new cases reported in Northeast Tennessee

COVID-19 pandemic has made nursing shortage even worse

Central basketball on hold after coach tests positive

Annual 'Night of Smiles' kicks off Christmas light show at BMS

McKinney Center brings world to Jonesborough for annual fundraiser

Friday, Nov. 13

News updates

🔹 Symphony of the Mountains reminds audiences its November concerts featuring the Woodwind Quintet have been postponed until next year. There will be no concert Friday night in Bristol or tomorrow in Wise (as originally planned).

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced new statewide measures Friday to contain COVID-19, including limit of 25 individuals for in-person gatherings, an expanded mask mandate, on-site alcohol curfew and increased enforcement. The reduction in public and private gatherings, now limited to 25 individuals, is down from the current cap of 250 and includes both indoor and outdoor settings. The expanded mask mandate now applies to everyone age 5 and older in indoor public spaces. All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and enhanced cleaning. Violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor. The full texts of amended Executive Order Sixty-Three and Order of Public Health Emergency Five and sixth amended Executive Order Sixty-Seven and Order of Public Health Emergency Seven can be seen here.

🔹 Virginia High School League (VHSL) Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun responded to Governor Ralph Northam’s new statewide measures to contain COVID-19, including a limit from 250 to 25 spectators for in-person gatherings. “We want to make it very clear that the Governor’s order for reduction in public and private gatherings to 25 individuals applies to 'spectators' and not participants at those events,” said Haun said. “Nothing in the order prevents VHSL member schools from holding contests.” The VHSL said it would provide a more detailed release on Monday.

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Editorial: Businesses should take the lead in COVID fight

Tennessee tops 300,000 COVID-19 cases, reports 64 new deaths

Northam tightens statewide restrictions as SW Va. has two more deaths

McMinn County at D-B playoff game called off due to coronavirus situation

Previous updates

🔹 To view the Times News COVID-19 blog for July 8-Nov. 12, click here.

🔹 To view the Times News COVID-19 blog for May 7-July 7, click here.

🔹 To view the Times News COVID-19 blog for March 11-May 6, click here.