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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, Aug. 12
🔹 Leaders at the University of Tennessee Highland Rim AgResearch and Education Center have canceled the annual Tobacco, Beef and More Field Day for 2020. Rob Ellis, center director, cited the difficulty in maintaining proper social distancing at an event that typically draws more than 250 visitors. Those needing pesticide recertification points are encouraged to contact the UT Extension office in their home counties for virtual or in-person options for training. Tobacco, Beef and More is one of several UT Institute of Agriculture events that have been delayed, canceled or modified due to COVID-19. For the most up-to-date information on Institute field days or other events, visit the Event Calendar at utia.tennessee.edu.
🔹 The Conference Carolinas Board of Directors have agreed to continue deliberations on competing in fall intercollegiate athletics after receiving additional guidance from the NCAA Sport Science Institute on Tuesday evening. The board unanimously affirmed the following statement on Tuesday: "The Conference Carolinas Board of Directors, having during our meeting today received new information from the NCAA pertaining to testing and other matters, will reconvene within the next week for a final decision on fall sports competition. During this time the presidents will consult with public health officials in their respective areas and determine what is the best decision with respect to our student-athletes and the potential for them to practice and compete safely."
🔹 The COVID-19 situation has affected how many residents are choosing to utilize some of Kingsport’s parks and recreational programming. If you’d like to share your thoughts about this with Kingsport Parks and Recreation, please take this short survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Kingsport_COVID_survey. Your thoughts and opinions will help shape future park projects and help plan for next steps.
🔹 The Tri-Cities 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb is excited to announce the location of the sixth annual event. Participants will have the unique opportunity to climb at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Last Great Colosseum. By relocating the event to a large outdoor facility and by implementing procedures including hand sanitizing stations, social distancing, and masks being worn in common areas, organizers are planning the event with safety at the forefront. The event is limited to 343 climbers, and registration is online until filled at http://events.firehero.org/tricities.
🔹 The X Ambassadors, an alt-rock band based in Ithaca, New York, will perform in the East Tennessee State University Student Government Association’s exclusive virtual Fall 2020 Welcome Week Concert on Saturday, Aug. 29, at 8 p.m. via Zoom. The concert is free to all ETSU students, staff and faculty with ETSU Zoom registration required. Registration will open Monday, Aug. 17, at 8 a.m. at the SGA Concerts page, etsu.edu/concerts.
🔹 Amerigroup and its foundation announced today they are giving $125,000 to nonprofit organizations in Tennessee to support ongoing efforts related to COVID-19, as part of Amerigroup’s continuing efforts to improve lives and communities. The funding is part of the foundation’s $50 million commitment for COVID-19 response and recovery efforts to help areas of greatest need, including Tennessee nonprofit organizations on the front lines of the pandemic, who have mobilized in response to the crises impacting the local community.
Tuesday, Aug. 11
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn announced today the state of Tennessee’s continued efforts to assist families, teachers, and districts as the 2020-2021 school year begins. The department released a dashboard that provides information on each school’s status as offering in-person learning, virtual learning, or a hybrid. The dashboard is updated daily and can be found here. The department is releasing a child wellbeing check toolkit today, to ensure that the needs of Tennessee children are met during and after extended periods away from school and to empower local communities to meaningfully engage in ways that support child wellbeing. Guidelines established in this document are encouraged to be enacted during any period of extended school closure, through virtual school models, and when students return to school after extended periods away. Earlier this week, the department released Schoolnet, the online platform to house the department’s suite of free and optional assessment supports for the 2020-21 school year. For access to additional resources related to reopening schools, visit the Tennessee Department of Education’s Reopening webpage: https://www.tn.gov/education/health-and-safety/update-on-coronavirus/reopening-guidance.html.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at their four community health centers. 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. Rapid and PCR tests are available. For patients who do not have insurance, financial assistance is available to cover the cost of testing. There are a limited number of appointments available each day and will be offered on a first call first serve basis. 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 Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) has achieved Healthy Business Certification from the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, certifying that both its business office and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum has a disease prevention plan in place that meets guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for workplace health and pandemic response. The certification will be up for renewal in July 2021.
🔹 “Taste of Tennessee” is a new virtual program offered by the Heritage Alliance that promises to bring people together to explore and celebrate Appalachian cuisine from the comfort of their homes. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the event is completely online and is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This day-long digital celebration is full of education and entertainment and also serves as a fundraiser for The Heritage Alliance. As part of the event, The Heritage Alliance will present a variety of offerings via Facebook and Zoom, including lectures, demonstrations, cooking classes and more. Tickets for special Zoom events are available on the Town of Jonesborough’s website.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that additional commodities are covered by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) in response to public comments and data. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending the deadline to apply for the program to Sept. 11, and producers with approved applications will receive their final payment.
Monday, Aug. 10
🔹 The Tennessee Public Utility Commission today adopted a motion that the Commission’s moratorium on service disconnections for nonpayment be lifted effective Aug. 29, 2020. The moratorium was a pro-active measure enacted by the Commission in March of this year to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 during Tennessee’s State of Emergency status invoked by Gov. Bill Lee. Customers must be provided a minimum 30-day written notice of the utility’s intent to resume its procedures for disconnection of service due to nonpayment of bills. The written notice shall provide the date on which the utility will resume its procedures for cutoffs for nonpayment of services, which can resume no sooner than Sept. 28, 2020, thirty days after the moratorium is lifted.
🔹 The Sullivan County Board of Education will meet in regular session on Thursday, Aug. 13, at 6:30 p.m. This meeting will be held at Sullivan Central High School in the gymnasium. This meeting will be open to the public and public comment will be allowed. Masks are recommended and social distancing will be practiced. Anyone who wishes to speak during public comment will need to complete Form 1.404.F1 Public Comments prior to the start of the meeting. That form can be found on our website https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LP1qw9Y6X_djAzMWdidFEwbUU/view or will be available at the sign in table as you enter the meeting. The agenda can be viewed here: https://meeting.boeconnect.net/Public/Organization/561.
🔹 The Cumberlands Airport Commission, owner and operator of the Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise, Virginia, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a design grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the rehabilitation of its airport runway in the amount of $655,000. The design effort will include pavement rehabilitation, replacement/relocation of runway lighting, and the installation of a dedicated electrical vault. While funding contributions for airport capital projects are typically 90 percent from FAA, eight percent from the Virginia Department of Aviation (DOAV), and two percent from the Commission, this project is funded at a 100 percent federal share as a result of the additional monies provided by the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
🔹 Thanks to a COVID CARES Act grant made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Lonesome Pine Regional Library just placed an order for 45 mobile hotspots so cardholders will be able to enjoy free wireless internet access at home or on the go. Once the devices are ready for checkout, the library will share the details in another public announcement.
🔹 Food City recently announced that the supermarket retail chain is partnering with Reliant Immune Diagnostics to offer MDBox telehealth to their valued customers. MDBox is a telehealth provider that enables patients to video chat with a licensed medical professional on their mobile devise any time they feel sick or need medical attention. The MDBox telehealth app was developed by Reliant Immune Diagnostics to provide cost-effective, quality symptom-specific healthcare and wellness to everyone. For less than the price of most copays per visit, patients can live chat with an MDBox medical provider within minutes and get a prescription if needed. Food City customers will receive $10 off their first MDBox visit.
Sunday, Aug. 9
Saturday, Aug. 8
Friday, Aug. 7
🔹 The Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold an electronic meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020 at 6 p.m. The agenda can be accessed at the following link: https://go.boarddocs.com/tn/kingscs/Board.nsf/vpublic?open. 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.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced a temporary statewide moratorium on eviction proceedings in Virginia. The moratorium, which will begin on Monday, Aug. 10, and remain in effect through Monday, Sept. 7, halts all eviction proceedings related to failure to pay rent. Northam requested this moratorium in a letter to Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Lemons on July 24. Visit StayHomeVirginia.com for additional information and resources on tenant rights. Today’s order from the Virginia Supreme Court can be found here.
🔹 A team of experts from East Tennessee State University’s health sciences colleges is helping the university navigate important decisions and policies to protect the health and safety of the campus community and ETSU Health clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic. Created in response to the pandemic, the Medical Response Team meets regularly to analyze disease trends, craft medical suggestions and aid in decisions and considerations regarding the safe return to campus. The team has assisted in the development of ETSU’s policy on face coverings, return to work and class protocol, and a list of frequently asked safety questions. They have also facilitated COVID-19 testing at the ETSU University Health Center and ETSU Health clinical offices.
🔹 Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that the COVID-19 data numbers that will be posted on Friday, Aug. 7, will contain a significant increase due to a data backlog from earlier in the week. Today’s data will indicate 2,015 new cases. This figure includes information that should have been reported on Wednesday and Thursday of this week as well as the regular numbers for Friday. Late Thursday, VDH’s Office of Information Management, which helps manage VDH’s COVID-19 databases, identified and rectified the technical issue, which was a system performance configuration. To follow the number of new cases by day of symptom onset, please refer to the graph, “Number of Cases by Date of Symptom Onset.”
Thursday, Aug. 6
🔹 The award-winning Tennessee Medieval Faire has been canceled for 2020 due to the global pandemic. The rescheduled show dates were to be Oct. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18 in Harriman, Tennessee. Festival producers hope to continue hosting their annual Tennessee Medieval Faire and Tennessee Pirate Fest in the spring and fall of 2021. For festival updates, visit www.TMFaire.com.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn announced today the state of Tennessee’s continued efforts to assist families, teachers, and districts as the 2020-2021 school year begin. Efforts include additional funding to support connectivity, a teacher PPE dashboard, a family remote learning site, a foundational skills site, and Best for All Central, which provides school leaders, educators, and families with an extensive collection of high-quality, optional resources designed to be easily accessible and searchable.
🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) has confirmed top headliners Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Tanya Tucker, and Blackberry Smoke will perform at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2021. All three acts were slated to perform at the festival's 20th annual event previously scheduled for this September, but the 2020 festival was cancelled due to COVID-19.
🔹 The Kingsport Chamber Golf Scramble is set for Tuesday, Sept. 15, at Ridgefields. Due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, precautions are being taken to ensure as safe an environment as possible. Players and attendees are asked to wear masks when registering and standing in the gathering area. Players are also asked to leave the pins in the holes. Breakfast and lunch will be provided in box containers. Social distancing is encouraged. Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes will also be available for use. To enter, sponsor a hole or donate a prize, call Nora Davis, Kingsport Chamber communications and events coordinator, at 392-8827 or send an email to email@example.com.
🔹 Barter Theatre revealed that its AT&T Make Me a Match Challenge has been completed almost two weeks early. AT&T pledged a dollar for dollar match to contributions to the theatre between July 17 and Aug. 14, up to $30,000. Tremendous donor support since the challenge began has resulted in a total of $60,000 in gifts to the theatre’s COVID-19 Relief Fund.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on unemployment claims for the week ending Aug. 1, 2020. Statewide, 11,690 new claims were filed, along with 224,093 continued claims. In Sullivan County, 383 initial claims were filed, along with 3,999 continued claims. In Hawkins County, 116 initial claims were filed, along with 1,454 continued claims.
Wednesday, Aug. 5
🔹 The Rose Center Board of Directors announces the cancellation of this year’s Mountain Makins Festival in Morristown due to the current COVID-19 health crisis. This would have been the 45th annual festival, Rose Center’s original and largest fundraiser. Over the past 44 years, more than 1000 crafts makers from several states, and hundreds of musicians and dancers, have participated in the fall event. The free app is available to download through the App Store and the Google Play Store.
🔹 Under a Tennessee Supreme Court decision issued today, the state must permit every eligible voter with an underlying health condition that makes them especially vulnerable to COVID-19 — and any voter who is a caretaker of such individuals — to vote by mail in all elections in 2020 due to COVID-19. Prior to this case, the state had refused to let anyone physically capable of traveling to the polls to vote by mail. Any eligible voter who requested and voted via absentee ballot for the primary elections on August 6 will still have that ballot counted, regardless of whether they have an underlying condition. Today’s ruling, however, reverses a Chancery Court decision that found all voters can vote by mail, and it narrows the category of voters who can vote by mail in the general election to those with underlying medical conditions and caretakers of such individuals.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced the launch of COVIDWISE, an innovative exposure notification app that will alert users if they have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. Virginia is the first state in the country to design a COVID-19 app using Bluetooth Low Energy technology developed by Apple and Google, which does not rely on personal information or location data. Users opt-in to download and utilize the free app.
🔹 The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced it will authorize Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) to extend deadlines for premium and administrative fee payments, defer the resulting interest accrual and allow other flexibilities to help farmers, ranchers, and insurance providers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.
🔹 A total of 697 students will earn degrees and certificates from the University of Memphis Aug. 6-7 in a “Touchless Drive-Thru Diploma Cover Distribution & Alumni Swag” event, which will be held both days from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Central Avenue parking lot. During this touchless event, spring and summer graduates will be able to pick up their UofM diploma cover along with fun alumni swag. In addition, 2020 commencement participants will be recognized during an online commencement celebration. The premiere begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8.
Tuesday, Aug. 4
🔹 The Johnson County Health Department will modify COVID-19 testing hours effective Thursday, Aug. 6. Testing is Monday-Friday between 8:30 a.m.-12:30 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.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at their four community health centers. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 276-496-4492.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced a cutting-edge interstate compact to expand the use of rapid antigen testing in Virginia. Northam joined Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in this bipartisan agreement with the Rockefeller Foundation, which represents the first interstate testing compact of its kind among governors during the COVID-19 pandemic. With today’s announcement, these six states are entering formal discussions with Becton Dickinson and Quidel, the U.S. manufacturers of antigen tests that have already been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, to purchase 500,000 rapid antigen tests per state. By joining together, states are demonstrating to private manufacturers that there is significant demand to scale up the production of these tests, which deliver results in 15 to 20 minutes. Additional states, cities, and local governments may join the compact in the coming weeks.
🔹 In celebration of National Health Center Week (NHCW), Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) is switching gears this year and celebrating the week virtually during this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic. This National Health Center Week honors those front line providers, staff and beloved patients who lost their lives during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year, SVCHS, is celebrating the week virtually by hosting outside visits to its new travelling testing unit that will be assisting at the COVID-19 testing. SVCHS will be posting digital content on its Facebook page and website all week long from local and national government officials and providers and staff from SVCHS.
Monday, Aug. 3
🔹 The Sullivan County Board of Education will postpone its meeting scheduled for Aug. 4 and will hold a called board meeting on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, at 4 p.m. to allow time for an additional parent and staff survey to be conducted. Parents and staff will be emailed a link to participate in the survey. This meeting will be held virtually and can be viewed live here. Agenda items include 1) Consideration and approval of Sullivan County's Reopening Plan, 2) Proposal to Provide Full Pay for Full Time Sullivan County Bus Drivers, and 3) Discussion of Turf Fields.
🔹 The drive-through testing sites at Washington, Carter and Greene County Health Departments closed early today (8/3) due to inclement weather. Other Northeast Regional Testing Sites may also close early today due to inclement weather.
🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee called for the Tennessee General Assembly to convene on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020 for a special session to address COVID-19 liability protections, telehealth services and laws governing the Capitol grounds. The special session will address extending COVID-19 liability protections in order to provide legal clarity and certainty for health care providers, businesses, schools, non-profits and others.
🔹 East Tennessee State University and the James H. Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home are seeking patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate a sample of their blood to be used for current and future coronavirus research. To qualify for the research study, participants must be at least 18 years old, be in recovery for more than six weeks from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, sign an informed consent form, submit to a blood draw, and answer a few health-related questions. Participants do not need to be a veteran to participate. The typical appointment takes less than 30 minutes, and participants will receive a $25 Walmart gift card. In addition, they will receive the results of a free COVID-19 antibody test. All of the blood samples will become part of a biorepository, which is a storage bank of cellular material that is frozen and cryopreserved to use at a later time. The biorepository is housed at the VA. For further details or to set up an appointment to discuss participation in the research study, contact James L. Adkins, clinical research coordinator, at 423-930-8337, ext. 132.
🔹 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 August. 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 continue 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 the Kingsport office, call 423-247-8161. All telephone messages left will be returned in a timely manner.
Sunday, Aug. 2
Saturday, Aug. 1
Friday, July 31
🔹 The Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold a called meeting on Monday, Aug. 3, at 6 p.m. Per Executive Order Number 51 issued by Gov. Bill Lee on June 29, the called meeting will be held electronically. The agenda can be accessed by clicking here. The purpose of the called meeting is to consider approval of the "Kingsport City Schools Operations Manual - Framework for Opening the 2020-21 School Year" and consideration of approval to purchase student computers.
🔹 Working in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Education (DOE), the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) has developed a list of Phase III recommended guidelines for school divisions as they prepare for the safe reopening of high school sports and activities. The guidelines can be found here.
🔹 Due to the one-week delay in the start of the Kingsport City Schools school year (KCS start date now Monday, Aug. 10), the KCS School Nutrition Services department will meet the nutritional needs of our community's children during the week prior to school, Aug. 3-7. All KCS schools (with the exception of Palmer Center, D-B EXCEL and Cora Cox Academy) will distribute meals on-site and school buses will travel their normal bus routes. Free breakfast and lunch will be served one week only, Monday, Aug. 3-Friday, Aug. 7, to all children 18 years of age or younger. "Grab and Go" meals will be provided from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at school sites and via school bus delivery. There are no income requirements to participate in this meals program. The child must be present at the distribution site or school bus stop to receive a meal — one meal per child. The child does not have to be a KCS student to receive a meal. KCS school bus routes can be found on www.k12k.com. If you do not see a bus or cannot go to a school site for a meal, please call (423) 392-4670 and leave a voicemail to schedule a delivery.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order No. 55, first announced this past Tuesday, making contact during practice permissible in the sports of football and girls' soccer. “Athletics is an important part of our way of life and provides many benefits for our student-athletes, but common-sense precautions must be taken to combat COVID-19,” said Gov. Lee. “We have worked directly with the TSSAA to coordinate a framework so that football season and soccer seasons can begin while keeping student-athletes, staff, and fans safe. Other fall sports, including golf, cross country and volleyball, were not affected by the State of Emergency Order that prohibited contact sports. Although contact practice is now permissible, the regulations and requirements for practice and competition adopted by the Board of Control at their July 22 meeting are still in place for all sports and must be followed. Visit the Tennessee Returns to Play page of TSSAA.org for complete details. The date of first contest for girls' soccer remains Aug. 17, with the state championships to be held Oct. 28-31 in Murfreesboro. Football teams were allowed to begin heat acclimatization on July 20. Each athlete must complete heat acclimatization (2 days of helmets only, 3 days in helmets and shoulder pads) before practicing in full equipment, which is now permitted. This order will also continue to give local governments the authority to determine mask requirements for their respective constituencies. The order also extends through Aug. 29 Executive Order 54, which provides local government authority concerning face coverings. "Adopting mask requirements at the local level has helped achieve greater community buy-in as Tennesseans adopt a new habit to protect lives and livelihoods," Lee said.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is opening the grant application process Saturday, Aug. 1, to support nonprofit organizations serving Tennessee’s health and economic needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state is making $150 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds available in this grant cycle through the Tennessee Community CARES Program. Organizations are encouraged to apply for grants through the uniform application portal here until Aug. 15. Organizations that receive Tennessee Community CARES grants must be 501(c)(3) organizations. Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at www.tn.gov/humanservices.
🔹 The Sullivan County Board of Education will meet virtually at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 4, which is a rescheduled meeting date from Wednesday, July 29. The board will consider for approval the district's draft Operating Procedures for reopening schools. The plan draft may be seen on the district’s website at http://www.sullivank12.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/reopen_final.pdf. This meeting may be viewed on the YouTube channel for the Sullivan County TN BOE.
🔹 Coalition For Kids (C4K) has implemented plans to be open, beginning Aug. 10, for children to participate in virtual learning with their teachers. Additionally, it will be communicating with their teachers, assisting each child with their homework assignments, tutoring, mentoring, and providing meals & snack for each of these children. If you would like additional information about programming availability, as space is limited, please contact Asia Gardner, director of programming, at 423-434-2031 ext. 820.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Education and Trevecca Nazarene University announced today that the deadline for the free teacher training on digital learning and teaching has been extended for an additional month and is available through Labor Day. Since the launch in May, this free, self-paced and optional online training has equipped over 18,000 Tennessee educators with skills for digital learning and teaching. In order to continue providing this online resource to educators as schools prepare to reopen for the 2020-21 school year, this training series will now be offered through Sept. 7. All Tennessee teachers are eligible to participate and can find additional information, along with how to register here: www.Trevecca.edu/remoteinstruction.
Thursday, July 30
🔹 The Johnson City Omnium is celebrating its 14th year in 2020 with a few adjustments from its typical format. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the event that is typically held at the end of May in downtown Johnson City will take place Aug. 15 and 16, 2020 in Elizabethton, Tennessee. Details regarding these changes as well as new policies concerning COVID-19 can be found at www.jcomnium.com.
🔹 The Thunder Valley Amphitheatre, presented by Ballad Health, and the band, ALABAMA, have mutually agreed to postpone its “50th Anniversary Tour” scheduled stop in August 2020, to the new date of Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. The highly-anticipated concert is not structured to align with social distancing measures under the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines. All previously purchased tickets and parking passes will be honored on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, and guests are encouraged to keep their original tickets. Guests who purchased their tickets directly from Ticketmaster and the Thunder Valley Amphitheatre ticket office will receive an email in coming days with other options available to them. Account holders may email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
🔹 Bristol Dragway officials announced the 2020 Bristol Chevy Show and Thunder Valley Mayhem will be moved to a 2021 date. The dates will be announced in the future.
🔹 The Kingsport Diabetes Association will hold its meeting for new and current members via conference call at 7 p.m., Aug. 11. The speaker will be nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator Amy Beane. She is currently employed by NovoNordisk as a professional representative. She will be discussing new therapies for diabetics and health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone interested in connecting with a local group of supportive diabetics can join in on this conference call at no charge by calling 1-978-990-5184 and then entering access code 2692346#. New members can also visit our website at kingsportdiabetes.org to learn about our mission and upcoming activities. Contact (423) 416-3910 for more details.
🔹 Virginia Highlands Community College announced 75% of its course offerings will be online when the fall semester begins Aug. 31. Hands-on or skills-based programs are an exception and will be delivered in person with proper social distancing practices in place. This decision, according to college officials, is 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 will be following all guidelines and prioritizing safety, which means the on-campus experience will include smaller, in-person class sizes, increased person-to-person distancing in classrooms and common areas, as well as new signage and extra attention to cleaning measures. A special committee of faculty and staff helped develop protocols and measures that will follow Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders and the recommendations of the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia.
🔹 Tennessee State Parks has announced that the Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT) will be a virtual event this year for the health and safety of riders and park personnel. Under the virtual format of the month-long event, Sept. 1-30, riders can log their miles on lovetoride.net as part of the Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee Cycling Club. The goal is for participants to ride 688 miles, the distance from Bristol to Memphis, in the month of September. Since this year is the 31st annual Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee, the club has a goal of 31,000 miles collectively. In the past, riders would take out-and-back rides together. The virtual ride encourages riders to keep riding with shared goals in an online community and with shared routes across the state. Riders can register at https://tnstateparks.com/blog/the-bicycle-ride-across-tennessee-is-brining-riders-together-virtually and connect with the BRAT on its Facebook page.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Tazewell Community Health Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Thursday, Aug. 6, 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. There are a limited number of appointments available each day and will be offered on a first call first serve basis. 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 Labor and Workforce Development released data on unemployment claims for the week ending July 25, 2020. Statewide, 19,461 new claims were filed, along with 242,397 continued claims. In Sullivan County, 431 initial claims were filed, along with 4,335 continued claims. In Hawkins County, 140 initial claims were filed, along with 1,374 continued claims.
Wednesday, July 29
🔹 The special called virtual meeting of the Sullivan County Board of Education that was scheduled for today, July 29, at 4 p.m. is being postponed, pending the receipt of additional and clarifying information from the Tennessee Department of Education and the local health department in response to Gov. Lee's announcements yesterday. As soon as the necessary information is available, the meeting will be rescheduled with any recommended changes to operating procedures for the board's consideration.
🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems is offering appointments to community members for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing at the Twin City Medical Center’s drive-thru site. Appointments are available on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 and Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020 between 4-6 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. There are a limited number of appointments available each day and will be offered on a first call first serve basis. Depending on demand, SVCHS may expand the testing available at future events. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 276-496-4492.
🔹 Based on current trends, State Farm is working to reduce auto insurance rates in Tennessee by an average of 9.5%. This rate reduction will save more than one million State Farm customers a total of $86 million. This applies to current customers at policy renewal, as well as new and returning customers. Customer rate reductions will vary based on their individual renewals. Customers are encouraged to visit with their State Farm agent about individual policies, coverage and any opportunities for discounts.
🔹 The East Tennessee Historical Society (ETHS) staff and board announced that the Museum of East Tennessee History will reopen Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, which will make the East Tennessee History Center fully reopened to the public. The museum and all public programming at the history center has been closed since March 23, 2020, as ETHS worked to do its part in helping keep the community as safe as possible from the COVID-19 pandemic. To stay informed of further plans, visit www.eastTNhistory.org.
🔹 The Supreme Court of Virginia unanimously extended the Declaration of Judicial Emergency through Aug. 30, 2020, and ordered that the provisions of the Seventh Order Extending Declaration Of Judicial Emergency In Response To Covid-19 Emergency, entered July 8, 2020, shall continue to apply in all courts of the Commonwealth for the duration of this order unless amended by future order. Accordingly, the Period of Judicial Emergency now extends from March 16, 2020, through Aug. 30, 2020.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box Program has distributed over 50 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The delivery of 50 Million food boxes has helped an incredible number of Americans in need,” said Secretary Perdue. “I couldn’t be prouder of the great job done by the food box program staff and the many farmers, distributors and non-profits that helped to get this program off the ground for the American people."
Tuesday, July 28
🔹 The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Northeast Beef Expo for 2020 has been canceled. The event typically draws more than 400 people to the AgResearch and Education Center at Greeneville every October. In-person Master Beef recertification, which is typically offered at the Beef Expo, will also not be available. Clients that need recertification will have the opportunity to participate in a four-night online training. For dates and registration for the online training, contact the UT Extension office in your county. Plans are to bring the Northeast Tennessee Beef Expo back in October 2021 with an expanded program.
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced today the state of Tennessee’s recommendations to reopen schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Gov. Lee will also issue Executive Order No. 55 to allow for contact sports to resume, provided they follow the requirements of TSSAA. Non-TSSAA schools must follow equivalent guidelines, and non-school-sponsored athletics should follow the Tennessee Pledge guidelines. An update to the Pledge guidelines will be forthcoming.
🔹 A new policy at East Tennessee State University requires all students, faculty and staff as well as visitors to campus to wear a face covering. The policy is effective immediately and requires that face coverings be worn in classrooms and other public spaces as well as in outdoor areas where a physical distance of six feet cannot be maintained between persons. The policy as well as a listing of frequently asked questions are available here.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth will distribute $644.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to local governments in its second and final round of allocations. These payments represent the remaining 50 percent of local allocations and do not include $200.2 million that Fairfax County received directly from the federal government. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) established the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to provide funding to states and eligible units of local government navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today outlined new actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Hampton Roads region, which has seen a recent increase in new cases, hospitalizations, and positive tests. The new restrictions will apply to the Cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Williamsburg, Newport News, Poquoson, James City County, and York County. The percent of positive tests statewide has dropped to 7.3 percent, and remains well below 10 percent in the Northern, Northwest, Southwest, and Central Health regions. The Eastern region, which includes Hampton Roads, has a percent positivity rate of 10.8 percent.
Monday, July 27
🔹 Music for All (the parent organization of Bands of America) recently announced it is unable to present its 2020 Bands of America Championships due to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision impacts all 2020 events, including the East Tennessee Regional Championships scheduled for Oct. 10, 2020, at East Tennessee State University. Visit Johnson City staff will begin working immediately with Bands of America and ETSU staff to determine a suitable date for the 2021 event.
🔹 The Northeast Regional Health Office is reminding residents of the availability of free testing for COVID-19 in the community. There are a variety of organizations providing free COVID-19 testing throughout the Northeast Region. Some organizations require people with health insurance to use it for the free test. Testing for each organization is based on capacity of available staffing and test kit availability. Some organizations have an age requirement. Many organizations require people seeking testing to complete a survey online or to be assessed over the phone and to schedule an appointment. Details such as addresses and phone numbers for Tennessee’s testing sites are available for each county on the Tennessee Department of Health website at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html.
🔹 The Sullivan County Board of Education will meet virtually at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, at 4 p.m. to consider and approve the Sullivan County Operations Procedures for reopening schools, as the single action item on the agenda. The plan draft may be seen on the district’s website athttp://www.sullivank12.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/reopen_final.pdf. This meeting may be viewed on the YouTube Channel for the Sullivan County TN BOE.
🔹 As plans for the 2020-21 school year continue to change, 88.3 WCQR is encouraging the community to pray for our schools -- the students, teachers, staff and parents. This Friday, July 31, will be a day dedicated to prayer for our schools. Families are encouraged to drive to their child’s school or a school in their community and tune in to 88.3 WCQR between noon and 1 p.m. for a special time of prayer and worship. Morning co-hosts Rhonda Lacey and Adam McCain, afternoon host Lori Price, evening host Christian Studer and local community leaders and pastors will host this live hour of worship and prayer. Participants will be instructed to remain in their vehicles and maintain a safe social distance.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) has received approval from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to temporarily waive one step in the process for individuals receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits. During the months of July and August, new customers filing initial applications and existing recipients filing recertifications no longer need to do an interview if their identity has been verified and all other mandatory verifications have been completed. This waiver includes customers who have interviews scheduled. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these interviews have largely been done by telephone unless the customer requests an interview in-person. The temporary interview waiver follows other steps TDHS has taken during the COVID-19 pandemic to make it more convenient for families to apply for services from home.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced $70 million for small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose normal operations were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be made available through Rebuild VA, a new economic recovery fund, and grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded to approximately 7,000 applicants to cover eligible expenses. For more information about Rebuild VA, eligibility criteria, covered expenses, and how to submit an application, please visit governor.virginia.gov/RebuildVA.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is reminding all Virginians to prepare now as peak hurricane season approaches and the Commonwealth continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the key statewide coordination efforts is the development of the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Guide During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which highlights preparedness, response, and recovery actions in the event of tropical weather in coastal areas of the Commonwealth. This year’s guide includes pandemic considerations such as updating kits to include sanitation and personal protective supplies and following public health guidance. The Commonwealth is also preparing to adjust operations to ensure the delivery of critical services while adhering to social distancing guidelines and keeping people safe from storm impacts.
🔹 The results are in for a competitive effort to build a collection of artwork focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. The Reece Museum and Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University, community supporters Bravissima! Women Sponsoring the Arts!, and others joined in an initiative to purchase artwork created in 2019 or 2020 for a “Local Art in the Age of the 2020 Global Pandemic” special collection which will be housed in the Reece Museum’s Permanent Collection. From the 106 artists who submitted entries, the jurors selected 40 artworks for the special collection. Listed in alphabetical order, those artists are: Kailyn Beitzel, Sam Boven, Laken Bridges, Danielle Byington, Joel Carillet, Teresa Crowe, Mary de Wit, Cristy Dunn, Richard Dwyer, Joan Elliott, Jay Flack, Brian Fletcher, Ron Fondaw, Lyn Govette, Mike Helbing, John Hilton, Storm Ketron, Val Lyle, Gregory Marlow, Jocelyn Mathewes, Joy Messimer, Shannon Mettler, Katie Murphy, Mary Nees, Emily Parris, Charles Peters, Marie Porterfield, Rick Ramsey, James Rathschmidt, Mark Ray, Anne Reid, Garry Renfro, Jonathan Reynolds, Thomas Root, Mike Rose, Martha Rubenstein, Debra Savell Stewart, Beverly Thomas Jenkins, Christy Ward, and Lauren Whipple.
🔹 The Tennessee State Fair will still be making an appearance this year as it has for more than 150 years, although those participating this year will do so through online competitions and viewing educational videos on Facebook. The public will be invited to enter competitions online beginning Aug. 3 and continuing through Sept. 20. A complete listing of the competitions and rules for entries can be found at the Tennessee State Fair website at tnstatefair.org.
🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will launch a third round of Farmers to Families Food Box Program purchases with distributions to occur beginning by Sept. 1 with completion by Oct. 31, 2020. “The Farmers to Families Food Box Program has created a tangible link between hungry families and struggling farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump. "Through this third round of Farmers to Families Food Box purchases announced today, the Trump Administration continues its steadfast commitment to supporting our farmers, bolstering our workforce and feeding families most in need during this critical time.”
Sunday, July 26
🔹 East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville announced its Fantasy of Trees 2020 has been canceled due to ongoing concerns over the continued increase in COVID-19 cases in the community. The annual event is the hospital's largest single fundraiser, usually attracting 60,000 people during the week of Thanksgiving each year. “This event has become a family tradition for 35 years. This was not an easy decision,” explained Carlton Long, V.P. for Institutional Advancement. “However, it is the right thing to do. As a children’s hospital, we must set the best example and do our part to slow the spread of this virus. There is no easy way to safely hold an indoor event this large during a worldwide pandemic.” Fantasy of Trees organizers are busy working on an alternate fundraiser, keeping public safety as top priority. Details will be released soon.
Saturday, July 25
Friday, July 24
🔹 The Carter County Health Department is updating hours for free COVID-19 testing hours effective Monday, July 27, 2020. Testing is Monday-Friday between 8:30 a.m.-12:30 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.
🔹 Sullivan County Schools announced today the 2020-21 school year will open with online instruction beginning on Wednesday, Aug. 5, through Friday, Aug. 14, in accordance with the Sullivan County Department of Education Operating Procedures, which can be found at www.sullivank12.net. This decision is in response to the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14-day period, which places the county in the “red” zone. The Operating Procedures green, yellow, and red thresholds are designed to provide guidance for decision making; however, other mitigating factors are also considered, including cluster information within contained facilities. Students who are enrolled in the Sullivan County Virtual Learning Academy will also begin on Aug. 5. Schools will be in touch with parents to arrange for the pick up of devices and materials prior to Aug. 5. Individual school schedules for device/materials pick-up will be posted on the school system's website.
🔹 The Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold a called meeting on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 6 p.m. in the Tennessee Room at the KCS Administrative Support Center, 400 Clinchfield St., third floor, downtown Kingsport. The purpose of the called meeting is to consider approval of the "Kingsport City Schools Operations Manual -- Framework for Opening the 2020-21 School Year," a potential revision to the 2020-21 KCS School Calendar, and to consider approval of revised Policy 2.601 -- Fundraising Activities. The regularly scheduled Board Work Session has been cancelled.
🔹 Tennessee parents have additional time to apply for an important program designed to help them feed their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications will now be accepted online for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program here until Friday, August 14 at 4:30 P.M. Central Time. P-EBT provides parents with $5.70 in benefits per child for each day that child qualifies. These benefits can be used to purchase food at any establishment that accepts EBT or online with Amazon and Walmart. To be eligible, children must receive free or reduced meals at school or attend a Community Eligibility Provision school. The program is designed to replace meals lost during the months of March, April, and May due to COVID-19 school closures. Individuals who need assistance completing their P-EBT application or have general questions about the program are encouraged to call the TDHS Family Assistance Service Center at 1-866-311- 4287.
🔹 University School will begin its 2020-21 academic year on Monday, Aug. 3, and will be on full-remote status. The school will continue with remote operations through Sept. 18, which is the end of the first quarter. “In recent weeks we have witnessed the trajectory of the COVID-19 virus rise both locally and across the nation,” said Dr. Brian Partin, director of University School. “Our school year launches in just over 10 days, and we do not see this situation drastically improving by that time. This has been a very difficult decision but the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff remain our highest priority.”
🔹 In an effort to make the application process for undergraduate admission easier for prospective students and their families during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will make submitting standardized test scores (ACT/SAT) optional for the fall 2021 admissions cycle. UT's application process will open August 1. Testing companies and centers have suspended testing during the pandemic, making it more difficult for students to submit a complete application.
🔹 The ongoing disruptive changes from efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are having a substantial negative impact on the physical and mental well-being of parents and their children across the country, according to a new national survey published today in Pediatrics. Families are particularly affected by stressors stemming from changes in work, school and day care schedules that are impacting finances and access to community support networks, according to the five-day survey of parents across the U.S. run June 5-June 10 run by Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
🔹 Today, the Tennessee Department of Education launched the TN Substitute Teacher Jobs Connection, which will serve as a central location for interested applicants to discover substitute teaching opportunities in the state’s schools and districts. With a global pandemic that has limited traditional recruiting methods, the department launched this new initiative to support districts in finding and hiring great substitute teachers.
Thursday, July 23
🔹 Symphony of the Mountains announced that its gala, themed “Downton Abbey,” has been rescheduled for April 10, 2021, at MeadowView Conference, Resort and Convention Center in Kingsport.
🔹 Today, the Tennessee Department of Education released the Initial COVID-19 Impact Report, which provides context and data on the impact extended school closure has had on the wellbeing of students and the current effect the global pandemic has had on children and families. The Initial COVID-19 Impact Report contains valuable data around the effects of the coronavirus had on children's physical, mental, and emotional health when schools closed in the spring and also the impact it continues to have. The Initial COVID-19 Impact Report can be found here, along with a companion summary here. The goal of the Task Force is to ensure that the needs of Tennessee children are met during and after extended periods away from school, and to empower local communities to meaningfully engage in ways that support child wellbeing.
🔹 Appalachian Power today announced it is donating $50,000 to local and regional economic development organizations across its three-state service area to assist with expenses during the pandemic. The funds will primarily help organizations with expenses tied to updating their computer systems, software and technology to accommodate virtual meetings, online research, and digital marketing.
🔹 Sync Space is now accepting applications for CO.STARTERS Rebuild, a 10-week, live-facilitated virtual program that helps small businesses impacted by COVID-19 refocus, stabilize, and build toward long-term recovery. Entrepreneurs who participate in the CO.STARTERS Rebuild program will be able to confidently move forward with actionable next steps for their business, identify creative solutions, find both short-term and long-term financial stability, and adapt in an uncertain environment. Participants will work with a certified facilitator and dedicated group of peers in a series of 2.5 hour virtual sessions, covering topics that help them adapt and remodel their business to meet changing customer needs. Valued at more than $500, the Rebuild program is being offered during this challenging time to local businesses, entrepreneurs, and freelancers in Northeast Tennessee for a reduced rate, thanks to the generous support of Sync Space’s partners and sponsors. The 10-session CO.STARTERS Rebuild program will begin Aug. 5. For more information about CO.STARTERS network and initiatives, visit costarters.co. To learn about the Rebuild program in Northeast Tennessee, visit syncspace.org
🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced today the state will launch a public service announcement campaign that urges all Tennesseans to fight against the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask. The ad campaign, titled “Face It. Masks Fight COVID-19”, will run on broadcast and cable television, digital, social media, print, and billboards statewide. You can view the video here. The campaign will officially launch Friday, July 24. For those wishing to share the message further, a public tool kit is available here.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending July 18, 2020. Statewide, 25,794 new claims were filed, along with 243,405 continued claims. In Sullivan County, there were 623 initial claims filed and 4,245 continued claims. In Hawkins County, there were 182 initial claims filed and 1,529 continued claims.
Wednesday, July 22
🔹 The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) began reporting all currently available COVID-19 datasets — including the addition of historical data — through the Virginia Open Data Portal. The portal serves to extend access to VDH data that allows the public to interpret and analyze data. Located under the Data Download section of the COVID-19 in Virginia webpage, the portal provides datasets for public use and download. Step-by-step instructions about how to navigate the pages and download the datasets are also provided by clicking on the Data Download button.
🔹 The Conference Carolinas Board of Directors unanimously approved a plan to proceed with intercollegiate competition in conference-sponsored sports in the upcoming fall semester. Intercollegiate competition may begin no earlier than Sept. 18, 2020. The decision was made in the best interest of Conference Carolinas student-athletes, coaches and administrators. Conference Carolinas member institutions may begin practicing in their championship/non-championship segments on Sept. 1 or when mandated by NCAA policy, whichever is later. Conference Carolinas originally announced in May of 2020 that it would emphasize conference contests in the 2020-21 academic year and that it did not have any plans to reduce league contests in 2020-21. That plan is still in place. Conference Carolinas institutions are continuing to work daily to create updated policies and procedures surrounding campus life, including intercollegiate athletics, that will allow students and student-athletes to return to campus as safely as possible. The conference is also continuing to work to create safety protocols and precautions around intercollegiate athletics participation.
🔹 Newly released data on treatment outcomes of people with cancer diagnosed with COVID-19 reveal a racial disparity in access to Remdesivir, an antiviral drug that has been shown to shorten hospital stays, and increased mortality associated with dexamethasone, a steroid that has had the opposite effect in the general patient population. The steroid dexamethasone lowered the death rate among critically ill patients, according to data from the RECOVERY trial in the United Kingdom, but the CCC19 data indicate an association with increased mortality among cancer patients. In the CCC19 analysis, patients receiving high-dose corticosteroids with any other potential COVID-19 treatment were more than twice as likely to die, as compared to patients treated with other medications or patients not requiring any treatment. There were very small numbers of patients treated just with steroids, making analysis of steroids in isolation difficult. Remdesivir, which was primarily available as a clinical trial option, was associated with a lower mortality rate when compared to patients receiving any other potential COVID-19 treatment. Black patients were half as likely to receive Remdesivir as white patients.
🔹 The LENOWISCO Health District will offer drive-thru testing this month at Food City store parking lots in Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the City of Norton. Testing is free and open to the public. Appointments are required due to limited availability. Please call your local health department to make an appointment.
🔹 The Cumberland Plateau Health District will offer drive-thru testing this month at Food City store parking lots in Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties. Testing is free and open to the public. Appointments are required due to limited availability. Please call your local health department to make an appointment.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health and Unified Command Group are providing additional COVID-19 materials and resources for Spanish-speaking Tennesseans through a new webpage. These items are accessible on the TDH website at https://tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/covid-19-resources-information-in-spanish.html. This new webpage includes videos, fact sheets, infographics and other resources about COVID-19 testing, the Tennessee Pledge and how to protect yourself, your family, your coworkers and your community from COVID-19.
Tuesday, July 21
🔹 After much careful consideration, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital announces the need to cancel this year’s Fantasy of Trees event due to ongoing concerns over the continued increase in COVID-19 cases in our community. The annual event is the hospital’s single largest fundraiser, attracting 60,000 people, during the week of Thanksgiving each year. Fantasy of Trees organizers are busy working on an alternate fundraiser, keeping public safety as top priority. Details will be released soon.
🔹 The LENOWISCO Health District encourages all residents to remain vigilant in practicing good health habits to limit the spread of illness in our community. As of July 21, Lee has recorded a total of 44 total cases; Wise has 54; Scott has 30, and Norton has 5. VDH advises all Virginians to stay home as much as possible, especially if your trip is not essential or if you are at higher risk of serious illness. If you are traveling, use these guidelines to plan your trip to minimize the risk of exposure and illness: www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/coronavirus/travel-to-areas-with-widespread-ongoing-community-spread.
🔹 Today Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group announced $150 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds will be made available to Tennessee non-profits to assist their ongoing efforts to address the ongoing health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The Tennessee Community CARES Program will provide $150 million in direct federally funded aid to non-profit organizations located in Tennessee and serving Tennesseans. For non-profits wishing to receive response and recovery grants to provide direct services, instructions for grant proposals will be issued by the Department of Human Services and its partner non-profit grant administrators on Aug. 1, 2020. Grant applications will be processed on a first-come, first-serve basis with monthly reporting requirements and a de-obligation date of Nov. 15.
🔹 The latest research from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture indicates that during late April and early May 2020, approximately 525,000 Tennessee households were food insufficient, meaning they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat – that’s one in 10 families. About 30% of these struggling households were food sufficient prior to the onset of the pandemic. The data for the study of Tennessee households were drawn from a national survey, the Household Pulse Survey, from April 23 to May 26. This time period coincides with the end of Tennessee’s statewide stay-at-home order. Among the weeks included in the study, the week of April 23 through May 5 was the peak of need, with approximately 83,000 Tennessee households seeking assistance with free food from schools or other programs aimed at children, followed by food banks, family and friends.
Monday, July 20
🔹 The 13th annual Netherland Inn Lo’ Country Boil previously scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 8, at the Farmer’s Market will not be held this year to protect our volunteers and guests and to remain in compliance with local and state health mandates. While Netherland Inn volunteers will certainly miss the opportunity to host this evening of great food, music, and fellowship but look forward to returning to the event next year.
🔹 Following the cancelation of the 2020 PDGA Pro Masters World Disc Golf World Championships due to the coronavirus health crisis, the Professional Disc Golf Association and Visit Johnson City staff have rescheduled the competition for July 31 through Aug. 7 of 2021. This week long international competition is the premier disc golf event for professional disc golfers competing in age based male and female divisions for World Championship Titles.
🔹 Sullivan County Schools will provide an in-person outdoor graduation ceremony. Participation in graduation is entirely voluntary for all participants and attendees. Sullivan County is under a mandatory executive order to wear a face covering, therefore everyone who chooses to attend will be required to wear a face covering and maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet apart for the duration of the event; however, families may be seated together in close proximity. Each high school will be directly in touch with their 2020 graduates, who will be provided with a limited number of spectator tickets. Dates and times for each school's graduation will be as follows but may be subject to change due to inclement weather: July 31 at 6 p.m. - Sullivan East High School; July 31 at :00 p.m. - Sullivan Central High School; Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. - Sullivan South High School; and Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. - Sullivan North High School. These plans are subject to change, based on current information and advice from the Sullivan County Department of Health. For the most updated information, please visit www.sullivank12.net.
🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group announced an additional $115 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds will be made available to local governments to offset costs incurred from responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tennessee Local Government Reimbursement Program comes in addition to the $210 million in grants for county and municipal governments approved by the General Assembly in the State’s FY 2021 budget.
🔹 To further understand the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as well as foster much-needed blood donations, Marsh Regional Blood Center will conduct free COVID-19 antibody testing for its blood donors, beginning Monday, July 20. This test – which is only available after donors successfully complete a pre-screening and are confirmed as eligible to give – does not indicate if someone currently has COVID-19, but it can show a previous COVID-19 infection. Gathering this information is crucial to understanding COVID-19, especially since current estimates suggest 25-45% of cases have mild or no symptoms. When registering, potential donors will be asked, in the event they test positive for COVID-19, if they would be willing to donate convalescent plasma to help treat patients who are critically ill with the virus. Donors will be notified of their test results by mail within two weeks, and Marsh Regional will reach out to any donors with positive antibodies.
🔹 The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at East Tennessee State University will host a three-part Zoom webinar series centered on operations excellence in response to the increasing COVID-19 challenges facing small businesses. The webinar series is designed to help small businesses identify the best operations-related opportunities to work on, create and execute a specific plan for improvement, and improve key processes that are used to deliver products and services. To register, visit: https://clients.tsbdc.org/events.aspx. Each session is free to attend, however, pre-registration is required.
🔹 Federal funding remains available for local law enforcement agencies, jails and courts for expenses related to COVID-19. The Office of Criminal Justice Programs (OCJP) today announced a deadline extension for jails and courts to apply for the grants through the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program. CESF will provide funding to assist in preventing, preparing for and responding to the pandemic. The amount available in Tennessee is $4,250,000. The deadline for jails and courts to apply has been extended until July 31, 2020. The deadline for local law enforcement remains July 24. Allowable projects and purchases for the supplemental funding program include but are not limited to equipment (such as technology for remote hearings/appearances and personal protective equipment), supplies (gloves, masks, sanitizer, etc.), training and travel expenses (particularly related to the distribution of resources to the most impacted areas). Funding cannot be used to supplant local funds or to make up for budget shortfalls.
Sunday, July 19
Saturday, July 18
🔹 The Phillips and Banks concert scheduled for Sunday night at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Mount Carmel has been canceled due to the COVID-19 situation.
Friday, July 17
🔹 Bishop Richard F. Stika and Dr. Sedonna Prater, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Knoxville, have announced a return to on-site learning at all 10 Catholic schools in the diocese - including St. Dominic in Kingsport and St. Mary in Johnson City - for the 2020-21 academic year, which begins Monday, Aug. 3. The plan includes an option for families to elect on-line, at-home learning with the flexibility to change to traditional classroom learning for their children at any time during the fall semester. The following procedures and protocols will be enforced for on-campus learning to mitigate the risk and optimize the return of students to classrooms: Infection-prevention education; hygiene and sanitation, including safe cleaning and disinfecting protocols at schools; adherence to physical and social distancing; facial coverings to be worn by students and faculty; outdoor classrooms when possible; suspension of off-campus field trips; and extracurricular activities limited to students who attend classes on campus. These procedures and protocols are explained in detail here and will be reviewed every two weeks. School communities will be informed of any changes.
🔹 In response to a rapid, sustained increase of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Appalachian Highlands, Ballad Health is implementing additional visitation restrictions in its facilities. Effective Friday, July 17, at 11 a.m., Ballad Health’s latest visitation policy and patient guidelines stipulate: A single, designated patient-support person – or visitor – is allowed for the duration of each patient’s visit or hospital stay. The visitor will only be allowed onsite from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Visitors are still not allowed in our behavioral health or long-term care facilities, or during outpatient procedures. Exceptions include neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and rooms with a pediatric patient which may have two guests per patient, and those guests must be the parents or legal guardians; they are permitted at all times. Exceptions may be made in Ballad Health Medical Associates clinics, labor and delivery, emergency departments and in the pediatric emergency room at Niswonger Children’s Hospital where one guest is permitted at all times, and during extenuating circumstances or in the case of end-of life-care. Designated visitors will still be required to wear a mask, and they will be screened for signs of illness before they enter any patient care area.
🔹 You can still go outside, and so can astronomers across the state! Enjoy the night sky through their telescopes on Friday, July 24, as they share their views of the sky from Kingsport to Memphis during the Tennessee Virtual Star Party. Tune in to a YouTube Live video feed from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. for this free virtual event. Led by Warner Park Nature Center in Nashville, the Star Party is a cooperative effort from observing sites across the state to show off what our Tennessee skies have to offer. Bays Mountain Park’s planetarium director, Adam Thanz, will take a look at two of our Solar System neighbors, Jupiter and Saturn. To watch the program, visit the Warner Park Nature Center YouTube channel on July 24 (https://bit.ly/TNStarParty). Viewers will also have the chance to submit comments and questions to the astronomers during the livestream.
🔹 Barter Theatre has officially launched its newest venture, Barter at the Moonlite Drive In. The start of Barter’s production of the Wizard of Oz makes the 87-year-old company the first in the nation to produce socially distant, live, in-person theatre at a large scale. To accommodate the production the previously vacant Moonlite Theatre Drive In, in Abingdon Virginia, has been cleaned up and converted into a live performance venue, complete with covered stage and arranged to park up to 220 amply spaced cars.
🔹 The LENOWISCO Health District will offer drive-thru testing this month at Food City store parking lots in Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the City of Norton. Testing is free and open to the public. Appointments are required due to limited availability. Please call your local health department to make an appointment
🔹 The Cumberland Plateau Health District will offer drive-thru testing this month at Food City store parking lots in Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties. Testing is free and open to the public. Appointments are required due to limited availability. Please call your local health department to make an appointment.
Thursday, July 16
🔹 This past week, the Southwest Virginia Medical Reserve Corps shared statistics tallying the "Feats of Strength" provided by MRC volunteers in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, in the Cumberland Plateau, Lenowisco and Mount Rogers Health Districts, totaling nearly $37,000 in in-kind services. Every day and every week, volunteers serve at testing sites, help make patient monitoring calls and more.
🔹 To ensure the Appalachian Highlands has a sufficient supply of lifesaving blood donations, Marsh Regional Blood Center is continuing 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. 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. If donors do not bring their own face covering, Marsh Regional will provide one. All blood, platelet and convalescent plasma donations received until Friday, Aug. 14, will be entered to win a Yeti hard cooler prize pack.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on unemployment claims filed for the week ending July 11, 2020. Statewide, 22,431 new claims were filed, along with 251,924 continued claims.
🔹 Sycamore Springs Senior Living Community is re-testing residents and team members in an effort to minimize exposure to COVID-19, after its early detection strategy resulted in three residents being relocated to the hospital with mild symptoms. Read more here.
Wednesday, July 15
🔹 The Second Annual Quillen 100 cycling race, originally scheduled for Aug. 1, 2020, at Bristol Motor Speedway, has been postponed until spring 2021. “We had a good plan in place to ensure the safety of all participants, but with the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in our region, we do not think we can safely host the race as intended,” said Ryan Serbin, a student at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine. “As medical students, we want to promote the health and safety of our community, and we believe that waiting until a later date is the best way to do this.” Organizers have not yet confirmed a new date for the race. For updates and more information, visit www.thequillen100.com.
🔹 The July History Happy Hour, originally scheduled to be held at the museum on July 16, has been rescheduled as an online presentation for July 23 at 6:30 p.m. The program 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 State Historic Site and Museum’s Facebook page for the link to the meeting room and for the password to login. You can also find this info at heritageall.org located under the events tab.
🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced the adoption of statewide emergency workplace safety standards in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Newly adopted standards require all employers to mandate social distancing measures and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions and when social distancing is not possible, provide frequent access to hand washing or hand sanitizer, and regularly clean high-contact surfaces. In addition, new standards require all employees be notified within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus. Employees who are known or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 cannot return to work for 10 days or until they receive two consecutive negative tests.
🔹 Based on positive results in preclinical studies reported today, potently neutralizing antibodies identified by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) are showing promise as a potential therapy for preventing and treating COVID-19. The monoclonal antibodies were isolated from the blood of a couple from Wuhan, China, who were diagnosed with COVID-19 after traveling to Toronto, Canada, in late January. They were two of the earliest confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North America.
🔹 To help offset the cost of personal protective equipment requirements associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship (KOSBE) is offering free non-contact Dayoumed NX-2000 infrared thermometers (regularly $39.99) to local microbusinesses. A microbusiness is generally defined as a small business employing five or fewer employees including the owner, or is otherwise disadvantaged: minority, women and veteran-owned businesses, entrepreneurs with disabilities and those in underserved, underrepresented areas. Only one thermometer will be provided per business. Business owners may pick up free thermometers and free batteries while supplies last at the Kingsport Chamber. Contact BriAnna Taylor, COVID-19 project coordinator, for more information (phone 423-392-8806 or email email@example.com).
🔹 Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians (GSCSA) will be holding another drive-through cookie booth on Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Johnson City Girl Scout Service Center, 1100 Woodland Ave., from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Since the disruption of cookie booths back in March due to COVID-19, GSCSA has had to get creative with cookie sales. They sold nearly 27,000 boxes of cookies through the national and local Digital Cookie store and 7,630 boxes during the June 6 day of drive-through cookie booths. However, GSCSA still has around 55,000 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.
🔹 The Storytown Radio Show has continued bringing the stories of Jonesborough and Northeast Tennessee to the radio and podcast, even while their live production has been suspended. But this month, the cast will perform a live-stream for audiences, with an episode all about travel and adventures. Audiences will have an opportunity to travel, at least virtually, through the stories of local community members who have gone on great adventures. This virtual production will take place Monday, July 27, at 7 p.m. Audiences may purchase tickets for the live stream for $5, which will help support the production costs associated with the production. To attend the live-stream and support the work of the StoryTown Radio Show and podcast, reserve a place by calling the Historic Visitors Center at 423-753-1010 or purchase online at Jonesborough.com/tickets.
🔹 The Integrated Translational Health Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV), in close collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has developed an online tool to collect COVID-19 related information from volunteers who are residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The project, titled “COVID and the Commonwealth: an iTHRIV Health Status Registry” aims to fill an information gap by collecting self-reported data from individuals who may be healthy and or convalescing at home. The information collected ranges from simple demographic identifiers to more detailed health and symptom related questions. Additionally, Virginians will have the option to be contacted regarding future volunteer opportunities for COVID-19 related clinical research. This registry is entirely voluntary and relies on Virginians to self-report. If the health status of an individual changes, they may amend their questionnaire answers. For more information, please visit www.iTHRIV.org.
🔹 In late July, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) will begin recruiting up to 1,000 volunteers in a late-stage study of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. in collaboration with the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health. The randomized, placebo-controlled Phase 3 trial will be open to people 18 years old and older. They will receive two shots of either the vaccine or an inactive placebo and will be followed for two years. The goals of the study are to determine how effective the vaccine is in protecting against COVID-19 and how long the protection lasts. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Tuesday, July 14
🔹 Sounds of Summer, a concert series that has featured live music in Downtown Bristol each Tuesday and Thursday for more than two decades, has been canceled for the 2020 season. Coordinator Angie Rutherford of the Bristol, Tennessee Department of Parks and Recreation said the decision is based on ongoing health concerns related to the coronavirus. This year would've marked the series' 24th season.
🔹 With nearly a month of learnings from operating in the current environment, Dollywood officials have made operational adjustments designed to make trip planning simpler. Based on strong guest satisfaction scores and stellar guest reviews about the park’s operating environment, Dollywood no longer requires guests to make reservations prior to their visit. Additionally, one-day tickets and multi-day tickets are now valid for a five-day window following the original selected date. This means that if a visitor’s plans must change at the last minute—or if the weather doesn’t cooperate—they may visit at another time during the ticket window. A paid ticket guarantees access to Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country. To maintain social distancing, passholder reservations are still required at Dollywood’s Splash Country.
🔹 An experimental coronavirus vaccine stimulated robust immune responses against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and raised no serious safety concerns in an early-stage clinical trial. The vaccine, called mRNA-1273, was co-developed by Moderna Inc. in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. Early findings from the Phase I clinical trial of the vaccine, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, support further development of mRNA-1273. A large Phase III clinical trial is expected to begin this summer. The Phase I trial of mRNA-1273 enrolled 45 healthy volunteers ages 18 to 55, who received two vaccinations 28 days apart. The interim report includes follow-up through day 57; participants will continue to be followed for one year after the second vaccination, with scheduled blood collections to characterize immune responses. The Phase III trial will evaluate the effectiveness of mRNA-1273 for the prevention of COVID-19, compared to no vaccine.
🔹 Pilot Company, the leading supplier of fuel and the largest operator of travel centers in North America, announced today a new in-store round-up campaign to support Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The campaign, which runs from today through July 27, will aid the organization’s ongoing efforts to serve kids, families and communities in need, especially now as it adapts its services in the midst of COVID-19. Throughout the two-week campaign, guests are invited to visit any of the 700 company-operated stores to participate, including Pilot and Flying J travel centers and restaurants, EZ Trip, Mr. Fuel, Stamart and Pride locations. Guests will be prompted at checkout to round-up their purchase or make a donation of another amount. When guests donate, 100% of the proceeds will benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of America and its continued efforts with youth development and community services.
🔹 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 21, 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 23, 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.
🔹 Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) today was informed that he tested positive for COVID-19. Upon developing possible symptoms, he took the test over the weekend and has since been self-isolating. Although he does not currently have significant symptoms, he will continue to self-isolate as he performs his duties on behalf of Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District.
🔹 The Cumberland Plateau Health District will offer drive-thru testing this month at Food City store parking lots in Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties. Testing is free and open to the public. Call your local health department to make an appointment.
🔹 Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) began providing the COVID-19 Key Measures for additional regions across the state: Central, Eastern, Northwest and Southwest. Previously, VDH only provided statewide and Northern Region key measures; data is now provided for all regions in the state. The new regional dashboards are available on the Key Measures webpage. For the latest information on the COVID-19 situation in Virginia, go to the VDH coronavirus webpage.
🔹 The Tennessee Arts Commission has awarded 359 Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Grants totaling $5,214,158 to help fund arts and cultural activities for nonprofit arts organizations, schools, and local governments in Tennessee. The awards are a combination of one-time funding from federal CARES Act funds distributed through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and South Arts, an appropriation of state funds by the Tennessee General Assembly including revenue from Tennesseans who purchase specialty license plates. The Tennessee Arts Commission was awarded $474,000 in NEA federal CARES Act funds and an additional $60,000 in federal CARES Act funds from South Arts, the regional arts agency for southern states, resulting in an amount that is higher than FY2020 awards of $4,746,900. All of the federal CARES Act funds were distributed to qualifying nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.
🔹 In an effort to help those who have been hurt by the economic impact of COVID-19, GPM Investments is teaming up with Feeding America to raise funds to help in the fight against hunger in their local markets. It has been estimated that in just 2020 alone, 54 million people may face hunger due to COVID-19. From July 15 to Sept. 8, GPM Investments associates across all company-operated locations will sell Feeding America pinups for $1. Customers will also have the opportunity to round up their purchase to the nearest whole dollar or just make a donation. GPM is also partnering with its supplier community and raising additional dollars through their generosity. All proceeds will remain in the local communities in which they were raised.
🔹 The Carpetbag Theatre, Inc., a Knoxville-based professional, multi-generational ensemble company, will hold its 31st Annual Youth Theatre Festival virtually, being mindful of our community’s health and the current global pandemic. With the Youth Theatre Festival being virtual, the youth will be able to engage with performers and workshop instructors from all over the country, from Knoxville to Louisiana to New York and places in between. Youth, ages 5-18, will have the opportunity to participate in poetry, hip hop dance, acting, and storytelling workshops right from the comfort of their own home. The free event will be held Friday, July 31, at 9 a.m. on Zoom. Register at https://form.jotform.com/201873443358156.
🔹 The Maker City Summit will be 100% online this year and will expand into two days: Sept. 12 and 13. The LunchPool online platform will allow attendees the opportunity to network at digital tables and interact with workshop leaders like never before! In addition, going digital allows for a broader attendance and increased programming where attendees can choose the expert track that best fits their needs. A 101 track is presented for new makers and a more advanced 201 track is available for makers who need more specific answers. Registration is $35, and a $25 Early Bird ticket is available the week of July 11, 2020. The summit is presented by the City of Knoxville Mayor’s Maker Council in partnership with the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. For more info, go to http://themakercity.org/summit.
Monday, July 13
🔹 The Tennessee Supreme Court today ordered the cancellation of the Uniform Bar Examination in Tennessee scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2020, citing the current trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although stringent public health and safety protocols were planned for the administration of the examination, the court decided that the in-person fall examination could not be safely administered with reasonable certainty. To mitigate delay and uncertainty, the court ordered the Board of Law Examiners to administer an online, remotely-proctored alternative Admissions Assessment on Oct. 5-6, 2020, that will be comprised of questions prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (“NCBE”). The Admissions Assessment will be comprised of a Multistate Performance Test item, three Multistate Essay Examination questions, and 100 Multistate Bar Examination questions. Applicants who pass the online bar examination will be eligible for admission in Tennessee. Although successful applicants will not earn a portable Uniform Bar Examination score, the Board of Law Examiners has entered into reciprocal agreements with the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Massachusetts for transfer of scores earned on the online examination as a qualifying score for admission in those jurisdictions and is working to establish similar agreements with other jurisdictions offering the same online examination. Also, the court ordered additional modifications to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 7, section 11.03, extending the last day to withdraw a July 2020 application with a refund to September 1, 2020. It also modified sections 10.04 and 10.07, permitting practice under supervision or practice pending admission to continue until July 1, 2022, for July 2020 applicants.
🔹 The city of Bluff City's office lobby is closed until further notice due to coronavirus precautions. Use drive-thru only.
🔹 Virginia Highlands Community College announced today that an individual in a classroom setting on the Abingdon campus has tested positive for COVID-19. This is the college's first reported case. The college received notification of this potential positive case the evening of July 9, 2020; it was confirmed positive late on Friday, July 10. The contact with campus occurred on July 7, was isolated to one building, and impacted a limited number of individuals. Officials at the college immediately contacted the Mt. Rogers Health District and worked with officials there to contact those directly exposed and to instruct them to quarantine at home for 14 days. Out of an abundance of caution, the building was closed to all employees and students on July 10 and through the weekend to allow crews to follow CDC-recommended cleaning procedures. The building will return to its limited, pre-exposure access today, July 13.
🔹 The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced a CARES Act grant of $455,806 to Bristol Tennessee Transit. The CARES Act provided $25 billion for Transit Infrastructure Grants amid the coronavirus pandemic. The grant will be used to “support Bristol Tennessee Transit’s operating, administrative, and preventive maintenance costs in order to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 public health emergency. Expenses include wages, fringe benefits, services, vehicle operating and maintenance, materials and supplies, utilities, insurance, and other costs for the mitigation of COVID-19.”
🔹 The Appalachian Regional Commission today awarded $100,000 to the United Way of Southwest Virginia for its COVID-19 Relief Fund. According to the Appalachian Regional Commission, the project will improve sixteen communities, 25 organizations, and 1,000 participants.
🔹 Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group, in partnership with the Tennessee Entertainment Commission, released new Tennessee Pledge guidelines today with safety measures for media production. The new guidelines were created to address needs unique to the film, TV and music industry like filming on location, working with cast and crew, equipment, transportation and more. The guidelines follow CDC and OSHA guidelines, as well as recommendations from the Motion Picture Association and The Recording Academy and include protocols for specific areas of production including special consideration for performers, who are among the most vulnerable on set and aren’t always able to wear protective equipment or observe physical distancing while on camera. Full guidelines for media production can be found on TNpledge.com.
🔹 The Tennessee Valley Authority announced Wednesday that is providing incentives to businesses and schools to install UV-C germicidal lights that remove viruses, like COVID-19, and bacteria from indoor air. UV-C light is a short wavelength ultraviolet light used around the world to disinfect air in hospitals and laboratories. Studies show UV-C light is 99.9% lethal to bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms. Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the same technology is ideal for schools, offices and retail locations to help keep people healthy. A TVA Preferred Partners Network professional can install germicidal lights into the ductwork of many existing commercial HVAC systems. Customers who use TVA’s provider network can receive a $30 per ton incentive toward the adoption of approved UV technologies that directly combat COVID-19. Contact your local power company or visit TVA’s website https://energyright.com/business-industry/incentives/ for more information.
🔹 Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley today announced that revenues for June were $1.5 billion, which is $12.5 million less than the budgeted monthly revenue estimate. State tax revenues were $29.8 million less than June 2019 and overall collections for the month represented a negative growth rate of 1.91 percent. “Tennesseans are cautiously increasing business and consumer activities as we move forward in an unprecedented environment,” Eley said. “We anticipated a slow recovery from April, when everyone was staying at home, but it’s too early to identify any patterns in revenue collections. It should be noted that a sizable percentage of June revenue receipts are supported by a shift in tax burden from business, privilege and motor vehicle registration tax payments which were delayed to help provide support during the early phases of the pandemic. The state will not know the full impact of the pandemic on fiscal year 2020 until the close of the fiscal year next month when corporate tax and Hall income tax filings are due.
Sunday, July 12
Saturday, July 11
🔹 Face coverings will be a required accessory in high-traffic areas inside the stadium for all guests who attend Wednesday’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and officials from The World’s Fastest Half-Mile are encouraging everyone in the Appalachian Highlands region as well as fans who will be visiting from other areas to “Be An All-Star: Wear A Mask.” The new mantra is part of an important Public Service Announcement campaign from Bristol Motor Speedway that includes several video messages from NASCAR Cup Series drivers encouraging the public to wear masks, follow all of the necessary guidelines and do their part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is taking steps to ensure parents are able to receive a program designed to help them feed their children during the COVID19 pandemic. Applications will be accepted online for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program here until Monday, July 27, at 4:30 p.m. Central Time. This is the second time TDHS has extended the application deadline and the department has expanded its outreach efforts to encourage more families to apply. 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. The program is designed to replace meals lost during the months of March, April, and May due to COVID-19 school closures. Families who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) do not need to apply as P-EBT benefits have automatically been applied to their existing EBT cards. Families who do not currently receive SNAP or TANF need to apply and will receive a P-EBT card in the mail after approval that can be used to purchase food at any establishment that accepts EBT or online with Amazon and Walmart.
🔹 Northeast State Community College announced Saturday that a student has tested positive for COVID-19. It is the college's first reported case. A Northeast State student was diagnosed during a routine COVID-19 screening Friday, July 10. The student is quarantined at home. Those persons who had direct contact with the infected individual received a phone call and an email on Saturday morning from the college, and have been instructed to quarantine at home for 14 days. The student attended class at the Regional Center for Health Professions (RCHP) in Kingsport on July 6, 8 and 10. The college has closed the building and started the CDC-recommended cleaning procedures. Reopening for the RCHP is expected on Monday, July 13.
Friday, July 10
🔹 With 94 new cases reported in 21 counties of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, officials with Ballad Health are warning community members that not only is COVID-19 continuing its spread, but the pandemic is on the brink of becoming much worse. As of July 9, nearly 20% of Ballad Health’s ventilators are in use, and the health system’s beds are at more than 75% capacity. Dr. Runnels and other Ballad Health leaders are now worried that, as the year extends into flu season, the number of people in the Appalachian Highlands who need major healthcare interventions will outpace hospital units’ capacities and staffing levels.
🔹 Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) began reporting information related to efforts to notify people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Information related to notification efforts — referred to as contact tracing — is available on the COVID-19 Data Insights webpage. The state-level data will be updated weekly on Fridays.
🔹 For the first time ever in its history, Jehovah’s Witnesses will be holding its annual conventions on a virtual platform hosted on its website, jw.org. For many years, the local gathering has been held at Freedom Hall Civic Center in Johnson City. However, its gatherings this year have been canceled out of concern for the health and safety of local communities. Those interested in viewing the convention can contact their local congregation or access the program on jw.org, available under the “Library” tab. There is no charge for viewing the convention.
🔹 The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is partnering with the University of Memphis (UofM) to provide COVID-19 testing for UofM students returning to campus this fall. The partnership between two of the city’s major academic institutions is an extension of previous successful research, education, and community outreach collaborations.
The testing for students will be done on the UofM campus and managed by University Clinical Health, one of UTHSC’s affiliated clinical practices. University Clinical Health has also managed COVID-19 testing at the UTHSC drive-through testing sites across the community. The details and timing of the UofM testing are being worked out by the two institutions.
🔹 Nonprofit organizations in all nine Tennessee Congressional districts received $550,000 from Humanities Tennessee in two rounds of CARES Act relief funding. The 98 recipient organizations provide public humanities programming in communities throughout Tennessee. Funding for these grants was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act economic stabilization plan appropriated by the U.S. Congress. CARES Act grant funds do not require a match and support organizations that provide public programs examining and reflecting upon ideas, stories, history, arts, and culture.
Thursday, July 9
🔹 Bluff City Heritage Day, originally scheduled for Sept. 26, has been canceled due to COVID-19.
🔹 Tusculum University is changing the format of its August graduation ceremony from in person to virtual. The event, which will celebrate the students who completed their academic requirements in May and those who will finish in the summer, will premiere Saturday, Aug. 8, at 10:30 a.m. Graduates and anyone else who is interested in watching the ceremony can view it on Tusculum’s website.
🔹 Ballad Health announced it will resume weekly media briefings throughout the pandemic. The first will be held Friday, July 10, at 11 a.m. After this briefing, the weekly briefings will continue on Wednesdays at 11 a.m.
🔹 The U.S. Department of Commerce announced a CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant of $400,000 to the First Tennessee Development District. The First Tennessee Development District is a collaborative agency of the governments of Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties.
🔹 The American Electric Power Foundation is donating $120,000 to United Way organizations in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee to provide facemasks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff, volunteers and clients of United Way agencies. Funding for facemasks and other PPE will go to the United Ways of Greater Kingsport in Tennessee; Roanoke Valley, Central Virginia, Henry County & Martinsville, New River Valley, Southwest Virginia, as well as Caring Hearts Free Clinic in Virginia; and Central West Virginia, River Cities, Southern West Virginia, and Upper Ohio Valley in West Virginia. Each of the United Way organizations will purchase and distribute the masks and related PPE to the agencies they work with in their communities.
🔹 The news about remdesivir, the investigational anti-viral drug that has shown early promise in the fight against COVID-19, keeps getting better. This week, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Gilead Sciences reported that remdesivir potently inhibited SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, in human lung cell cultures and that it improved lung function in mice infected with the virus. These preclinical findings help explain the clinical effect the drug has had in treating COVID-19 patients. Remdesivir has been given to patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on a compassionate use basis since late January and through clinical trials since February. Ongoing clinical trials will determine precisely how much it benefits patients in different stages of COVID-19 disease.
🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has released new data on unemployment claims for the week ending July 4, 2020. Statewide, 25,843 new claims were filed, along with 256,645 continued claims. In Sullivan County, there were 394 initial claims, along with 4,476 continued claims. In Hawkins County, there were 145 initial claims, along with 1,548 continued claims.
🔹 The IVY Research Network, led by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has completed initial studies evaluating the epidemiology of COVID-19 in health care workers and patients. Among 249 front-line health care workers who cared for COVID-19 patients during the first month of the pandemic in Tennessee, 8% tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies by serology testing, suggesting they had contracted COVID-19 in the first several weeks of taking care of COVID-19 patients. Among these health care workers with positive serology results, 42% reported no symptoms of a respiratory illness in the prior two months. This suggests that front-line health care workers are at high risk for COVID-19 and that many health care workers with the virus may not have typical symptoms of a respiratory infection. These results were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases on July 6. In a separate study, the IVY investigators studied 350 patients across 11 medical centers in the U.S. who tested positive for COVID-19; 54% of these patients reported no close contact with another person known to have COVID-19 in the two weeks before getting sick. Additionally, 40% of COVID-19 patients in the study remained symptomatic two weeks after a positive COVID-19 test, showing that patients with COVID-19 tend to remain ill longer than with other respiratory infections, such as influenza. The results were published by the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on June 30.
Wednesday, July 8
🔹 Under the constitutional, statutory, and inherent authority of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the court has unanimously extended the Declaration of Judicial Emergency through Aug. 9, 2020.
🔹 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 14, 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 and 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 (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 16, 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 and 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.
🔹 Vanderbilt University Medical Center investigators are leading a new study that examines the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, within households in Nashville. The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to understand how fast the infections spread within households and the factors that may be associated with that transmission. This is one of few longitudinal studies in the country that will examine coronavirus infections among close contacts. The new VUMC study has minimal selection criteria, includes all age groups and follows enrolled families daily for at least 14 days. To be enrolled, at least one member of the household must have experienced COVID-19 disease onset within the past seven days. The study hopes to follow 200 families, and the group has already enrolled 18 families. The data collected is being continuously shared with the CDC.
🔹 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.