Times News Blog: Latest on local impact of COVID-19 (March 11-May 6)

If your church, business or organization has community announcements related to COVID-19 coronavirus, please email us at news@timesnews.net

The Times News staff is working to provide the latest updates on schedule changes, local decisions and news related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. If your church, business or agency has community announcements related to coronavirus concerns and prevention, please email us at news@timesnews.net.

New updates

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

Wednesday, May 6

Schedule changes

🔹 After discussion and coordination with other regional libraries, the Washington County Library will begin a phased reopening of the Jonesborough and Gray libraries. This plan was developed with our desire to serve the citizens of Washington County as well as protect the health and safety of the community and library employees. The Washington County Library will begin curbside pickup of books and other library materials starting Monday, June 1. Before June 1, we ask library patrons to review any materials they have placed on hold and cancel ones they no longer want. This can be done by logging into your online account or by calling (423) 753-1800 or (423) 477-1550, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

🔹 The Johnson City Omnium has been postponed from May 30-31 to August 15-16. Reneau Dubberley, director of the JC Omnium, has been working with the Tennessee Bicycle Racing Association (TBRA), USA Cycling (USAC), and Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to minimize conflicts with other races. The postponed date will avoid local conflicts but not conflicts in the Southeast. With conflicts with TBRA races, there will probably be fewer racers in the Omnium, but the quality should be there.

🔹 To provide much-needed funds for more than 100 child-based agencies throughout the Appalachian Highlands region during this unprecedented time, the Bristol Motor Speedway chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, with assistance from presenting sponsor Drake’s, a popular restaurant located at The Pinnacle in Bristol, has rescheduled its drive-thru Red Bucket Brigade fundraiser to Thursday, May 7, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., it was announced by SCC officials. The Red Bucket Brigade Drive-Thru presented by Drake’s encourages donors to put loose change or any amount they can spare into the familiar SCC Red Buckets. The fundraiser is usually held throughout the grandstands following the first caution of BMS’s major NASCAR Cup Series races. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SCC is going to set up the Red Bucket Brigade for a drive-thru offering for those who are able to give at the BMS North Entrance, located off Hwy 11 E in the lot with the iconic Bristol tower and the famed It’s Bristol, Baby sign. For those who are unable to drive to the Speedway, there is a digital component to the fundraising program and donations are being accepted through a secure SCC donations page on the SCC-Bristol website.

🔹 University of Tennessee AgResearch is releasing an updated field day schedule for 2020. In light of COVID-19 concerns and efforts to continue social distancing, all field days scheduled for June or July will be delayed or moved to a virtual format. Additionally, some field days after July will be delayed or offered online only. For the most up-to-date information on UT AgResearch field days, go to agresearch.tennessee.edu.

News updates

🔹 As businesses reopen across the state, Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group released additional guidance today for Recreation, Offices, Lodging, Construction and Manufacturing. Small group, non-contact recreation businesses like bowling alleys, arcades, dance classes, water sports, mini-golf and more will be able to reopen Friday, May 8. The Tennessee Pledge guidelines recommend capacity limits, spacing requirements, and frequent sanitization, among others. Larger venues and activities where social distancing is not feasible remain closed. In addition to strict adherence to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, full guidelines for small group, non-contact recreation businesses are posted online at TNPledge.com.

🔹 Special Olympics Tennessee announced its schedule for their Virtual Summer Games, May 11-15. The event will replace the previously scheduled State Summer Games which were canceled due to COVID-19. Daily events will take place via Zoom from 5 p.m. EST and last for approximately one hour each day. Events will include an Opening Ceremony presented by Chick-fil-A, Sports Trainings presented by the Predators Foundation and DEX Imaging, Health and Wellness activities presented by LifePoint Health and UnitedHealthcare, Athlete Leadership Trainings presented by Results Physiotherapy, Athlete and Coach of the Year announcements presented by the Tennessee Titans and a Celebration & Dance Party presented by American Eagle Outfitters. The Special Olympics Virtual Summer Games will be open to all Special Olympic athletes across the state and allow these athletes to get together virtually to visit with friends, celebrate their accomplishments, learn at home training/health tips and most importantly have fun. Prior to the Virtual Summer Games, Special Olympics Tennessee is encouraging athletes, Unified partners, coaches, and fans to train at home via several fitness challenges presented by Jackson. Athletes and partners who complete 3 of the 5 challenges before May 11 will receive a certificate and recognition during the Virtual Summer Games. For more information on Challenges and the Virtual Summer Games, visit Special Olympics Tennessee’s website http://specialolympicstn.org/events/summer-games and Facebook page.

🔹  Barter Theatre has released a schedule of special virtual events for the month of May. Barter On Demand is offering a limited-time-only, donation based, recording of Macbeth From Our Home to Yours, a virtual performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The video will premiere on May 12 at 7:30 p.m. and will be available through May 15. Additionally, Barter has added its 2012 Barter Players production of Aesop Fables to Barter On Demand. Barter is also conducting an initiative to connect with its audience by hosting weekly “Inside Barter” live Zoom events. Every Thursday in May, Barter Theatre will host a conversation over Zoom with Barter actors and collaborators. The first May event, Inside Barter’s Driving Miss Daisy, will take place on Thursday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. and features actors Mary Lucy Bivins and Jasper McGruder. For information, and to access Barter Virtual Events and Barter On Demand, visit bartertheatre.com.

🔹 The Percussion Studio in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Music will present a live virtual concert on Facebook on Friday, May 8, at 5 p.m. This concert will feature material that students have been working on in their homes this spring since classes went online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To view the concert, visit the ETSU Percussion Studies (@ETSUpercussion) Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/ETSUpercussion.

🔹 Tennesseans doing their part to stay apart – but also eager to keep moving – will be able to participate in a virtual 5K race this month organized by Tennessee State Parks to coincide with World Bee Day on May 20. Whether the course is a personal treadmill or a neighborhood sidewalk, participants of all skill levels who like to run, walk, or a combination of both, can register for the virtual race to be held May 17-23. Registration fee is $20, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Tennessee State Park Honey Project, which helps establish honeybee hives in state parks across the state. The fee includes a finisher’s medal and certificate, both of which will be sent to the participant by mail, and a virtual bib that will be emailed. Contestants may log time at any point during the week of the race. They are encouraged to complete their miles on May 20. To register for the virtual 5K race, visit https://honeyprojectvirtual5k.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=13476.

🔹 The Northeast Regional Health Office encourages faith communities to follow the Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship released May 1 by Gov. Bill Lee. The guidance states decisions about when to resume in-person gatherings are serious and should be made by each house of worship and its leadership based on the unique needs of its faith community, and in consideration of preserving and protecting health and safety to the greatest extent practicable. The Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship provides overall guidelines for faith communities to follow such as taking a phased approach to meeting; filling seating to only 50% capacity with six feet between family units; wearing face coverings and educating everyone about new protocols. In addition, there are sections within the guidelines for church leaders about creating and maintaining a safe environment and communicating this to members, preparing the house of worship for potential COVID-19 cases, cleaning and sanitizing the facility, logistics of returning to in-person meetings, worship programming and amenities. Faith-based organizations are encouraged to continue providing online access to services.

🔹 A free craft kit that includes everything needed to create a Mother’s Day gift will be distributed Friday, May 8, by the Bristol, Tennessee Department of Parks & Recreation. A distribution table will be set up in the parking lot of the Slater Community Center from 1-4 p.m. The kits include a mini flower pot, stickers for decorating, and a surprise for Mom’s special day. Supplies are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

🔹 The Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency will begin a Commodity Distribution May 19, 2020, at the Hawkins County Bus Shop at 1722 E. Main St. Items will be distributed through a drive-thru option on a first come, first served basis, to income eligible households until all commodities are gone. This will provide for the safety of recipients as well as the volunteers and staff. All recipients must be residents of Tennessee. This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Each recipient must have a Light Blue colored commodity ID card in order to pick up their commodities. An ID card is obtained by completing an application at the Neighborhood Service Center. Recipients are encouraged to complete the application the week prior to the date of your distribution, as this will reduce your wait time during the distribution. However, staff will be available on site during the Distribution to assist in acquiring a commodity card. If someone is picking up your commodities, they must have your ID card and be authorized on your application; limits to pickup are 10 orders. The distribution will begin at 10 a.m. and will end at 12 p.m. or earlier if food is no longer available.

🔹 In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, East Tennessee State University is offering several online summer courses across multiple disciplines that are related to the pandemic and its effects on society. Unless otherwise noted, these summer course offerings do not require any prerequisites and are open to current ETSU students and to the public. Current ETSU students and non-degree seeking students who are interested in taking a summer course at ETSU can learn more and request additional information at www.etsu.edu/summer or by emailing cssummersessions@etsu.edu.

🔹 While we are all at home, the Birthplace of Country Music invites you to go online for a special performance of Radio Bristol's Farm and Fun Time — Home Edition. The show will go live from Farm and Fun Time Host Kris Truelsen's house. The show will feature music by Farm and Fun Time host band Bill and the Belles, an "Heirloom Recipe," special guests, and a few other surprises. Tune in Thursday, May 14, at 7 p.m. Watch on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/658599824701030/. Watch on YouTube here.

🔹 The University of Tennessee System plans to welcome students back to each of its campuses this fall. The UT System created a systemwide task force in April, led by Dr. Jon McCullers, professor and chair of infectious disease at the UT Health Science Center, to advise on policies and procedures that would prioritize the safety and wellbeing of UT’s students, faculty and staff. In addition, each campus has created a local task force to look at specific needs for their campus community. The campus task forces are analyzing various scenarios, specifying campus needs, and recommending guidelines and actions.

Read more

Despite other festival cancellations, Rogersville's Vintage Market set for June 27

Otters out of luck as USL League Two cancels season

Three new COVID-19 cases reported in NET

Hawkins graduation ceremonies set for May 21 with special guidelines

Tennessee nears 14,000 cases of COVID-19; death toll at 239

Pandemic leaves uncertain losses in Wise County Schools budget

Dobyns-Bennett seniors happy with plans for in-person graduation

Rogersville's Day of Prayer offers alternatives for those concerned about COVID-19

KOSBE to share recovery strategies for small businesses impacted by COVID-19

Tuesday, May 5

Schedule changes

🔹 Due to concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, Jonesborough’s annual Veterans Memorial Concert, which was originally scheduled to be held on May 24, has been canceled. Hosted by Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor & Alderman and the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, the celebration usually consists of music and a tribute to the area’s veterans. After thoughtful consideration, the committee decided the safest decision was to cancel this year’s event. The town of Jonesborough’s gratitude and appreciation go out to the veterans who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the defense of this great nation.

🔹The Kingsport Board of Education will hold its regular monthly meeting electronically on May 12 at 6 p.m. in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help prevent its spread and in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, there will be no physical access permitted by the public. The public can watch the meeting by going to www.k12k.com.

🔹The Northeast Region COVID-19 Information Line has changed its hours. In an effort for residents to have up-to-date information about COVID-19, the Northeast Regional Health Office has established an information line for local residents and healthcare providers to call with questions or concerns related to COVID-19. Tennessee Department of Health employees take calls Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 423-979-4689.

News updates

🔹  Tomorrow, the Economic Recovery Group will issue guidance for Tennessee’s small group recreation businesses to begin a safe reopening starting Friday, May 8. The group will also issue guidance for businesses that have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as offices, manufacturing, and construction industries that require critical supplies to safely operate.

🔹 The U.S. Census Bureau, in coordination with federal, state and local health officials, will begin to drop off 2020 Census questionnaire packets at front doors of households in 10 East Tennessee counties, including Knox, Anderson, Sevier, Washington, Campbell, Morgan, Claiborne, Hancock, Hawkins and Carter counties, this week. The Census Bureau will deliver 2020 Census invitations and paper questionnaires at the front doors of roughly 5.1 million households nationwide including 3,000 households in East Tennessee.

🔹 As businesses in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties prepare to implement guidelines for safe reopen and operation, the Economic Recovery Group has secured special pricing on Touchless Thermometers for the state’s restaurant, retail, and close contact businesses. Starting today, Tennessee-based business owners will have the ability to order this critical piece of equipment through Friday at 4 p.m. CT (or until supplies last). More information on how to secure no-touch infrared thermometers is available here.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Unified Command Group (UCG) is announcing two strategic partnerships today in the state’s COVID-19 re-opening effort to make sure Tennessee households and health care workers have protective face coverings and clean personal protective equipment. UCG is partnering with Renfro, Corp, a global sock brand company headquartered in Mount Airy, N.C., with a manufacturing and distribution operation in Cleveland, Tenn., to make washable, reusable cloth face masks available to as many Tennesseans as possible. UCG is supplying the first 300,000 Renfro masks, based on population, to Tennessee’s county and municipal health departments this week. Each health department will receive at least 1,000 masks and will serve as a convenient pick up location for county residents who need masks. UCG is also partnering with Battelle, a global research and development company in Columbus, Ohio, to provide an N95 respirator mask decontamination system and service to Tennessee health care providers to protect health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health care providers will collect, label, and ship their used N95 masks daily to the Battelle site in Tennessee using a barcoded serial number for tracking. Battelle will decontaminate the masks and return directly to providers. Battelle will also mark each mask with the number of times the mask has been through the decontamination process.

🔹 Since many parents are now teachers, TVA EnergyRight is holding online workshops for kids about electricity and energy saving tips. The next online workshop is May 14 at 11 a.m. To register or learn more, visit https://energyright.com/residential/energy-monsters/.

🔹 With the challenges of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease being compounded with the ongoing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is launching new, telephone-based support groups to help families. The groups will help individuals address issues such as not being able to see their loved one in a long-term care setting and added family tensions. “Support Group for Family Members Whose Loved Ones Reside in a Care Setting During COVID-19” takes place every Wednesday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. (ET) starting May 6. “Family Interactions in the Time of COVID-19: How to Resolve Conflicts and Stressors” takes place every Friday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. (ET) starting May 8. Anyone interested in joining can register by calling AFA’s Helpline at (866) 232-8484.

🔹 The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the agency would award CARES Act Admin Fee Regular and Mainstream Voucher Program grants totaling $347,014 to Bristol, Elizabethton, Johnson City, Kingsport and Morristown. The individual grants awarded by HUD are as follows: $23,404 — Bristol Housing, $27,160 — Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency, $75,082 — Johnson City Housing Authority, $173,616 — Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and $47,752 — Morristown Housing Authority.

🔹The Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship is helping small businesses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic in a variety of ways. Beginning this week KOSBE will host a weekly webinar on Thursdays at 4 p.m. for business owners to exchange best practices, real stories and the newest sector specific guidelines they are following for reopening. To register go to www.kosbe.org/events.

🔹 U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded $7,387,190 in federal funding to help promote access to housing in the Commonwealth. The funding was awarded through the CARES Act Admin Fee Regular and Mainstream Voucher Program, which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Local funding recipients include Abingdon Redevelopment and Housing Authority ($11,954), People Inc. of Southwest Virginia ($12,270), Big Stone Gap Redevelopment and Housing Authority ($11,596), Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority ($32,314), Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority ($76,026), Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority ($23,142), Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority ($50,504), and Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority ($11,276).

🔹 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a major expansion of Meals to You, USDA’s innovative partnership with the Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo, to feed low-income kids in rural areas. The initiative will now serve nearly 5 million meals per week to rural children impacted by COVID-19-related school closures – five times its original goal. Meals to You has already shipped nearly 3.5 million meals to the homes of children in 12 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Read more

Gas prices likely to level out as Tennessee reopens

COVID-19 cases increase by five in NET, remain flat in SW Va.

School officials set date for Dobyns-Bennett graduation

Monday, May 4

Schedule changes

🔹 After much deliberation, and out of an abundance of caution, Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium has made the difficult decision to cancel Summer Day Camp for 2020. The park will begin issuing refunds this week to anyone who has already completed paid registration. Those who paid their registration fees via Eventbrite will be refunded to the same account/method of payment used to confirm the reservation.

🔹 Bristol Dragway released the following statement about the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals: “In the wake of this on-going pandemic, we are supportive of NHRA’s decision to postpone the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, which was scheduled for Father’s Day weekend in mid-June,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Dragway. “A number of our Dragway events rely on guests and participants being in attendance, and with the uncertainty of travel at this time we felt this was the best course of action. We will continue to work with NHRA officials to determine a new race date for later in the year. Once we have those details we will share them with you via our website and social channels. We appreciate your continued patience as we navigate these challenging and unprecedented times.”

🔹 The YMCA of Bristol will reopen with limited services beginning Wednesday, May 6. The decision follows Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s announcement on April 28, which provided guidance for exercise facilities regarding how to safely reopen on or after May 1. The YMCA of Bristol, in partnership with the Greater Kingsport YMCA, will provide free Emergency Child Care for essential workers and operate in accordance with state of Tennessee guidelines to accommodate exercise opportunities for members. For more information about the YMCA of Bristol, visit www.bristolymca.net or call (423) 968-3133.

News updates

🔹 A Virtual Showcase and Fundraiser will be presented Thursday, May 7, to benefit East Tennessee State University’s ongoing Bucs Help Bucs campaign. This showcase will feature a compilation of videos recorded by students and faculty in ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Program. It will begin at 7 p.m. on Facebook Live and will be hosted by program director Dan Boner. During the virtual concert, viewers will be encouraged to support the Bucs Help Bucs effort, a current fundraising campaign to provide relief to ETSU students and employees who are experiencing hardship resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. To watch the show, go to https://www.facebook.com/etsubluegrass/live. To learn more about or give to the Bucs Help Bucs campaign, visit www.etsu.edu/bucs-help-bucs.

🔹 COVID-19 has presented many organizations with many new challenges. The Sequoyah Council has met those challenges head on, not just by serving its youth and members but the community as well. Throughout the crisis the Sequoyah Council staff, volunteers and youth have stepped forward to try and “do a good turn daily.” Through their efforts they have been able to assist hundreds of youth, adults and seniors throughout the region and even across the nation. Scouting families, leaders and staff have made and distributed thousands of masks and protective equipment. Scouts and their families have provided countless hours of service and assistance to local food banks, Meals on Wheels, and other projects. On #GivingTuesday, May 5, 2020, the council is asking communities to help it continue its efforts by supporting Scouting at the local level. Donations can be made on the council website: https://sequoyahcouncil.org/give/.


🔹 East Tennessee State University will confer some 2,200 degrees virtually as Commencement Exercises will be streamed online and broadcast locally for the Class of 2020. Graduates, their families and friends can watch the virtual commencement on Saturday, May 9. The ceremony will be streamed online beginning at 10 a.m. WJHL News Channel 11 will broadcast the ETSU Virtual Commencement Ceremony at 12:30 p.m. For a more personalized experience, graduates will select and stream a specific ceremony for their college or academic program. More information about how to watch the ceremony is available at www.etsu.edu/classof2020. Video stream links will be available on the website at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 9. Viewers may also stream the ceremony and arrange a watch party on the ETSU Facebook page at facebook.com/easttennesseestateuniversity. ETSU’s Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy and Quillen College of Medicine will hold separate virtual ceremonies on Friday, May 8. Gatton College of Pharmacy will host a Virtual Hooding & Commencement Ceremony for its 68 graduates on May 8, at 11:30 a.m. on its Facebook page at facebook.com/ETSUPharmacy and the college’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/COPtechnology. Quillen College of Medicine will hold a Virtual Hooding & Commencement Ceremony for its 68 graduates on May 8 at 2:30 p.m. A link to a livestream of the ceremony will be hosted on Quillen’s website at www.etsu.edu/com/graduation.php.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced more than 23,000 Tennesseans have received a free COVID-19 test at 67 drive-through sites over the past three weekends, as part of Unified-Command Group’s efforts to reduce barriers and widen access to testing for all Tennesseans regardless of symptoms. Soldiers and Airmen from the Tennessee National Guard supported Tennessee Department of Health personnel at 16 sites across the state May 2 and 3, where 5,153 Tennesseans received a free COVID-19 test. Eight sites were operated on Saturday with 2,733 individuals tested, and another eight sites on Sunday with 2,420 individuals tested. In Carter County, 295 tests were administered Saturday. In Unicoi County, 188 tests were administered Sunday.

🔹 U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today applauded the announcement that agricultural producers, for the first time, are now eligible for the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs. SBA’s EIDL portal has been closed since April 15. However, the Agency is able to reopen the portal today, in a limited capacity, as a result of funding authorized by Congress through the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act. In order to help facilitate this important change to EIDL Loan and EIDL Advance assistance eligibility, SBA is re-opening the Loan and Advance application portal to agricultural enterprises only. For agricultural producers that submitted an EIDL loan application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will move forward and process these applications without the need for re-applying. All other EIDL loan applications that were submitted prior to April 15 will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis.

🔹 In this new era of social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) is finding new ways to connect with communities globally by producing fresh online content for virtual visitors to experience from home. The museum's YouTube channel offers a playlist of videos that take visitors on an in-depth look at some of the museum's permanent exhibits while offering interesting facts that delve deeper into Bristol's unique music history. During the week of May 4, the museum will begin the first in a series of virtual tour videos for the special exhibit Real Folk: Passing on Trades & Traditions through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program. The exhibit opened March 6, just before the quarantine closed traffic to the museum. Real Folk gives viewers an inside look at a number of traditions and crafts – including letterpress printing, mandolin making, African-American gospel singing, quilting, Chickahominy dance, classical Iranian and Persian music, and more – and the people who are keeping them alive for future generations. For a complete list of events and a comprehensive look at everything the Birthplace of Country Music has to offer, visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.

🔹 Domino’s franchise-owned locations are looking to hire about 150 new team members across more than 10 stores throughout Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol. The positions include delivery drivers, customer service representatives, assistant managers and managers. “Domino’s works hard to serve local communities across the country and the Tri-Cities are no different,” said Tim Hurd, a Tri-Cities-area Domino’s franchise owner. “Stores across Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol are continuing to provide pizza to those who are looking for a delicious, hot meal, and at times like this, staffing is critical.” Those who are interested in applying for a position should visit jobs.dominos.com. To read about what Domino’s is doing regarding COVID-19, visit biz.dominos.com/web/media/covid-19.

🔹 BenchMark Physical Therapy announced today that it has adopted stringent health and safety steps in each of its seven outpatient clinics in the Tri-Cities area. BenchMark is part of the Birmingham-based Upstream Rehabilitation family of brands. The new guidelines, under the banner of “Clean, Safe & Ready,” are part of Upstream’s continued efforts to ensure patient safety in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, for patients who are unable or unwilling to visit a clinic, BenchMark offers telehealth, which allows patients to start or continue therapy from the comfort and safety of their homes via video conference. In the Tri-Cities, BenchMark (benchmarkpt.com) operates its Bristol, Johnson City, Johnson City-Boones Creek, Jonesborough, Kingsport, Kingsport-Stone Drive and Piney Flats clinics.

🔹 The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is processing payments from the Provider Relief Fund to hospitals with large numbers of COVID-19 inpatient admissions through April 10, 2020, and to rural providers in support of the national response to COVID-19. In Tennessee, high-impact providers will receive $35,378,052 and rural providers will receive $239,988,892.

Read more

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Volunteer's senior singers talk about the end of their high school careers

NHRA postpones Bristol's Thunder Valley Nationals

Nine new COVID-19 deaths, 267 new recoveries in Tennessee

Looking for your stimulus payment?

Group planning Cherokee prom on Rogersville Town Square

Why Eastman is leading the fight against COVID-19

Sunday, May 3

News updates

🔹 Tennessee banks are ensuring small businesses and self-employed individuals are receiving the relief they need as COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, the Tennessee Bankers Association announced. During the second round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) beginning on April 27, Tennessee banks have processed 40,971 loan applications and received loan approvals totaling $2,408,173,223. Nationwide, $135 billion remains in the fund. Since the launch of the PPP on April 3, $8,950,218,312 in loans were made to over 75,006 Tennessee small businesses and self-employed individuals.

Read more

Time at home is not time wasted

COVID-19 pandemic complicates homelessness in Southwest Virginia

Two Wallens Ridge prison staff confirmed as COVID-19 cases

Saying goodbye with a song: Volunteer choir contributing to farewell performance one voice at a time

All together now: D-B band releases online 'quarantine' performance

Homeless advocates adjust in the age of a pandemic

Pastors deserve appreciation, encouragement

Saturday, May 2

Read more

Needing help applying for unemployment benefits?

Hawkins sessions, chancery courts reopening Monday

Northam: More information on Virginia reopening plans expected Monday

COVID-19: State cases rise as testing ramps up

Abrupt end for Watauga Valley softball season of high hopes

South seniors surprised to see their names on yard signs

Friday, May 1

News updates

🔹 Tusculum University announced it is waiving the enrollment deposit all new students would have paid for the summer sessions and the fall semester when they commit to attend the university. By implementing this measure, Tusculum is ensuring students will not have to pay funds to the university until later in the enrollment process. The onset of the coronavirus has put many people in a difficult position with job losses or reduced pay. Dr. Ramona Williams, Tusculum’s vice president of enrollment management and financial aid, said Tusculum recognized some people might not be in a position now to pay a deposit and might need to focus on other expenses. This relief by the university will give them time to focus on their immediate priorities, she said.

🔹 To provide much-needed funds for more than 100 child-based agencies throughout the Appalachian Highlands region during this unprecedented time, the Bristol Motor Speedway chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, with assistance from presenting sponsor Drake’s, located at The Pinnacle in Bristol, will host a drive-thru Red Bucket Brigade fundraiser on Tuesday, May 5 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the BMS North Entrance, located off Hwy 11 E in the lot with the iconic Bristol tower and the famed It’s Bristol, Baby sign. The Red Bucket Brigade Drive-Thru presented by Drake’s encourages donors to put loose change or any amount they can spare into the familiar SCC Red Buckets. 

🔹 The Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority announced today that Great Smoky Mountains National Park will reopen many roads and trails starting May 9 as part of a phased approach. According to park officials, the reopening plan will likely include Plexiglass shields in visitors centers, personal protective equipment for maintenance workers, disinfection procedures for public and administrative buildings, and safety protocols for emergency services. Many areas will be open for visitors to enjoy, but a return to full operations will be phased in and services may be limited. 

🔹 The Tennessee Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives released guidance for faith communities on gathering together in houses of worship. The full guidelines can be found here.

🔹 As of Friday May 1, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported the payment of more than $350 million in unemployment benefits for more than 300,000 claims, including more than 40,000 for the self-employed. More information on unemployment is available here.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Unified Command Group (UCG) is announcing today a mass COVID-19 testing initiative will begin next week for all Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) staff and the inmates in their care. All inmates who test positive and are asymptomatic receive daily medical monitoring and health assessments. Inmates who are asymptomatic will be monitored at their facilities while medical teams check daily for symptoms.

🔹 U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), members of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus, applauded $36,475,848 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support Virginia’s five HBCUs. The federal funding was made possible through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support students, colleges, and universities as they cope with the immediate effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

🔹 The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced an update for Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiaries who were not required to file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 – and have dependents – and must complete a simple tax return on IRS.gov by May 5, 2020 in order to quickly receive the additional $500 economic relief payment for each dependent child. The update also requires GI Bill beneficiaries whose only source of income is GI Bill benefits – regardless of if they have dependents – to complete a simple tax return on IRS.gov by May 5, 2020 in order to receive their economic impact payment.

🔹 $72,225, including almost $10,000 in Food City gift certificates, has been distributed to help our community through the Washington County COVID-19 Response Fund. The second round of funds has been distributed to nonprofits.

🔹 While summer celebrations are being cancelled in surrounding communities, organizers of the eighth annual American Downtown 4th of July celebration in Greeneville agree that it’s too early to make a final decision for this year. June 4 has been set as the date for a decision on this year’s celebration, according to organizer Amy Rose, public relations manager for the town of Greeneville. Plans for the parade, hot dog eating contest, kids zone and other annual festivities are being discussed, along with potential modifications like live streaming the celebration if the pandemic has not ended. For now, funding is in place for the fireworks show, parade prizes, kids zone inflatables and all the other annual festivities, thanks to generous sponsors. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/TownofGreeneville or www.greenevilletn.gov.

🔹 The Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency will begin a commodity distribution May 13, 2020, at Gravelly Baptist Church, 647 Gravely Road. Items will be distributed through a drive-thru option on a first come, first served basis, to income eligible households until all commodities are gone. This will provide for the safety of recipients as well as the volunteers and staff. All recipients must be residents of Tennessee. This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Each recipient must have a Light Blue colored commodity ID card in order to pick up their commodities. An ID card is obtained by completing an application at the Neighborhood Service Center. We strongly encourage each recipient to complete the application the week prior to the date of your distribution; this will reduce your wait time during the distribution. However, staff will be available on site during the distribution to assist in acquiring a commodity card. If someone is picking up your commodities, they must have your ID card and be authorized on your application; limits to pickup are 10 orders. The distribution will begin at 10 a.m. and will end at 12 p.m. or earlier if food is no longer available.

🔹 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 May. 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.

🔹 The Dobyns-Bennett High School Band wanted to do something special for our community in these uncertain times by performing in a “virtual” performance while under quarantine. Students performed Brian Balmages’ “Within The Castle Walls.” You can view the virtual performance here: www.k12k.com/apps/video/watch.jsp?v=261305.

🔹 United States Attorneys G. Zachary Terwilliger and Thomas T. Cullen today announced that the Commonwealth of Virginia has been awarded over $10.8 million in Department of Justice grants to respond to the public safety challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is encouraging facilities that have been vacant for an extended period due to COVID-19 to use guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure optimal water quality in buildings. When buildings are vacant for extended periods, stagnation of the water in the pipes can result in deteriorated water quality, such as the loss of disinfectant residual, increased disinfection by-products, microbial growth such as Legionella, and increases in metals such as lead. When water service is returned to a building after an extended period of non-use, it is important to address the stagnant water in the building’s plumbing to ensure safe drinking water. The CDC has published measures to help minimize the risk of diseases associated with water that has likely become stagnant in many buildings. Details on these guidelines can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html.

🔹 On National Nurses Day, Wednesday, May 6, Dunkin’ is offering a free medium hot or iced coffee and a free donut – no purchase necessary – to all healthcare workers who visit participating Dunkin’ restaurants nationwide, while supplies last. The offer excludes Cold Brew and Nitro Cold Brew. Limit one per guest. Not valid on mobile orders.

🔹 United Way of Southwest Virginia accepted donations of $20,000 from Crutchfield, as well as $5,000 in the form of grocery gift cards from Kroger. These gifts will be used to support citizens and communities in Southwest Virginia most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. United Way of Southwest Virginia’s COVID-19 relief efforts will focus response efforts on vulnerable populations, including children, families, and the ALICE population in Southwest Virginia. ALICE, an acronym coined by United Way that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed represents men, women, and families who work hard and earn more than the official Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living. Kroger’s gift of $5,000 in the form of grocery gift cards will be distributed by Feeding Southwest Virginia.

🔹 The Museum of Appalachia is preparing to slowly open back up and welcome visitors. Beginning Monday, May 4, the restaurant will start serving lunch via curbside pickup from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Saturday, May 9, the museum is planning to reopen its grounds to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to curbside service, it will open the restaurant for in-house dining from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The museum will continue to abide by the regulations and guidelines set by local and state governments, and will be adding measures to allow for appropriate social distancing for the safety of both guests and staff. The museum will post any additional updates on its Facebook page, and any specific questions can be addressed by calling (865) 494-7680.

Read more

Friday Night Lights honors Class of 2020 at Sullivan Central

Editorial: Tennessee should reopen its courtrooms

Virtual farewell ~ due to coronavirus ~ tough for Forbes

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in region

Tennessee COVID-19 cases increase by 1,156 — biggest one-day jump by far

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games canceled for 2020

Roe: China should be held accountable for coronavirus cover-up

Sullivan County animal shelter announces fundraiser

Thursday, April 30

Schedule changes

🔹 The Crazy 8s 8K Run, scheduled for July 11, has been canceled. The race, started in 1990, has run for 30 straight years, but will take a year off in the interest of protecting the health and safety of all attendees, a press release said. “We are obviously devastated to have to make this decision,” said Hank Brown, event co-director. “For 30 years, Crazy 8s has been our passion, and everyone involved has worked so hard to make it one of the top running events in the world. We will go to work right away to bring Crazy 8s back in 2021, bigger and better than ever.”

🔹 Fun Fest announced today that this year’s festival has been canceled due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 (coronavirus). “We really hoped the summer of 2020 would be a time to get back together, renew our friendships, enjoy outdoor concerts and activities with our friends and neighbors,” said Andy Wampler, 2020 Fun Fest chair and an attorney with Ballad Health and Wilson Worley. “As always, the health and safety of our attendees is of uppermost importance in planning our festival. Because of the risks of gathering in large groups at this time, we have made the difficult yet necessary decision to cancel Fun Fest for this year.” “With businesses focusing on getting people back to work, we are taking a break this year,” said Lucy Fleming, Fun Fest director. “We believe it is in the public interest to step back this year to take a break from large gatherings. We have every intention of returning in July 2021 for our 40th festival.”

🔹 It is with heavy hearts that the TriPride Board of Directors announces the postponement of the 2020 TriPride Parade and Festival, exact date to be determined. The event was scheduled to take place in the heart of Downtown Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia on Saturday, August 29, 2020. Vendors who have already signed up and paid to participate in the 2020 event will be fully refunded. Sponsors will have the option to be fully refunded or to hold their sponsorship until the next event.

🔹 Government guidelines for ceasing commercial activity caused the closure of The Salvation Army Family Store in March and April. Now that those restrictions are being eased, the store will reopen to the public at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 1, with an inventory of clothing, small appliances and other household items. Donations have continued to be received while sales were ceased. Safeguard protocols are in place, and customers should be prepared to respect safe distancing guidelines within the store. The Salvation Army Family Store is located at 1409 E. Stone Drive, Kingsport, TN 37660. Store hours and donation times are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday (donations received during store hours until 3 p.m.). For more information call (423) 247-8154.

News updates

🔹 Kingsport City Schools will hold a “Drive Through” Pre-Kindergarten Screening (not registration) for the 2020-21 school year between May 19-22, 2020, by appointment only, at the Palmer Early Learning Center, 1609 Ft. Henry Drive, Kingsport. Only Kingsport residents with children 4 years of age on or before August 15, 2020, are eligible for Pre-Kindergarten screening. To make an appointment for Pre-K Screening, contact the Palmer Early Learning Center at (423) 378-2160.

🔹 Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group released guidance for close contact services today, enabling over 38,000 workers to resume business at limited capacity in 89 of the state’s 95 counties on Wednesday, May 6. This guidance applies to personal services including barbershops, hair salons, waxing salons, nail spas, massage therapy services and substantially similar businesses that require prolonged close contact with customers. The full guidelines are posted online at TNPledge.com.

🔹 The COVID -19 crisis has seen many parents scrambling to keep their kids engaged and active from home. Throughout the mandated lock-downs the Sequoyah Council of the Boy Scouts of America had staff and volunteer teams work to put together a new way for Scouts to continue their journey from home in a very short time. They have moved content from regular weekly meetings into online learning segments delivered every day to children. Multiple volunteers have come together to offer virtual Merit Badge Classes, Scout Skills, Cub Challenges and more. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is inviting families with children of all ages — even those not currently involved in Scouting — to join the 'National Camp-In' May 2. From camp-style cooking to campfire singalongs, the virtual day of fun brings the best parts of Scouting to life through a variety of activities for all to enjoy in their living rooms or backyards. To learn more about the National Camp-In, visit Scouting.org/CampIn.



🔹 Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Scott County office released information about the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. On April 17, 2020, a new program to assist farmers, ranchers and consumers was announced by USDA. As presented, $19 billion of immediate relief funds were released to support farms and ranchers maintain the food supply chain. This will be accomplished through direct support to farmers and ranchers and USDA purchase and distribution. Further details regarding eligibility, rate and other implementation guidelines will be released at a later date. Additional information can be found at www.usda.gov/coronavirus.

🔹 The Kingsport Public Library is now providing a much-needed service to help the public get through this current crisis. Kingsport Public Library Reference Librarians will now be available via Skype to provide assistance with applying or certifying for unemployment benefits on the Tennessee Unemployment website. You can also sign up for a Skype session with a librarian to work on a resume. Sessions are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Register for your own Unemployment Assistance Skype session using the Kingsport Public Library website under the EVENTS tab. You will need an email address and a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a mic in order to register. You will then be contacted by email to Skype with the librarian at the time you sign up for. A Skype account is not required. For questions about registration, email referencelibrary@kingsporttn.gov. If you have found yourself in the unexpected position of having to search for new employment, there are resources available to start looking for work. Visit the Kingsport Strong website (kingsportstrong.com) to find an updated list of businesses that are hiring in our area. If you have any questions, you can call 423-229-9465 during normal library hours. For more information, please visit kingsportlibrary.org.

🔹 For the academic year that begins in fall 2020, all University of Tennessee campuses are proposing zero percent tuition increases to their individual advisory boards. The advisory boards will meet in early May to review and discuss tuition. Their recommendations will be submitted to UT President Randy Boyd and presented to the UT Board of Trustees in June for the final decision. “Our students and their families are struggling right now, many financially,” Boyd said. “Our chancellors and I strongly believe that we need to do everything we can to provide them the support they need to continue their education at UT, and to make our University as affordable as possible for our incoming students.”

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on new unemployment claims for the week ending April 25, 2020. Statewide, there were 43,792 new claims filed and 324,543 continued claims. In Northeast Tennessee, 2,379 new claims were filed.

🔹 Walmart associates in Tennessee received a bonus in their paychecks today adding up to $3.96 million statewide. In all, Walmart gave associates $180 million in bonuses nationwide today. Walmart also announced today it reached its goal of hiring an additional 200,000 associates nationwide.

🔹 Organizers intend to move forward with producing a modified version of the North Carolina Folk Festival in September 2020. The exact nature of the modified festival will be determined in the coming weeks and months.

Read more

Organizers postpone TriPride Parade and Festival

Crazy 8s canceled for 2020

Sullivan shifts testing focus to vulnerable population

SW Va. COVID-19 cases level for second straight day

COVID-19: 369 new cases, 4 new deaths in Tennessee

NASCAR announces plan to resume racing

Fun Fest canceled due to concerns surrounding pandemic

Yard signs, stadium lights honor Class of 2020

Watauga Valley baseball offered plenty of promise in 2020

Northam: Non-emergency medical procedures can start May 1

Thank you, sewing soldiers: Hawkins volunteers top 11K medical masks distributed

Ballad Health will resume elective procedures May 4

Wednesday, April 29

Schedule changes

🔹 Symphony of the Mountains announced its annual gala will move to Sept. 19, 2020, at MeadowView Conference, Resort and Convention Center.

News updates

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued Executive Order 31 to extend the prohibition of non-emergency dental services to Wednesday, May 6, to allow more needed time for the Tennessee Dental Association, the Tennessee Dental Hygienist Association, and the Tennessee Board of Dentistry to are continue their work on guidance for safe reopening and practice.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced that close contact services, such as salons and barbershops, in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties will be able to reopen at limited capacity on May 6. The Economic Recovery Group will release industry-specific guidance for those businesses before the end of this week.

🔹 The Wayne G. Basler Library at Northeast State Community College has installed a new Return Drop Box outside the Blountville campus Welcome Center. Students, faculty, staff and community members can return library materials in the drop box beginning April 29. The Welcome Center is located at the main entrance of the Blountville campus, Highway 75, next to Tri-Cities Airport. Northeast State campuses have been closed to the public since mid-March. The drop box gives students a way to drop off library materials they checked out prior to the campus closure. Library staff will be checking the drop box for returns several times each day. Once retrieved the returned materials will be checked in as returned. The return of library materials is important to clear student accounts for spring graduation as well as summer and fall class registration. The library had moved due dates for all currently checked out materials to May 1. 

🔹 Unified-Command Group is increasing testing of vulnerable populations in the coming weeks, including widespread testing of all long-term care facilities in Tennessee (more than 700 facilities and 70,000 residents) and additional testing sites in minority communities. The state of Tennessee has partnered with National Health Care Corporation to test all residents and staff within their 38 Tennessee facilities.

🔹 The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded $274,168 to public housing agencies in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District to support housing assistance for low-income residents. The funding was awarded through the CARES Act Admin Fee Regular and Mainstream Voucher Program. Local public housing agencies receiving funds include Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority, Bristol — $32,314; Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority, Norton — $11,276; Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority, Coeburn — $76,026; Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority, Duffield — $23,142; Abingdon Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Abingdon — $11,954; Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority, Jonesville — $50,504; Big Stone Gap Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Big Stone Gap — $11,596; and People Inc. of Southwest Virginia, Abingdon — $12,270.

🔹 BrightRidge Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday evening to invest $50,000 with the RegionAHEAD fund to assist struggling small businesses and partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Community Care Fund to enhance aid to residential customers through the Heissee Johnson Hand Up Fund. To learn more about how to donate or how to apply for small business grant consideration, please visit www.RegionAHEAD.com. To donate to the Heissee Johnson Hand Up Fund or for more information on any BrightRidge programs, phone Customer Service at (423) 952-5000 or initiate a customer support Live Chat conversation at www.BrightRidge.com.

🔹 A preliminary look at data from hospitalized adults diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the investigational antiviral remdesivir is showing promising results. The international trial, which includes investigators from Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), is showing that patients who received remdesivir are recovering an average of four days faster (11 days vs. 15 days) than patients who were given placebo. Likewise, mortality rates for patients who received the drug are 8% as compared to 11.6% of the placebo group. It is only a preliminary look at the data, and additional data are expected to be available in the upcoming weeks.

🔹 Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee will participate in GivingTuesdayNow, which is a new global day of giving and unity that will take place on May 5, 2020. GivingTuesdayNow is an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. As part of this day of giving, Second Harvest has invited area legislators to attend and volunteer at five mobile food distribution sites in our region. There is an increased need due to rising unemployment as businesses close due to the COVID-19 quarantine. Food bank officials are requesting monetary donations to meet the additional food needs in our region. For more information, contact Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee at (423) 279-0430 or visit netfoodbank.org to make a donation.

🔹 The Northeast Regional Health Office and the Health Departments in Carter and Unicoi are hosting COVID-19 drive-through testing events for the community May 2 and 3, 2020. Nurses and/or National Guard medics at each site will collect nasal swabs from those who want to be tested, and test results may be available within 72 hours after the samples arrive at the lab, depending on lab volume. You do not have to live in the county to be tested at this event. Sample collection for testing will be offered at the following locations and times: Saturday, May 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hampton High School; and Sunday, May 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Unicoi High School.

🔹 Frontier Health is excited to announce that it is offering myStrength, a digital behavioral health platform, to everyone within its local communities absolutely free. Frontier recognizes the need to maintain good mental health and stay in recovery from substance use during the heightened stress and uncertainty brought on by the current COVID-19 pandemic. myStrength is a recognized leader and one of the fastest-growing digital behavioral health companies in the US. As a myStrength partner, Frontier Health is offering this supportive interactive tool as a 24/7 clinically-proven wellness resource that offers tools such as stress management, parenting tips for these challenging times, emotional support tools, as well as videos and activities. myStrength runs on both IOS and Android platforms and can be accessed through the link on the Frontier Health website, https://www.frontierhealth.org/mystrength/. myStrength is completely confidential, and no personal information is gathered or distributed.

🔹 U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $10,832,775 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services in preventing, preparing for and responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The federal funding was made possible through the FY2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) program, which provides $850 million to assist states, local units of government and tribes during this outbreak.

🔹 Johns Hopkins University announced the launch of the COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative, a one-stop resource hub that fills the void of publicly-available information about COVID-19 testing data and offers critical insights, resources and expert analysis about COVID-19 testing around the nation. In the coming weeks and months, viral tests for the presence of COVID-19 infection as well as serological tests for antibodies and possible immunity will be critical to measure the spread of the disease. Governments, businesses, and families will rely on data from these tests as well as answers to questions about testing capacity as they make decisions about the path forward. However, local testing data are not currently publicly available, and a comprehensive set of these data – paired with expert analysis and guidance – does not exist in one place. The Testing Insights Initiative aims to fill this void. The new initiative can be accessed at on the existing Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center webpage (coronavirus.jhu.edu), an established resource for the public, policy makers and the media about COVID-19 that has been viewed more than 400 million times in less than two months and linked to by more than 8,000 other sites across the Internet.

Read more

SW Va. sees no COVID-19 increase; one new case reported in Sullivan

COVID-19: 314 new cases, 7 new deaths in Tennessee

Optimism was high for lost Three Rivers baseball season

Officials advise absentee voting for May Virginia local elections

KCS eyeing in-person graduation at end of online instruction

Sullivan will defer to state's reopening plan

Tuesday April 28

Schedule changes

🔹 The city of Bristol, Tennessee, announced that the State Street Farmers Market will not open on the first Saturday in May, as is tradition. Organizers said they are working on a plan to safely open the market that will gain the support of those closely monitoring the coronavirus in the community. Recreation Superintendent Mike Musick is in close contact with vendors and, until the market opens, will be using the market’s Facebook page, available at https://www.facebook.com/statestreetfarmersmarket, to advertise the items available and purchase options.

News updates

🔹 Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group announced guidance for gyms and exercise facilities on how to reopen safely. Gyms will be allowed to reopen in 89 of the state’s 95 counties beginning Friday, May 1. The counties excluded are those with locally-run health departments: Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan. In addition to strict adherence to CDC guidelines, the State recommends gyms, fitness/exercise facilities, or substantially similar facilities and activities put into place an assortment of measures to protect consumers and employees. The full guidelines are posted online here.

🔹 Bishop Richard F. Stika has expressed his desire to resume public Masses at all of the parishes and mission churches in the Diocese of Knoxville the weekend of Pentecost, May 30-31. Bishop Stika is working with diocesan pastors, priests and health-care experts to consider ways to implement the safety guidelines and mandates recently issued by public health authorities.

🔹 A joint letter was released to the citizens of Bristol, Elizabethton, Johnson City, Kingsport and all of Carter, Sullivan and Washington counties, reminding them that we are not returning to “normal.” The new normal will look different, with health precautions remaining a necessary part of everyday life. It is more important than ever to continue safe practices to avoid a spike in COVID-19 cases. The best practices outlined by the CDC and local health departments have helped to keep the number of positive cases low in our region. “Area government leaders and health officials recognize the importance of reopening our area but doing so safely is crucial to its success,” the letter states. “The path forward is a cautious one, as the safety and health of our communities remains the top priority.”

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today signed Executive Order Sixty, which reinforces certain existing statutory liability protections for Virginia healthcare workers. Due to COVID-19, public and private healthcare providers are operating with limited resources and may be forced to serve patients outside of conventional standards of care. Virginia’s code offers protections for healthcare workers and first responders in cases of emergency. This order clarifies that these statues protect healthcare workers operating during the COVID-19 crisis. Nothing in this order prevents liability in the case of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 web page has added a new consumer education and information topics toolbar that offers website visitors a more interactive and personalized experience. “This COVID-19 & You tool serves to answer questions for the public regarding health concerns and issues by providing interactive experiences,” said Suresh Soundararajan, VDH chief information officer. “The intent is to make the user experience better and more targeted for people looking for information regarding COVID-19.” For the latest information on the COVID-19 situation in Virginia, go to the VDH coronavirus webpage at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

Read more

Now is the time for communities to take bold steps

Three new COVID-19 cases in SWVA

Tennessee passes 10,000 COVID-19 cases, death toll at 188

Some restaurant dining rooms reopening under coronavirus safety guidelines

Northam: Testing situation improving

Rogersville BMA meeting to be live streamed on Facebook

Reopening businesses doesn't mean COVID-19 has gone away

‘Right now, anything is possible’ in Tennessee high school football

Monday, April 27

News updates

🔹 On Friday, elective medical procedures will be allowed to resume so Tennessee nurses and other hospital workers can get back to work. It’s important to get hospitals back online with elective procedures so Tennesseans can safely resume more routine services, including scheduling quality of life procedures. Procedures like routine screenings and joint replacements are included in this first wave.

🔹 The state of Tennessee began providing economic relief to thousands of self-employed individuals by paying Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits made available to them through the federal government’s CARES Act. Self-employed individuals are not typically eligible for unemployment. PUA provided the funding necessary to pay benefits to Tennesseans who have not been able to work in order to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The department began processing eligible claims on April 22 and continued processing into the weekend. Tens of thousands of eligible individuals should have funds deposited into their bank accounts or debit cards this week. Self-employed Tennesseans can still apply for PUA by visiting www.Jobs4TN.gov or calling 844-432-0969.

🔹 The volunteers for the Free Legal Advice Clinics that take place at Good Samaritan Ministries, Inc. in downtown Johnson City will conduct the Free Legal Advice Clinic by telephone or, in some instances, the video-conferencing application Zoom, at the same dates and times. The clinic operates the first Saturday of each month between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and will be running remotely beginning May 2, 2020. Persons in need of free legal advice should call (423) 631-0451 during those times for direction to a volunteer who will attempt to assist the person with legal questions or issues.

🔹 As Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee focuses on expanding COVID-19 testing, the Unified Command Group is working to provide information to help the Tennesseans understand how serology, or antibody, can, and cannot, inform the State’s re-opening strategy. Although the research is still ongoing, this will give a first estimate of the number of Tennesseans with COVID-19 antibodies, which will assist us in developing a strategy for more widespread antibody test of the general population. The Tennessee Department of Health will be distributing a technical brief to health care providers in Tennessee with details about antibody testing and its limitations. TDH is also working on a plan to test up to 10,000 health care workers in Tennessee’s public teaching hospitals.

🔹 U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $14,857,347 in federal funding to strengthen the Commonwealth’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The funding, awarded through the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ELC) cooperative agreement, was made possible by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine. Specifically, the funding may be used by the Virginia Department of Health to establish or enhance the ability to aggressively identify cases, conduct contact tracing and follow up, as well as implement appropriate containment measures. It can also be used to improve morbidity and mortality surveillance, enhance testing capacity, control COVID-19 in high-risk settings and protect vulnerable or high-risk populations, as well as help healthcare systems manage and monitor system capacity.

🔹 Effective Monday, April 27, Kroger Mid-Atlantic now has a new contactless pay option for customers, Kroger Pay. Linked to a customer’s loyalty information, Kroger Pay eliminates the need for customers to use their credit or debit card and instead uses a QR code on the customer’s mobile device that can be scanned for payment – through the plexliglass shield at checkout or at self-checkout registers. Kroger customers interested in using Kroger Pay should make sure they have the most recent version of the Kroger app downloaded and then look in the More Menu to see Kroger Pay as an option.

🔹 “Poetry of Hope, Poetry of Resilience” is the focus of a free virtual reading to be hosted Friday, May 1, by East Tennessee State University’s Department of Literature and Language. This celebration of poetry that inspires, gives solace and helps make sense of these unprecedented times will be held via Zoom beginning at 7 p.m. Readings will be given by ETSU Poet in Residence Jesse Graves, President Brian Noland and other members of the university community. As Robert Frost put it, “Every poem is a momentary stay against the confusion of the world.” For more information or to request a Zoom invitation, email Dr. Josh Reid at reidjs@etsu.edu.

🔹 Even though its office and museums are currently closed to the public, the Heritage Alliance is still working to preserve local history and share it with the world. On May 5, it will share special content on its social media pages, including a tour of Main Street in Jonesborough, a behind-the-scenes look in its archives, an upstairs tour at the Chester Inn Museum and more. The Heritage Alliance will be sharing this content as part of #GivingTuesdayNow as a way to raise awareness of its mission and the wonderful history we have all around us in need of preservation. #GivingTuesdayNow is a new global day of giving and unity that will take place on May 5, 2020 – in addition to the regularly scheduled Dec 1, 2020 #GivingTuesday – as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. You can make a donation on #GivingTuesdayNow via its website (www.heritageall.org) or Facebook page.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced more than 7,000 Tennesseans received free COVID-19 tests, regardless of symptoms, during Unified-Command Group’s second weekend of expanded testing efforts at 18 sites across the state. Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee National Guard personnel tested 4,247 individuals on Saturday at 10 sites across all three grand divisions. Eight sites were operational on Sunday with 2,856 individuals tested. Unified-Command will continue expanded testing throughout the weekend of May 2-3. An updated list of available sites will be posted on the Department of Health’s website. All rural county health departments across the state offer free COVID-19 testing 5 days a week, in addition to drive-through sites. In Greene County, 382 tests were administered Saturday. In Hawkins County, 172 tests were administered Sunday.

Read more

Eastman to hold virtual stockholders meeting

False negatives and true recovery

SWVA, NET show single-digit climbs in COVID-19 cases

Officials must weigh risk factors when games resume

Editorial: Be smart, be safe as we reopen

Tennessee records nearly 10,000 COVID-19 cases

First Presbyterian giving out breakfast food bags to those in need

All things geek – Surviving the global pandemic one byte at a time

Local food bank, pantries open during pandemic, but need donations

Sunday, April 26

Schedule changes

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health announced the drive-thru testing site at Volunteer High School closed at 12:40 p.m., today, due to inclement weather. Free COVID-19 drive-thru testing is available at the Rogersville Health Department Monday-Friday from 1-3 p.m. Call the Rogersville Health Department for more information at (423) 272-7641.

Read more

Sync Space announces $50,000 Restart Accelerator program

Soaps: watching and washing during social distancing

Plenty of positives from lost Big 7 baseball season

COVID-19: Virginia, Tennessee state counts continue to climb

Test session at Kingsport offers respite for drivers, encouragement for future

During pandemic, Kingsport teen chooses art over boredom

UVA Wise takes leap into virtual May commencement

Sullivan schools continue feeding, educating students during pandemic closing

Global death toll tops 200,000 as some virus lockdowns eased

Saturday, April 25

Schedule changes

🔹 Organizers of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Inc. and Singing on the Mountain, both of which take place at Grandfather Mountain, have made the difficult decision to cancel their respective events due to COVID-19. The 65th Annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games were originally scheduled to be held July 9-12, at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain. For more information, visit www.gmhg.org or www.singingonthemountain.org.

Read more

COVID-19: Eight new cases reported in NET; SW Va. case count unchanged

Big 7 softball teams had big dreams for season that didn’t happen

Sullivan East honors seniors 'the Patriot way'

Northam outlines reopening plan, orders local elections delayed two weeks

Sullivan County offices staying closed to public until at least May 4

Friday, April 24

Schedule changes

🔹 Walters State Community College has rescheduled commencement exercises for July 29 and 30, 2020. Graduation was originally scheduled for May 9. Health program graduates will participate in the July 29 ceremony and all other graduates will take part in one on July 30. Both ceremonies will be held at the Morristown campus. These dates are subject to change based on the novel coronavirus situation and the status of restrictions on large public gatherings at the end of July. If the college is unable to hold commencement on July 29 and 30, spring 2020 graduates will be invited to participate in the college’s December 2020 graduation ceremony.

News updates

🔹 Preaching Christ Church is providing a free spaghetti dinner to-go with rolls donated by Texas Roadhouse for those who have been financially affected by COVID-19 and the quarantine beginning at 4 p.m., Saturday, April 25, and continuing WHILE SUPPLIES LAST. The drive thru line will start down E. Sullivan Street coming from Wilcox. Everyone is asked to remain in their cars, and volunteers will bring out the meals. Contact Preaching Christ Church at pcckingsport@gmail.com or call (423) 967-5997 for details.

🔹 The Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office and Hawkins County Health Department will offer free drive-thru COVID-19 testing from  9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, April 26 at Volunteer High School, 1050 Volunteer Street, Church Hill. The testing will be provided at no cost, and those who come to be tested may remain in their vehicles throughout the process. Anyone who has health concerns, or who has concerns for the health of a family member, is invited to be tested. No appointment or pre-registration is needed. 

🔹 With the best practices in mind, Kingsport will be following the Sullivan County Regional Health Department’s Public Health Order #2 starting Monday, April 27. Kingsport will issue an amendment next week to the current city declaration to put the order in place.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today invoked his statutory authority to postpone the May General and Special Elections by two weeks, from May 5, 2020, to May 19, 2020. Elections are scheduled in 56 localities across the commonwealth. The Governor also moved the June primary elections from June 9, 2020 to June 23, 2020. Only individuals who were eligible to vote on May 5, 2020, may participate in the elections on May 19, 2020, and no new candidates are eligible to participate in the postponed elections. The deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration for the May 5, 2020, elections has passed. The deadline does not change for the elections scheduled for May 19, 2020. Local General Registrar offices must receive mailed-in requests for absentee ballots for the May 19, 2020, election by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Voters are advised to apply immediately to account for any potential delays in mail delivery. Absentee ballots returned by mail must be received by the local General Registrar by 7:00 PM on Election Day, May 19, 2020. Voters can find contact information for their local General Registrar at elections.virginia.gov/localGR.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today presented the “Forward Virginia” blueprint, which will help guide the Commonwealth on when to safely begin easing public health restrictions. The blueprint includes a phased approach that is grounded in the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and has specific goals to contain the spread of the virus through increased testing, personal protective equipment and supplies, and medical capacity. The governor emphasized that key indicators will include a 14-day downward trend in confirmed cases as a percentage of overall tests and in reduced COVID-19 hospitalizations. While hospitalization rates have largely stabilized in the Commonwealth, confirmed cases continue to rise.

🔹 The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an order that extends the judicial state of emergency until May 31, and also allows local judicial districts to develop a strategy to begin holding more in-person court proceedings in their districts. Jury trials will remain suspended until July 3, unless there are extraordinary circumstances. As with the previous orders related to COVID-19, today’s order applies to all state and local courts across Tennessee, including state circuit and chancery courts, general sessions courts, juvenile courts and municipal courts.

🔹 Tennessee hospitals are experiencing a negative financial impact of approximately $1 billion per month due to the pandemic, according to an analysis conducted by the Tennessee Hospital Association (THA). As the COVID emergency continues, hospital revenues dramatically have dropped as both inpatient and outpatient service utilization have plummeted. At the same time, the costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essential resources that are in short supply due to the crisis rapidly have increased.

🔹 Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) is staying open to continue to meet the legal needs that will be created or compounded by this crisis. It is offering a free legal clinic by phone for people who are worried about issues such as getting evicted, getting calls from debt collectors, having problems with their parenting plan, having questions about their will and having questions about employment. Legal Aid of East Tennessee has a partnership with the Kingsport Bar Association to offer a free one-time legal advice clinic where clients can stay at home and have an attorney call them by following these steps: 1) April 21-28 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., call Legal Aid at (423) 794-2487 to register. 2) April 29, speak with a volunteer attorney who will call you.

🔹 Bryant Consultants, a dental practice consulting agency in Kingsport, wants dentists and dental labs to know how they can help fill the gap by using 3D technology to print N95 masks. In-office CAD/CAM technology used to fabricate dental restorations can be engineered to make N95 masks and face shields for healthcare workers and first responders. After Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order that restricted dentists to only provide emergency care during social distancing, the total case intake at Premier Dental Arts in Kingsport decreased by approximately 90%. Staff learned about a group in Europe that started using a 3D printer to produce ventilator valves and decided to pursue the matter in support of the global pandemic. Following a few weeks of intense study and trial and error, combined with countless trips to the hardware store, the first finished face shields and facemasks started to emerge. Since then, medical practitioners, dentists and small businesses all over the U.S. have reached out to Premier Dental Arts to order PPE for their employees. Meanwhile, Premier Dental Arts has shared its plans with other dental labs across the country, addressing the need for proper protective equipment while also keeping the staff at these labs working. Call (877) 768-4799 or visit www.bryantconsultants.com to learn more about using your in-office CAD/CAM technology to make N95 masks, or to schedule a complimentary one-hour consultation with an expert consultant.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued the first steps from the “Tennessee Pledge,” the state’s rollout of guidance and best practices for Tennessee businesses in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to keep employees and customers safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first industries to receive guidance through the plan include the restaurant and retail industries. The state is working with Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan on plans to reopen businesses in those counties. Lee announced Tennessee restaurants are able to reopen Monday at 50% occupancy. Additionally, Tennessee retailers are able to reopen on Wednesday at 50% occupancy. The state recommends that employees in both industries wear cloth face coverings and that business owners follow federal guidelines for hygiene and workplace sanitation standards related to the pandemic. The full guidance offered by the state for both sectors can be found at https://www.tn.gov/governor/covid-19/economic-recovery.html.

🔹 The Virginia General Assembly approved a proposed budget amendment from Gov. Ralph Northam giving the director of the Department of Corrections authority to release offenders early during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The director of the Department of Corrections is authorized to consider early release for individuals with less than one year left to serve while the COVID-19 emergency declaration is in effect. Offenders convicted of a Class 1 felony or a sexually violent offense are not eligible for consideration. The exact number of individuals eligible for early release consideration will change depending on the length of the emergency declaration order.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced a diverse group of leaders participating in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Business Task Force, which will continue to provide advice and guidance to the Cabinet on a safe, responsible strategy for easing restrictions on businesses and individuals. The task force consists of representatives from a variety of Virginia industries, scales, geographies, and backgrounds across the Commonwealth, including restaurants, breweries, wineries, small and large retailers, fitness centers, hair salons, barber shops, spas and estheticians, museums, hospitality groups, campgrounds and entertainment venues.

🔹 UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga and UT Martin have refunded more than $40 million from housing, parking, dining services, athletic ticket and more due to COVID-19. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocates $14 billion to higher education, of which UT campuses will receive $34.9 million. Half of the money must be given to students as emergency financial aid grants. The other half will be used to offset the financial impact on the campuses. Campuses also are beginning to make plans for different scenarios from financial to social distancing in classes for the fall semester.

🔹 The Southwest Virginia COVID-19 Advisory Council announced today the first major disbursement of funds raised. In partnership with Feeding Southwest Virginia, the Advisory Council will provide a total of $50,000 in food relief to 1,000 families across Southwest Virginia. United Way of Southwest Virginia will provide 1,000 $50 food vouchers to Feeding Southwest Virginia. Based on recent feedback from more than 150 health and human service organizations and childcare agencies, the greatest needs in the region caused by the pandemic are food insecurity, followed closely by child care.

Read more

Walters State graduation reset for July 29-30

ETSU approves no tuition increase for next year, reports losses from COVID-19

COVID-19 testing rates up in region; one new case in Lee County

Police: DUI mom with child in car lied about COVID-19 infection to avoid jail

COVID-19: Tennessee cases jump 1,300 in 3 days

Editorial: Reassure customers in your reopening message

Mooresburg Community Association awarded $5K grant for meal deliveries, other programs

Northam extends ban on elective surgeries, delays on vehicle registration deadlines

Sullivan board renews Cox contract, adopts English textbooks

Four new COVID cases in Hawkins, Sullivan in a week, 524 negative tests

Thursday, April 23

Schedule changes

 🔹 The board of the WNC Herb Marketing Association has canceled the 31st Annual Spring Herb Festival, scheduled for the first weekend in May,  at the Western North Carolina Farmer’s Market.

News updates

🔹 U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee today announced that Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office received $61,833 in Department of Justice grants to respond to the public safety challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19. The grant is available under the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program, authorized by the recent stimulus legislation signed by President Trump. Potential uses include hiring personnel, paying overtime, purchasing protective equipment, distributing resources to hard-hit areas and addressing inmates’ medical needs.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Thursday he is working to safely open as many Tennessee businesses as possible in 89 of our 95 counties next week, and continues to engage directly with larger communities in the remaining six counties to support their unique re-open plans (Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan counties). Lee previewed two industry reopens that will be covered in-depth tomorrow. Restaurants operating at 50% capacity and following the guidance will be allowed to open on Monday, April 27. Retail outfits operating at 50% capacity and following the guidance will be allowed to open next Wednesday, April 29. Additional details will be announced at Friday’s press briefing with Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group. 

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health announced its expanded COVID-19 testing continues this weekend with 17 drive-through sites across the state (April 25-26). Any Tennessean who isn’t feeling well or has been in close contact with someone positive for COVID-19 is encouraged to visit a free testing site in their community. Tennessee Department of Health nurses and Tennessee National Guard medics will perform tests at these drive-through sites and results are projected to be delivered to participants within 72 hours of testing. In addition to drive-through testing sites, Tennesseans can get a test free of charge, five days a week at every rural county health department in the state. Drive-through testing sites will also be available during the weekend of May 2-3.

🔹  Sync Space Entrepreneur Center and TSG Innovation Group, with support from Activated Capital, are announcing the Restart Accelerator, an innovation program to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will identify, promote, and nurture companies with technology, products, and services that will overcome the challenges in the new economy and help implement these solutions for struggling businesses in our region. Sync Space Entrepreneur Center will coordinate with state and local governments to facilitate support and coordinate with TSG Innovation Group in operating the Restart Accelerator Program. Restart Accelerator is receiving financial support from Activated Capital, a private investment fund, and the public sector through Sync Space. Companies are encouraged to apply for the acceleration program at RestartOurRegion.com. The Restart Accelerator program starts in early May.

🔹 Many Tennessee State Parks will reopen on April 24, 2020, for daytime visitors. Most parks will only be open 7 a.m. to sunset. To find the hours of operation for a specific park, visit the park’s page on our website or call the park directly. Parks or areas of parks are subject to closures if they reach capacity. Camping, cabins, lodge rooms, pavilions and other rentals are not allowed in April. New reservations are allowed for dates May 15 and onward. You can start booking those online at reserve.tnstateparks.com. Residents are reminded not to visit if you are sick or exposed to COVID-19; practice social distancing at all times; look for and only visit parks close to your home; and follow all posted rules and guidelines.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam extended the current ban on elective surgeries by one week, until May 1, and the closure of Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) public-facing offices by two weeks, until May 11. Virginia State Police are directed to continue suspending the enforcement of motor vehicle inspections and take several additional measures through July 31.

🔹 Sullivan County’s free drive thru testing for COVID-19 will continue through May 1 at the Blountville office by appointment only. Two additional locations will be set up on April 24 and April 30. The test will consist of a nasopharyngeal swab, and results are expected to take five to seven days. Testing will take place at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center in Kingsport on April 24 from 9 a.m. to noon. Testing will also take place at the Slater Center in Bristol on April 30 from 9 a.m. to noon.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on new unemployment claims filed across the state for the week ending April 18, 2020. Statewide, there were 68,968 new claims filed, down from 74,772 the previous week. In Northeast Tennessee, 5,085 new claims were filed.

Read more

Every Kid Healthy Week is a no-go, so parents need to step up

Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing Friday in Kingsport for Sullivan residents

Tri-Cities Airport to receive $10.3M CARES Act grant

COVID-19: Cases pass 8,200, deaths reach 170 in Tennessee

Church Hill splash pad opening delayed, pool likely closed all summer

Norton small business program hits $178,000 in loans

Fire, rescue and police deliver 'emergency' birthday presents to Hawkins toddlers

Northeast State CARES raises $17,500 in one month

Eastman outlines COVID-19 global response efforts

Wednesday, April 22

News updates

🔹 Preaching Christ Church is providing a free to-go spaghetti dinner with rolls donated by Texas Roadhouse for those who have been financially affected by COVID-19 and the quarantine on Saturday, April 25, beginning at 4 p.m. The drive thru line will start down East Sullivan Street coming from Wilcox. Everyone should stay in their cars, and volunteers will bring out the meals. Meals will be served while supplies last. For more information, contact Preaching Christ Church at pcckingsport@gmail.com or (423) 967-5997.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee released new data on COVID-19 cases and testing across the state. For the last 19 days, Tennessee has seen a steady decline in the growth rate of new COVID-19 cases. In addition, Tennessee ranks 12th in the nation for total tests and 15th in the nation for tests per 100,000 people.

🔹 Tennessee’s COVID-19 Unified-Command Group released new data on COVID-19 in the state’s long-term care facilities and outlined its action plan on how to prevent further cases and mitigate existing clusters within these facilities. Starting today, the Tennessee Department of Health will report the number of confirmed cases and COVID-19-related fatalities in all long-term care facilities across the state. The department’s website will be updated every Friday at 2 p.m. CDT to provide this data. As of 2:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday April 22, there are 375 total confirmed cases and 37 confirmed fatalities among residents and staff across 22 long-term care facilities in Tennessee.

🔹 The COVID-19 crisis is creating unprecedented work experience for several East Tennessee State University social work students who are helping their fellow students with challenges related to the pandemic. When ETSU transitioned to online learning mid-semester due to the COVID crisis, the workload changed and increased for the student success specialists. Now, they are working remotely to help fellow students navigate COVID-related and other challenges. Students who would like information about support services can visit www.etsu.edu/bucscare. To contact the student success specialists, email gradsuccess@etsu.edu (graduate students) or undergradsuccess@etsu.edu (undergraduate students).

🔹 The Cumberland Plateau and LENOWISCO Health Districts have activated drive-thru testing sites for COVID-19 at locations in Scott and Russell counties. These sites are closed to the public. Testing resources are limited, and only those who are pre-screened and approved for testing will be admitted, and only by appointment. In order to be approved for testing, you must call in advance for a screening interview. Those that are approved for testing will receive an appointment time, a testing number and/or an emailed authorization letter. If you do not have access to email, you must bring a valid ID to the testing site. To avoid lengthy wait times, please come to the site at your appointed time and bring your documentation with you. The Scott County Health Department (276-386-1312) will hold a site at the Gate City Middle and High School parking lot on Harry Fry Drive in Gate City on Thursday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Russell County Health Department (276-889-7621) will hold a site at the Russell County Government Center, 139 Highlands Drive in Lebanon on Friday, April 24, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call centers are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All available testing appointments are filled for the Gate City site (April 23), and may fill up for the Lebanon site (April 24). If sites are filled, you may request to be added to a waiting list in the event there are cancellations or no-shows, provided you can respond on relatively short notice. Additional testing sites and dates are being planned.

🔹 Eastman team members around the world are using innovation and their collaborative spirit to help support front line health care workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, Eastman has made the following contributions: 10,000 face shields for hospitals in Massachusetts, thanks to a collaboration with SMC Ltd.; donated copolyester resins to PRP Creation as part of an effort by cosmetics companies to produce 475,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for health organizations in France; distributed window film to Harlow College to produce 300 additional face shields for hospital workers in the United Kingdom; collaborated with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and universities to help produce 10,000 face shields; donated copolyesters to companies in Brazil to manufacture 20,000 face shields for hospitals; and donated critical PPE including 180 N95 masks and 4,400 nitrile gloves to first responders in Massachusetts. Also, Eastman has converted a pilot plant at its largest U.S. manufacturing site to produce hand sanitizer for area schools and emergency responders.

🔹 In response to the COVID-19 emergency, the Supreme Court of Virginia has extended the Declaration of Judicial Emergency for a third 21-day period, through May 17, 2020, for all district and circuit courts of the Commonwealth.

🔹 The Barbara Humphreys Birthing Center – first christened at Holston Valley Medical Center in 2016 in honor of a local family’s legacy of healthcare support in the Appalachian Highlands – has now moved to Indian Path Community Hospital. The name change took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22, as all labor and delivery and pediatric services in Kingsport fully transitioned to Indian Path. These changes align with longer-term preliminary recommendations by the Visioning Committee in Kingsport to enhance service offerings for women and newborns. Ballad Health previously announced changes that will lead to a dedicated women’s and newborn facility in Kingsport – the first of its kind in the region. The changes will help with near-term efforts to enhance capacity for responding to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, while also leading towards the establishment of a dedicated women’s and newborn hospital linked with regional high-acuity children’s services.

🔹 The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced emergency benefit increases have reached $2 billion per month for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households across all 50 states and three territories to increase food security during the coronavirus national emergency. These emergency benefits represent a 40% increase in overall monthly SNAP benefits, significantly increasing food purchasing power for American families. Currently, a household with two adults, three children, and no income can receive the maximum benefit of $768. However, due to reportable income and other factors, the average five-person household receives significantly less, $528. These emergency benefits would provide the average five-person household an additional $240 monthly in food purchasing power, bringing the average household up to the same benefit level as households already receiving the maximum. All SNAP households that are eligible to receive less than the maximum benefit will receive the emergency allotment supplement to bring them up to the maximum.

🔹 Future teachers in the Clemmer College at East Tennessee State University are staffing a “Homework Hotline” for school districts across the Northeast Tennessee region, from Sevierville to Mountain City. Nearly 50 current undergraduates enrolled in one of ETSU’s teacher preparation programs have volunteered to be available to assist local K-12 students who are now learning from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are available to assist in all grade levels and subject areas, such as math, science and language areas, as well as in early childhood and special education. The ETSU students are available to meet with those needing assistance via Zoom, Skype, or by email or phone. Assistance is provided at no charge to the student or family. Parents who are wanting to seek help from the “Homework Hotline” should contact the principal’s office where their child currently attends school. All ETSU students participating in the program have completed a background check.

🔹 Dr. Norman Oliver, Virginia State Health Commissioner, announced that Long-term Care Facilities (LTCFs) and Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) in neighboring areas can share information on positive COVID-19 cases. This information includes case identification and contact investigation efforts. Under Section 32.1-41 of the Code of Virginia, the State Health Commissioner has the authority to release Public Health Information (PHI) if it is pertinent to an investigation. Although these health care providers are permitted to share this information, these details remain confidential, per the Code of Virginia, and will not be released to the public. Many essential health care employees work at multiple facilities, serving Virginia’s most vulnerable during this pandemic. Out of concern for their safety and the safety of patients, the State Health Commissioner is releasing this information to aid VDH’s state and local efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Read more

Sullivan County sees area's only rise in COVID-19 cases

Barbara Humphreys Birthing Center relocates to Indian Path

Norton School Board awaiting changes in state budget bill

Sullivan commissioners grapple with budget decisions amid economic shutdown

Hawkins mayor lifting county's Safer-at-Home order on April 27

Tuesday, April 21

News updates

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced that funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, began flowing to Tennessee last week, with the state expected to receive more than $2.3 billion, with additional funding going directly to Memphis and Nashville. In partnership with the legislature and constitutional officers, the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group will work to properly steward these funds and serve Tennesseans. The first meeting of the Stimulus Financial Accountability Group will be held remotely tomorrow, April 22, and members will discuss major spending priorities and review the federal expectations for these funds.

🔹 The Northeast Regional Health Office is hosting COVID-19 drive-through testing events for the community April 25-26, 2020. Nurses and/or National Guard medics at each site will collect nasal swabs from those who want to be tested, and test results may be available within 72 hours after the samples arrive at the lab, depending on lab volume. Sample collection for testing will be offered at the following locations and times: April 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Greene County Fairgrounds, and April 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Volunteer High School.

🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) is now providing telemedicine, telebehavioral health and teledentistry services to provide patients with services from the comfort of their own homes during the time of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Telemedicine will be provided to patients at the discretion of their current medical provider via Zoom, which is a free application that the patient would need to download for these services. The patient will need access to a computer, tablet or smart phone, along with an email address. Behavioral health staff are currently providing all of their regular services through telebehavioral health and can see any patient of SVCHS. The SVCHS Dental Department is utilizing teledentistry services to provide access to care for dental services during COVID-19. For more information about any of these services, call (276) 496-4492.

🔹 By Executive Order Number 16 issued by Gov. Bill Lee on March 20, 2020, Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold a work session electronically on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at 6 p.m. Members of the board may attend the work session electronically, including, but not limited to, telephonically. The agenda can be accessed at the following link: https://go.boarddocs.com/tn/kingscs/Board.nsf/vpublic?open. In light of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and to help prevent its spread, there will be no access permitted to the public at the physical location of the work session. The work session will be conducted electronically, and members of the public can attend and listen to the work session electronically via www.k12k.com - Homepage - Latest News or watch live on the KCS Facebook page (www.facebook.com/KptSchools). Alternatively, the audio archive of the work session will be available at www.k12k.com - Board - Board Schedule & Notes within two business days of the work session.

🔹 The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that certain federal benefit recipients who weren’t required to file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 – and have dependents – must complete a simple tax return on IRS.gov by noon EDT April 22 in order to quickly receive the additional $500 in economic relief payments for each claimed dependent. Individuals in these categories can claim the additional $500 per eligible child here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here.

🔹 The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) has set a deadline for more information from certain Social Security beneficiaries to ensure they receive additional economic impact payments promptly. Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance beneficiaries who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes and who have qualifying children under age 17 must provide information to the IRS by Wednesday, April 22, in order to receive the $500 per child payment quickly. They can provide this information at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients with qualifying children will need to provide their information to the IRS as well, but a deadline has not been set. To learn more from the SSA, visit https://blog.ssa.gov/act-now-go-to-irs-gov-a-message-from-social-security-commissioner-andrew-saul/.

🔹 In appreciation for the healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics who are committed to health and safety, McDonald’s will begin offering free “Thank You Meals” beginning tomorrow. Between Wednesday, April 22, and Tuesday, May 5, all first responders and healthcare workers can get a free meal as a token of appreciation for their selfless service. Each Thank You Meal will be available at no charge via drive thru or carry out at participating McDonald’s restaurants nationwide. Day or night, these frontline heroes can simply show their work badge to receive one of the below Thank You Meal options: for breakfast, a choice of an Egg McMuffin®, Chicken McGriddles® or a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit, all with any size soft drink, tea or hot coffee and a Hash Brown; for lunch or dinner, a choice of a Double Cheeseburger, 6-Piece Chicken McNuggets® or a Filet-O-Fish®, all with any size soft drink, tea or hot coffee and small fries.

Read more

New loan program offered for Scott County businesses

More than 1,000 Food City gift cards to be distributed

SWVA COVID-19 cases rise by one; one new case reported in Hawkins County

Hawkins mayor questions social distancing scorecard

Pandemic halts summer health clinic

100 years and counting: Monday drive-by birthday parade honors retired Principal Robinson

Gas prices continue declining as U.S. stock levels reach record high

Rogersville dragstrip owners frustrated that golf courses open while they're closed

Northam: Trump-claimed state testing capacity still not there

Appalachia removes barricade from apartment building

Monday, April 20

Schedule changes

🔹 The Health Wagon and the Virginia Dental Association Foundation (VDAF) have decided to cancel this year’s Move Mountains Medical Mission (M7), formerly Wise Remote Area Medical (RAM), and the VDAF Mission of Mercy, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This event was scheduled to be held in Wise, Virginia from July 10-12, 2020, with the Health Wagon’s medical and vision clinics held at the Wise County Fairgrounds and the VDAF’s Mission of Mercy dental clinic held at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise Convocation Center. The free three-day annual summer event, which has been held for the past 20 years, has been cancelled due to public health considerations regarding large public gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have questions, call the Health Wagon at (276) 328-8850 or contact Nicole France at nfrance@thehealthwagon.org.

News updates

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee gave a data update on COVID-19 cases across the state. For 17 consecutive days, there have been only single digit percentage increases in the number of cases in the state. The hospitalization rate has consistently remained lower than national averages, and the number of recovered patients now exceeds the number of active cases.

🔹 Due to the public health impact of COVID-19 and to support the health and well-being of its stockholders, employees, and their families, Eastman Chemical Company (NYSE:EMN) today announced that it will hold its 2020 Annual Meeting of Stockholders (“Annual Meeting”) in a virtual meeting format only, via webcast, in place of a physical gathering. The Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday, May 7, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) as originally scheduled, but without a physical location.

🔹 Free COVID-19 drive-thru testing will be held at Johnson County High School, located at 290 Fairground Lane in Mountain City, on April 22 from 2-6 p.m. No appointment or pre-registration is needed. Anyone with health concerns, or who has concerns about the health of a family member, is invited to come to receive testing for COVID-19. Those who come for testing can remain in their vehicles throughout the process. For questions, contact the Northeast Region’s Coronavirus Public Information Line at (423) 979-4689. 

🔹 The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees will hold an informational meeting to be briefed about the university’s ongoing COVID-19 response at 8 a.m. EDT/7 a.m. CDT on April 24. The meeting will be webcast live and archived for later viewing; a link to the webcast will be available at tennessee.edu. At the meeting, the Board of Trustees will be briefed by UT President Randy Boyd on the university’s actions and plans in response to COVID-19. The agenda for the meeting has been posted to the board website and is accessible at trustees.tennessee.edu.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced more than 11,000 Tennesseans received free COVID-19 tests through the weekend efforts of Unified-Command Group to offer tests regardless of traditional symptoms. The Unified-Command Group is a joint partnership between the Tennessee Department of Health, the Tennessee Department of Military and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Saturday turnout was the largest, with more than 6,500 samples taken from 22 sites across all three grand divisions of the state. Sunday testing turnout exceeded expectations, with more than 4,600 tests collected across 11 sites. Expanded testing will continue for the next two weekends, April 25-26 and May 2-3. In Hawkins County, 470 tests were performed on Saturday. In Washington County, 829 tests were performed on Sunday.

🔹 The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability announced a new support program to help the state’s older adults who are facing social isolation and food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Care Through Conversation program will help ensure the needs of older adults are met through a regularly scheduled telephone call during which a volunteer will conduct a needs assessment coupled with warm conversation to guarantee the participant is safe both mentally and physically. At minimum, volunteers will conduct one call a week, but additional calls can be requested. To register someone who could benefit from a Care Through Conversation phone call, visit www.tn.gov/aging/our-programs/care-through-conversation.html or call (615) 253-4307.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Corrections has worked with its partners at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia and the Virginia Department of Health to dramatically increase testing of incarcerated offenders. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will today send staff to VADOC facilities to assist with the increased testing. The VADOC has ordered hundreds of additional tests, and VCU, UVA, and the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services are also sending hundreds of tests to VADOC facilities. To date, 434 VADOC offenders have been tested for COVID-19. Currently, 116 offenders have active COVID-19 cases, and 50 staff members have active COVID-19 cases.

Read more

Sullivan must develop own reopening plan

COVID-19 case reports climb by one in SWVA, remain level in NET

Salvation Army still serving community's most vulnerable during pandemic

Most Tennessee state parks to reopen Friday

Lee to phase out Tennessee stay-home order next week

Chalk art projects spring up in Sevier Terrace neighborhood

Drive-thru COVID-19 testing to begin Monday for Sullivan residents

Feeling lonely during the pandemic? Adopt a pet

Sunday, April 19

Read more

COVID-19: Local counties hold steady as state numbers climb

Meals on Wheels transitions to frozen meals during pandemic

Vegetable gardening may blossom because of pandemic

Saturday, April 18

Schedule changes

🔹 The 2020 Clinch River Days Festival has been canceled.

News updates

🔹 In one month, the Northeast State Foundation and its supporters have raised more than $17,500 to assist students with emergency resources in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort, titled College Aid in Response to an Emergency Situation (CARES), helps with food, transportation, childcare, living expenses, Internet and computer access, and community resources. The Foundation created CARES in response to COVID-19 measures that postponed or canceled traditional events. Erin Blevins, the College’s coordinator of Scholarship Programs, said more than 75 requests had been received for assistance. She said many of these students were matched to available campus and community resources, and 21 emergency awards totaling $6,350 had been made.

Read more

COVID-19: Saturday's numbers

Warner: Federal COVID-19 response 'a disaster'

United Ways' regional relief fund raises $361,000

Sullivan graduations won't be in May; proms a complete no-go for 2020

PHOTO GALLERY: Free COVID-19 testing underway at Volunteer H.S. until 3 p.m.

Kingsport restaurant feeds workers in Holston Valley’s COVID-19 unit

Norton records first COVID-19 case; LENOWISCO Health District reports second death

Announcers find ways to keep busy with sports world on hold

Friday, April 17

Schedule changes

🔹 Jonesborough’s Music on the Square performances during the month of May have been canceled due to COVID-19. The safety and health of residents and visitors are the top priority. Plans are underway to host the remainder of the season in hopes to kick off in June. Stay tuned for updates. For more details, call the Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010.

🔹 The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet on April 24. In compliance with restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting will be a virtual meeting online with commissioners and staff members participating remotely. The public will be able to view the meeting live via the internet on the TWRA YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/tennesseewildcast, and it will be recorded so that viewing at a later date will be possible.

News updates

🔹 Tusculum University announced it is pausing its efforts to launch the Niswonger College of Optometry due to COVID-19-driven changes in the optometry delivery care system and likely timetable for the accrediting body that is reviewing Tusculum’s plans. “Tusculum will revisit the College of Optometry in the future, but at the moment, it is challenging to continue the current level of progress on this excellent program,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president. “We still have other successful health care programs that have been staples of our academic roster for years and will continue to produce graduates that make a difference in people’s lives. Our commitment to quality health care remains.” The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education in 2019 designated the College of Optometry as a Stage 2 applicant, which is not a pre-accreditation or accreditation status but rather a step toward potential accreditation. The College of Optometry reached Stage 2 faster than any other candidate school, and the next step was a site visit from the ACOE. Circumstances do not allow for Tusculum to schedule the site visit for summer of 2020 as planned. Tusculum cannot begin recruiting students until the site visit is complete and the ACOE has granted preliminary approval of accreditation. Because of these circumstances, Tusculum is furloughing faculty and administrators who are working solely in the optometry program until the program can be re-evaluated.

🔹 The Cumberland Plateau and LENOWISCO Health Districts are activating drive-thru testing sites for COVID-19 at locations in Buchanan, Lee and Dickenson counties. Testing will occur next week. These sites are closed to the public. Testing resources are limited, and only those who are pre-screened and approved for testing will be admitted, and only by appointment. In order to be approved for testing, you must call in advance for a screening interview. Those that are approved for testing will receive an appointment time, a testing number and/or an emailed authorization letter. If you do not have access to email, you must bring a valid I.D. to the testing site. To avoid lengthy wait times, please come to the site at your appointed time and bring your documentation with you. The Buchanan County Health Department will hold a site in the lower parking lot of the Appalachian College of Pharmacy, 1060 Dragon Road in Oakwood on Monday, April 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To be screened for testing at this site, call (276) 244-3126 on Saturday and Sunday, April 18 and 19, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments will be available until all the slots are filled. The Lee County Health Department will hold a site at the Lee County High School parking lot, 200 Generals Lane in Jonesville on Tuesday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To be screened for testing at this site, call (276) 346-2011 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Dickenson County Health Department will hold a site at Valley View Baptist Church, West Main St. in Clintwood on Wednesday, April 22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To be screened for testing at this site, call (276) 926-4979 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

🔹 The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that eligible veterans who do not file income taxes do not need to file a tax return in order to receive their stimulus check.

🔹 The NCAA Eligibility Center has partnered with the NCAA membership to make adjustments to the initial-eligibility certification process. Today they have released updates to their procedures and policies. This information can be located at the following link on the NCAA website: http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/eligibility_center/COVID-19_Public.pdf

🔹 For its “Moment to Shine” initiative, the Tennessee Education Lottery wants to engage the Class of 2020 and help them share on a bigger stage a special graduation message or a “thank you” to their loved ones, friends or teacher. If a member of the Class of 2020 would like to share a video message, please visit the Tennessee Lottery Facebook page and upload a video message. The Tennessee Lottery will be compiling these messages to share on its social channels. Lean more on the Lottery’s Facebook page.

🔹 Sullivan County Regional Health Department will begin drive thru testing on Monday, April 20. Any Sullivan County resident who wants to be tested will need to call the Public Information Line at (423) 279-2777 to schedule an appointment.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services is now offering free child care to essential workers in Tennessee during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. This is available to parents who already have their children enrolled in a licensed child care agency and for parents of school age children who will receive child care through a partnership the department has with the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee. Applications for payment assistance will be accepted online throughout the state of emergency at https://tdhs.service-now.com/relief?id=relief_registration. After an essential employee is approved for the program, TDHS will make arrangements to pay for child care at the TDHS licensed program where the child is currently served. For those parents whose children are not already receiving care at a licensed program, you can find a list of licensed child care agencies that are open and able to accept children of essential workers online here.

🔹 Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) is launching a community building initiative called the Help Your Neighbor campaign, which is designed to keep farmers farming and feed hungry families. Each year, local farmers invest significant time and money in the planting and harvesting of their produce with the expectation that they will have market outlets for their products. Due to COVID-19, that fell apart this year, and many local farmers are scrambling. In response, ASD will provide them revenue lost from expected market outlets (restaurant purchases, bustling farmer’s market sales and more) by purchasing their produce and then donating it to local food banks and pantries. The challenge is that ASD did not budget for this need so early in the season. The Help Your Neighbor campaign aims to raise $30,000 by May 8. Donations can be made online at: https://asdevelop.org/donate. Checks may be mailed to ASD, 103 Thomas Road, Bristol, VA, 24201.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development moves to a staggered schedule for unemployment claimants completing their weekly certifications. This change will spread out the number of people certifying over three days, creating a more responsive experience for claimants using Jobs4TN.gov. Starting Sunday, April 19, claimants will have access to complete their weekly certifications according to the last digit of their social security number: Sunday — 0, 1, 2, 3; Monday — 4, 5, 6; Tuesday — 7, 8, 9; Wednesday-Saturday — all numbers. Once a claimant completes the weekly certification process, their financial institution typically posts the benefit payment to their account or debit card within 48 to 72 hours.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Fifty-Seven, implementing several new policies to bolster Virginia’s health care workforce to assist with the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response. The order adds physician offices and other health care facilities to the section in Executive Order Fifty-Two allowing hospitals, nursing facilities, and dialysis facilities to have out-of-state licensees provide in-state care. It allows Virginia-licensed nurse practitioners with two or more years of clinical experience to practice without a collaborative agreement. It provides additional flexibility to hospitals in the supervision of interns, residents, and fellows, and allows hospitals to use fourth year medical students in the provision of care. Executive Order Fifty-Seven also allows for expanded use of telehealth. Physicians with licenses from another state who have current Virginia patients may continue to treat their patients via telehealth, which will help ensure Virginians who live in border communities do not have to travel out-of-state for care. The order is in effect through June 10, 2020, unless amended or rescinded by a further executive order.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is receiving a $2 million federal grant to provide additional services in response to COVID-19 over the next 16 months. The funding will be used to bolster the state’s existing crisis services continuum, Behavioral Health Safety Net, and substance abuse treatment and recovery services. Anyone finding themselves experiencing a mental health crisis should call Tennessee’s Statewide Crisis Line at (855) 274-7471 or text “TN” to 741-741. People who need treatment for substance use or help maintaining their recovery from addiction can receive a free and confidential referral by calling or texting the TN REDLINE at (800) 889-9789 or call their insurance carrier.

🔹 Construction of the new massive 50-acre outdoor Soaky Mountain Waterpark, located across the street from the Sevierville Convention Center and Wilderness at the Smokies Resort, is nearing completion as crews are pouring the pool decks this week and starting on landscaping next week. The only challenge is given these unprecedented times with COVID-19, waterpark officials don’t know when the park will be able to officially open. Because of this, waterpark officials have decided any 2020 season passes purchased for before June 15, 2020, for $99.99 will be valid not only for the inaugural 2020 season but also for the 2021 season. Passes can be purchased on the waterpark’s website at SoakyMountainWaterpark.com.

🔹 On Tuesday, April 21, Kroger Mid-Atlantic will begin accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for Pickup. The low-contact, convenient service allows customers to shop online for groceries on Kroger.com or the Kroger app and pick up their order curbside at a nearby Kroger store. EBT card customers can complete their transaction via a mobile point-of-sale system and pay for ineligible EBT purchases or any remaining balance with their debit or credit card.

🔹 With the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continuing to dramatically change and disrupt life for families living with Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) wants caregivers to know that it has a helpline, staffed entirely by licensed social workers, that can answer questions in English, Spanish, Chinese, French and more than 90 other languages via live chat. The helpline chat system can be accessed seven days a week through AFA’s website, www.alzfdn.org, by clicking on the blue and white chat box in the lower right-hand corner of the page. The helpline is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET on weekends.

🔹 Tennessee banks have stepped up and responded to the needs of individual and business customers as COVID-19 continues to impact our communities. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), as of April 16, Tennessee banks have processed 34,035 loan applications and received loan approvals totaling $6,542,045,089 through the U.S. Treasury and SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Virginia’s collaborative efforts to release low-level offenders from local and regional jails in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are working. Since late February, the number of new commitments to local and regional jails has decreased from approximately 10,000 during a two-week period to just over 4,000.

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The library is closed, but its online resources are still available

Hawkins has region's only new COVID-19 case; Lee testing site changed

RegionAHEAD to help businesses recover from COVID-19

“A good time to adopt”: Scott animal shelter closed, but adoptions continue

Today's Stay Home Social benefits Girls Inc. of Kingsport

Trump outlines phased approach to reopening parts of the country

Thursday, April 16

Schedule changes

🔹 Due to Northeast State’s closure in response to COVID-19, the Graduation Kickoff event scheduled for April 21 will no longer take place as planned. Students will be able to receive their caps and gowns when access to campus is open to the public, but it is uncertain when that will be. Additional information will be emailed to students as it becomes available.

🔹 Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Appalachian Fair has extended the deadline for two college scholarships until May 15, 2020. The $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to high school seniors or to those currently enrolled in a college, university or accredited vocational school. Applicants must be a permanent resident of the area served by the fair, have participated in the fair in the last two years, and have a least a 2.5 GPA. Selections will be made by the fair’s scholarship committee. Application forms can be obtained by calling (423) 477-3211, emailing appfair@embarqmail.com or downloading the application online at www.appalachianfair.com. Completed applications (with testimonials, the required essay and official transcripts) must be sent to Appalachian Fair Scholarship Committee, PO Box 8218, Gray, TN 37615, by May 15, 2020. 

News updates

🔹 In observation of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is encouraging Tennesseans to engage in independent, family-friendly activities that help protect and restore the state and the planet. “The health of our citizens is top priority right now, but there are little things we can all do to help continue to protect our environment,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. “Earth Day is a special time, and this is an opportunity to think of it in terms of the home. There are several constructive ways to be engaged, and we encourage families to enjoy these activities.” Visit GetFoodSmartTN.com and take the pledge to reduce food waste. Be green at home. Visit TDEC’s Quick Guide to Sustainability at Home. Learn about the environment. To access the packet, visit TDEC’s Environmental Education page.

🔹 The Kingsport Public Library has a wide variety of digital resources available to library card holders during this time. If you do not have a library card, you can now register for an Ecard in order to access their online resources. An Ecard provides access to ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines available through READs, RB Digital and other ebook platforms. You can also find craft tutorials, patterns and more with Creativebug, the number one inspirational resource for crafters and makers. If you’d like to learn about genealogy while spending time at home, you can access Ancestry and the Newspaper Archives to find out more. Other digital resources can be found on the Kingsport Public Library website. To request an Ecard, complete a short form on the library website and an email with the library card number will be sent. Applications submitted outside of normal library hours (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.) will have a longer response time. If you have any questions, call (423) 229-9465 during normal library hours. For more information, visit kingsportlibrary.org.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on new unemployment claims filed for the week ending April 11, 2020. Statewide, 74,772 new claims were filed during that week, down from 116,141 the previous week. In Northeast Tennessee, 4,626 new claims were filed.

🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced the creation of the Stimulus Financial Accountability Group to ensure proper fiscal management of stimulus funds received by the state through the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the CARES Act. The State of Tennessee projects a distribution of approximately $2.3 billion from the fund. “The CARES Act has given our state critical relief to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and begin to reopen Tennessee’s economy,” said Gov. Lee. “We must ensure that these funds are spent wisely and effectively, and I’m grateful to the members of this group for their valuable input as we steward these resources and serve Tennesseans.” The first meeting of the Stimulus Financial Accountability Group will be held remotely on April 22.

🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee established the Economic Recovery Group, a joint effort between state departments, members of the legislature and leaders from the private sector to build guidance to safely reboot Tennessee’s economy. The group is led by Tennessee Department of Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell. “This public-private partnership will prioritize connection, collaboration, and communication across industries, the medical community and state government” said Ezell. “We’re grateful to these leaders for serving at a critical time in our state’s history.” Sammie Arnold will serve as the chief of staff for the Economic Recovery Group. Arnold currently serves as the Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

🔹 The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force issued a warning to the public of financial scams regarding Economic Impact Payments currently being distributed by the IRS. So far, the scams IRS-CI have seen look to prey on vulnerable taxpayers who are unaware of how the payments will reach them. IRS-CI is prioritizing these types of investigations to help protect taxpayers and the tax system. For more information about the Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force, visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdva/covid-19-fraud.

Read more

During COVID-19 pandemic, taking care of your mental health is essential

Ballad Health participating in study of ‘game-changing’ COVID-19 treatment

What you need to know for Saturday's free COVID-19 testing at Volunteer H.S.

Three counties in region report climb in COVID-19 cases; limited drive-up testing to start in Lee County

High schools light up fields to show support for senior class

UVA researcher: Cardiovascular exercise may offer chemical buffer against COVID-19 respiratory syndrome

Kresge's game was rounding into shape when professional golf stopped

Church Hill free clinic receives medical masks for making medicine deliveries

Wednesday, April 15

News updates

🔹 The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced over $10.5 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Airport Program grants for Northeast Tennessee airports. The CARES Act provided $10 billion in economic relief for airports amid the coronavirus pandemic. The individual grants awarded by DOT are as follows: $10,300,692 – Tri-Cities Airport (TRI); $69,000 – Elizabethton Municipal Airport (0A9); $69,000 – Moore-Murrell Airport (MOR); $69,000 – Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport (GKT); $30,000 – Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport (GCY); and $30,000 – Johnson County Airport (6A4).

🔹 The UPS Store, located at 4128 Fort Henry Drive, Suite D, Kingsport, TN 37663, is designated as an essential business and remains open. Services including shipping, mail and package receiving, printing, scanning, faxing and notary are essential for a variety of people and businesses, including those fighting this pandemic in Kingsport, and The UPS Store will do its part to be a resource given the current climate. The UPS Store location’s current hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Customers are encouraged to visit the store’s website for the latest information: locations.theupsstore.com/4603.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced an additional $70 million in Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding through the federal CARES Act to further support the provision of child care for essential personnel. Parents who serve in essential industries and are in need of child care services should visit Child Care Aware at VAchildcare.org or call 1-866-KIDS-TLC for an up-to-date list of child care options in their area.

🔹 The Sullivan County Regional Health Department will begin drive thru testing at the Sullivan County Regional Health Department Blountville location only from April 20-May 1, Monday-Friday from 1-4 p.m. Any Sullivan County resident who wishes to be tested for COVID-19 can contact the Sullivan County Public Information Line at (423) 279-2777 Monday- Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to make an appointment for testing. Drive thru testing will be open in the health department parking lot Monday-Friday from 1-4 p.m. Test will consist of a nasopharyngeal swab and results are expected to take five to seven days. The Sullivan County Regional Health Department has more information available at www.sullivanhealth.org.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has called on schools to remain closed through the end of the school year. Kingsport, Sullivan County, Bristol (TN), Hawkins County and Johnson City Schools have all indicated they will remain closed. Students have lost significant learning time in their classrooms and the administration is committed to continuing to provide resources that keep our students engaged. Time lost in the classroom also has implications on overall wellbeing, especially for at-risk and vulnerable student populations. Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn will convene a COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force to engage communities and provide support for students.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced free COVID-19 testing will be available for any Tennessean, regardless of traditional symptoms, as the Unified-Command group ramps up an aggressive effort to expand testing capacity across the state. The expanded testing effort launches this weekend, April 18-19, 2020, with the Tennessee National Guard popping up 15 drive-through testing sites across the state. Drive-through testing sites will also be available during the weekends of April 25-26 and May 2-3. A full list of sites can be accessed here. In addition to drive-through sites, all rural county health departments across the state offer free COVID-19 testing five days a week.

🔹 The McKinney Center is starting a new “Try-It Challenge” series for people of all ages in varying categories of the arts, to include visual arts, writing, music and more. These are all projects that can be created from ordinary household materials. Each “challenge” can be modified based on what supplies you have at home. When you create your project at home, please take a photograph of your completed work and submit it. Entries will be posted on the center’s Facebook page, where community members can vote on which entry should win. There is a small prize for each winning entry, which in turn supports one of our local businesses. The first “challenge” is inspired by both African Masks and Picasso paintings. This is your chance to try your hand at creating a mask of your own, from carboard, paper, pens, paint — get creative. Maybe this is a mask you are wearing now, to get you through. Maybe it’s a mask about the seasons, about strength, about something you would like to be. It’s your choice. A suggested tutorial for this project can be found here: https://www.handmakery.com/2015/03/masks-in-the-making/. Please submit completed project photos here at https://forms.gle/CV9RNgoJrYpqips38 by April 22, 2020, at 5 p.m. If you have any issues, please contact Skye McFarland at skyem@jonesboroughtn.org.

🔹 The community will have another opportunity to donate medical supplies and thank you cards to health care workers and first responders at a drive-through, no-contact collection drive at East Tennessee State University on Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The drive-through collection site will be open on the first floor of the ETSU parking garage, located at 1043 Jack Vest Drive. This is the second drive-through collection drive that the ETSU students have sponsored in partnership with the Washington County Emergency Management Agency. The students are requesting donations of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, liquid hand soap, non-latex gloves, procedure/surgical masks, N95 masks, hand-sewn masks, surgical gowns, face shields, safety goggles and unsealed thank you cards for local first responders and health care workers. Last weekend, the students collected more than 200 masks of various kinds, more than 5,000 gloves, 50 surgical gowns, 27 Tyvek lab coats, 65 thank you cards, and boxes of cleaning supplies, soap and other miscellaneous items.

🔹 The Atmos Energy/Robert W. Best Charitable Giving Fund announced a $10,000 donation to quickly stock the shelves at Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee in Kingsport, where students and families affected by the coronavirus outbreak can access a steady supply of nutritious meals during these uncertain times. “Our region feels the emotional and economic effects of this pandemic, and we are so very appreciative for Atmos Energy’s generous contribution to the fight against hunger,” said Rhonda Chafin, Executive Director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee. “We are now even better equipped to fulfill our mission and make sure that those in our community who need a helping hand have access to nutritious meals for themselves and their families.”

🔹 To show its appreciation to those in the community working to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Bojangles’ is giving away any size of its Legendary Iced Tea to healthcare workers, first responders and law enforcement, no purchase necessary. The promotion kicked off today and will run through National Iced Tea Day on June 10. Healthcare workers, first responders and law enforcement will just need to show their credentials to receive the deal at any participating Bojangles’ restaurant.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced additional details of a statewide effort in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health’s Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) to recruit medical and non-medical volunteers in the fight against COVID-19. It is estimated up to 30,000 volunteers are needed to provide support for the expected surge in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout the Commonwealth. The Office of the Governor and the MRC are working with colleges and universities to reach out to students, especially those enrolled in health and medical degree programs. The administration is also reaching out to individuals who have recently filed for unemployment benefits and have relevant experience, and is coordinating with hospitals, health systems, and professional associations to help recruit their community members. For more information or sign up to become an MRC volunteer, visit vamrc.org.

Read more

COVID-19 doesn't interrupt Mount Carmel Elementary's morning Pledge

Bristol, Kingsport, Sullivan and Hawkins schools closed for remainder of school year

Eight in 10 Kingsport students in grades 6-12 learning online

TSSAA cancels remaining events for current school year

Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing to begin April 20 for Sullivan residents

COVID-19 UPDATE: Four new COVID-19 cases in region

Lee: Keep Tennessee schools closed through school year's end

Speedway Motorsports, owner of BMS, announces job cuts, furloughs

Northam extends order limiting business openings, gatherings to May 8

Gov. Lee announces aggressive statewide COVID-19 testing effort

Kingsport Public Library wants your pandemic stories

Scott USDA Service Center open by phone appointment only during pandemic

COVID-19 forces cancellation of Spring Garden Fair

Tuesday, April 14

Schedule changes

🔹 Tennessee State Parks announced it will extend the closure of all 56 state parks as officials at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation continue to monitor health and safety guidance related to COVID-19. The announcement extends Tennessee State Parks’ current closure beyond the previously announced April 14. Officials are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will notify the public when parks reopen.

News updates

🔹 The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded $357,000 in grants to airports in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District. The FAA grants were funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Grants were distributed to the following local airports: Abingdon – Virginia Highlands ($69,000), Jonesville – Lee County ($20,000) and Wise – Lonesome Pine ($30,000).

🔹 The Tennessee Bankers Association reports that Tennessee banks of all sizes have been working around-the-clock to provide loans through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, processing 19,074 applications totaling $4,742,194,968 as of April 13, according to the SBA. The program went live on Friday, April 3. The PPP, which is part of the $2 trillion economic stimulus package signed into law last month, allocated up to $350 billion in fully forgivable loans to help small businesses maintain payrolls during the coronavirus pandemic.

🔹 The state of Tennessee has started paying approved unemployment claimants their first installment of the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefit, in addition to their Tennessee Unemployment Compensation (TUC) benefit. On Tuesday, April 14, the state distributed benefit payments of close to $94 million to financial institutions for approximately 110,000 unemployed Tennesseans. Most claimants will receive their directly-deposited payment on Wednesday, April 15. The number of payments is projected to increase throughout the week and will likely exceed 150,000.

🔹 Virginia has seen its first incarcerated offender death related to COVID-19. An offender from the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland passed away at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center after battling COVID-19. The 49-year-old offender was admitted to VCU’s medical center on April 4 and tested positive for the novel coronavirus on that date. The offender had underlying health conditions including asthma and Hepatitis-C, and was hospitalized from April 4 until her death. The VADOC, with about 30,000 incarcerated offenders and 12,000 employees, currently has 44 inmates and 32 staff with active COVID-19. More information and the latest updates on COVID-19 in the state correctional facilities can be found at https://www.vadoc.virginia.gov/news-press-releases/2020/covid-19-updates/.

🔹 The Kingsport Public Library and Archives wants to capture, document and preserve your stories and memories about life during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kingsport Public Library and Archives is specifically focusing on those impacted citizens that are living and working in the city of Kingsport. Visit kingsportlibrary.org to find the form where you can share your COVID-19 stories.

🔹 Vanderbilt University Medical Center is recruiting volunteers who have tested positive for COVID-19 and fully recovered to donate plasma to help those who are currently ill with the virus as part of a new research study. People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. Convalescent plasma is being evaluated as treatment for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a health care provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease. If you are interested in learning whether you meet the criteria to donate convalescent plasma, please visit https://redcap.link/COVID-Recovery and https://victr.vumc.org/covid-19-for-participants/.

Read more

Sullivan Commission meeting postponed

SWVA, NET COVID-19 cases showing single-digit increases in counties

Low demand continues to push down gas prices

Eastman donates material to Purdue for protective lenses, face shields

Northam: Infection rate flattening, but too soon to lift stay-at-home

Governor extends Tennessee's safer-at-home order through April

Monday, April 13

Schedule changes

🔹 Exchange Place in Kingsport announced it has canceled the Spring Garden Faire (originally set for April 25-26) because of the global COVID-19 pandemic and concern for the healthy and safety of the community. Exchange Place is providing contact information for plant vendors on its website at exchangeplace.info and on its Facebook page.

🔹 United Way of Southwest Virginia announced it has canceled the 2020 Impact Awards.

News updates

🔹 With the start of the 2020 Farmers Market Season approaching, Jonesborough Locally Grown has made the decision to open the Jonesborough Farmers Market as expected on Saturday, May 2, as an online market. While the online market is certainly not as special as the Farmers Market itself, this temporary method will be an effective way to get fresh, locally grown food to the community while still supporting local farmers, producers, and artisans during the COVID-19 global pandemic with safe social distancing and curbside pickup of products. The farmers and producers who participate in the market will post what they have available by Tuesday, and the online market will be open for the public to place orders from vendors from noon on Wednesday through 6 p.m. on Thursday each week. Safe curbside pick up of all ordered products will still occur Saturday mornings in downtown Jonesborough from 10 a.m. to noon. Customers can easily pay in a no-contact method online, and EBT will be accepted. The Online Farmers Market can be found at JonesboroughLocallyGrown.org, where vendors can apply to join and customers can place their first orders on Wednesday, April 29.

🔹 In cooperation with the guidance from the White House, Tennessee’s Stay at Home Order is extended through April 30. The Unified Command Group will continue to consult with experts, analyze all available data, and monitor CDC recommendations for the remainder of this month. Beginning in May, a phased reboot of the economy in planned. Gov. Lee also announced the development of the Economic Recovery Group to focus on a phased reboot of the state economy. The group will be led by Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell and will work in coordination with legislative leadership, local mayors, health care professionals, and representatives of impacted industries. The Economic Recovery Group will issue industry-specific guidance so that businesses can be prepared to operate safely and protect their employees and customers.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a dramatic expansion of Virtual Virginia, the Virginia Department of Education’s existing online learning system, to allow every teacher in the Commonwealth to host virtual classes while schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. These resources include a platform that enables all Virginia public school teachers to share lessons and activities with their students through June 30. Virtual Virginia will expand its offerings to include elementary and middle school content as an option for students to learn content missed this spring. Courses will begin in May and the new course content will be available to any school division that enrolls students and teachers in the program, at no cost to the division.

🔹 As part of the world’s collective effort to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Eastman is donating materials to produce protective lenses and face shields for medical personnel. Eastman donated 600 square feet of material to Purdue University. More than 40 volunteer faculty and staff members are using the school’s laser cutting system to produce up to 3,000 lenses and 4,000 face shields. The protective equipment will be distributed to hospitals across Indiana.

Read more

COVID-19 cases increase in region

UVA-Wise iPads prove valuable tool during COVID-19 crisis

Ballad announces plans for women’s, newborn and pediatric facility at Kingsport's Indian Path Community Hospital

Norton enacts emergency business loan program

Looking for something to do? Read these books, then watch their on-screen adaptations

COVID-19 cases climb in Wise, Lee counties

Hawkins pet sanctuary offering free emergency pet food

Sunday, April 12

News updates

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health reported 5,308 total cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) Sunday, an increase of 194 from Saturday’s total of 5,114. The death toll, however, remained at 101. Locally in Tennessee, the number of confirmed cases reported on the TDH state tracking site increased by six — five of them in Washington County — to 134. County-by-county, that includes 42 cases in Washington County with 23 recoveries and no deaths; 37 in Sullivan County with 19 recoveries and one death; 23 in Hawkins County with six recoveries and two deaths; 26 in Greene County with 18 recoveries and one death; three in Carter County with two recovered; two in Johnson County; and one in Unicoi County.

🔹 Virginia Department of Health officials reported 197 new cases to bring the commonwealth’s total to 5,274 with 872 total hospitalizations. Virginia also recorded 11 new deaths, including one confirmed late Sunday in the Lenowisco District of Southwest Virginia. The death toll in Virginia now stands at 141. The state does not report recovered cases on its website. Locally, the state tracking website reports eight cases and one death in Wise County, six cases in Lee County, three cases in Scott County and two cases in Buchanan County.

Read more

COVID-19: No new deaths in Tennessee, 11 in Virginia

Scott schools serve more than 20,000 meals during closure

Sullivan expands meal delivery to buses

Bays Mountain Park: An outdoor haven in a pandemic world

Saturday, April 11

News updates

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health reported an increase of 252 novel coronavirus confirmed cases to bring the state’s total count to 5,114 as of Saturday. Tennessee’s death toll reached 101, including a second death in Hawkins County. The Northeast Tennessee case count reached 128 overall, including 37 in Sullivan County, 22 in Hawkins County, 37 in Washington County, 26 in Greene County, three in Carter County, two in Johnson County and one in Unicoi County since the pandemic began. There have been four deaths in Northeast Tennessee: two in Hawkins, one in Sullivan, and one in Greene. Statewide in Tennessee, there have been 556 hospitalizations and 1,386 recoveries, according to the TDH report.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Health’s Lenowisco Health District announced Saturday evening that a resident of the district who was ill with COVID-19 has died. A post on the health district’s Facebook page said the death was in Wise County. Statewide, the number of confirmed cases across Virginia jumped from 4,509 to 5,077 with Saturday’s update. There had been 130 deaths and 837 hospitalizations reported in the commonwealth.

Read more

Lenowisco Health District confirms first fatality associated with COVID-19

Kingsport teacher leads mask-making operation

Hawkins 'sewing soldiers' surpass 3,800 medical masks delivered in three weeks

Yuma Elementary faculty, staff hold parades on student bus routes

Mount Carmel church continues services through COVID-19 crisis

Supervisors adopt emergency meeting ordinance

Friday, April 10

Schedule changes

🔹 Girls on the Run Northeast Tennessee has made the difficult decision to transition Girls on the Run in-person programming at all sites this spring, as well as the celebratory 5K event, to virtual programming and events. The virtual 5K event will be similar to a traditional running event, except the participants will complete it on their own, in their own location and in their own amount of time between May 2 and May 16. Follow Girls on the Run Northeast Tennessee on Facebook, Instagram and its website (www.stronggirlsrun.com) for updates and information about the virtual 5K.

News updates

🔹 Ballad Health today launched a region-wide, technology-driven virtual urgent care center for on-demand care to patients from the comfort of their homes. The Connected Care Virtual Urgent Care Clinic offers access to care for adults and children experiencing illnesses, such as the cold or flu; eye infections; sinus infections; stomach or gastrointestinal illness; heartburn or acid reflux; minor skin conditions; sore throat; headaches; and more. However, it does not fully replace the need for in-person physical examinations, and some consultations, such as those for strep or flu, might require a referral for a visit to a local clinic for testing or to confirm a diagnosis. Ballad Health has 17 in-person urgent care centers, but six will temporarily close beginning Monday, April 13, due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Patients who want to schedule an appointment with the Virtual Urgent Care Clinic can call (423) 224-3950 to speak with a patient service representative. The Telehealth Urgent Care Clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

🔹 Tiny Paws Sanctuary in Church Hill will be offering a two-week emergency pet food ration to qualifying families in Kingsport, Mt. Carmel, Church Hill and Surgoinsville. Supplies are limited and are on a first-come, first-serve basis. To apply for help, contact Tiny Paws' secretary/treasurer, Melissa Hood. You will be asked some qualifying questions, and delivery to your home will be arranged. Recyclable plastic jug(s) will be delivered to your door in a safe, contact-free manner. You may contact Tiny Paws at tinypawssanctuary@gmail.com, call (423) 343-4077 (leave message), or message through the Tiny Paws Sanctuary Facebook page and someone will respond as soon as possible. Financial donations and donations of dog and cat food are needed to continue helping the community. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to paypal.me/tinypawssanctuary or P.O. Box 2310, Church Hill, TN 37642. Please note that your donation is for the food bank program. Food donations can be sent or dropped off at Tiny Paws Sanctuary, located at 109 Pine St. in Church Hill. To maintain social distancing, please place the food in the outbuilding or garage.

🔹 Responding to economic stresses caused by the coronavirus emergency, Farm Bureau Insurance of Tennessee is issuing $30 million in special payments to auto policyholders, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Pannell announced Wednesday. The payment program is funded from Farm Bureau Insurance reserve funds, which are set aside to protect policyholders in catastrophes such as tornado outbreaks and massive hailstorms. The special payment is based on a percentage of premium paid for each vehicle covered. For more information, visit fbitn.com.

🔹 The Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University is asking local residents to document their personal experiences of living through the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. The Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, which includes the Archives of Appalachia, will collect materials during the duration of the COVID-19 crisis and permanently house them within the center. Interested persons are invited to share materials such as diaries, writings, photographs, videos, social media posts and business correspondences that represent their experience during this time. More information about the project, including a submission form, is available at https://www.etsu.edu/cas/cass/archives/covid19story.php. Questions about the project can be directed to archives@etsu.edu or (423) 439-4338.

🔹 The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, can provide immediate counseling to anyone who is seeking help in coping with the mental or emotional effects caused by developments related to the coronavirus pandemic. The helpline is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, free resource that responds to people who need crisis counseling and support in dealing with the traumatic effects of a natural or human-caused disaster. The helpline is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Helpline specialists are trained to assist callers who have a range of symptoms.

🔹 Due to recent positive COVID-19 cases in the town of Appalachia, the Town of Appalachia Police Department has established a barricade and perimeter of police lines around the Appalachia Towers Building, 505 West Main St., Appalachia, Virginia, pursuant to Virginia Code Section 15.2-1714. These lines are established as a precaution zone to prevent spread of the coronavirus and to protect persons and property within our community. The town of Appalachia was notified in a letter from Dr. Eleanor S. Cantrell, District Director of the LENOWISCO Health District that, as of April 5, 2020, all residents of the Appalachia Towers Building "were quarantined due to their risk of exposure to COVID-19 infection." These residents are requested to remain in their homes for their safety and the safety of others. To prevent members of the public from visiting the property, Town Manager Fred Luntsford has asked the Appalachia Police Department to establish a precaution zone with police tape. At 8 a.m. April 10, 2020, a police barricade line and protective zone has been established around the Appalachia Towers Property. Any individuals who cross the established police lines and barricade zone without proper authorization of the Town Manager and Appalachia Police Department can be charged with a crime pursuant to Virginia Code Section 18.2-414.2. The protective zone will be in place for a period of 14 days or until the restrictions are lifted per the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the director of the LENOWISCO Health District.

Read more

Wise School Board sets budget hearing amid uncertain state fiscal situation

Northam: Fixing health crisis key to fixing economic crisis

So, what are you doing for Easter?

SWVA reports four more COVID-19 cases, NET seven more

UPDATE: Appalachia building quarantined, barricaded due to COVID-19 cases

Ballad Health announces major expansion of its virtual health program

Keeping the faith during a global pandemic

Appalachia building quarantined for COVID-19 cases

Kitchen of Hope asking for meat donations

'Church is not the building': Church Hill pastor hosting 'drive-in' service Easter Sunday

Thursday, April 9

Schedule changes

🔹 The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce announced its 28th Annual Golf Scramble is postponed until September 15.

🔹 Tri Cities Civil War Round Table announced it would cancel its April 13 program featuring Dennis Frye speaking on “Confluence: Harpers Ferry as Destiny.” The group will have Frye back some time next year to cover the same topic.

News updates

🔹 East Tennessee State University paleontologists Dr. Blaine Schubert and David Moscato will host a new weekly virtual series, “Paleo Talks,” to engage students and the community during the COVID-19 quarantineA new topic will be presented via Zoom each Friday at noon, beginning April 10 with “Early Mastodons of North America” presented by ETSU paleontologist Dr. Chris Widga. Each “Paleo Talk” will be broadcast via Zoom and is open to the public. To join the April 10 presentation, visit https://etsu.zoom.us/j/869754347. Details on upcoming “Paleo Talks” topics will be available on the Gray Fossil Site Facebook page at www.facebook.com/grayfossilsite.

🔹 East Tennessee State University launched a new initiative called “Bucs Help Bucs” to assist students facing extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bucs Help Bucs supporters may give to any of the identified relief areas: Student/Staff Emergency Funds, Bucky’s Food Pantry, ETSU Counseling Center or another specific ETSU area. Gifts can be made online at etsu.edu/bucs-help-bucs. ETSU faculty and staff may choose to make a payroll deduction.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on new unemployment claims filed in Tennessee for the week ending April 4. Statewide, there were 112,438 new claims filed during that week, up from 94,492 the previous week. In Northeast Tennessee, 6,419 new claims were filed.

🔹 As COVID-19 cases continue to grow across the United States, The Allstate Foundation is contributing $5 million to accelerate relief and recovery for domestic violence victims, youth in need, first responders and communities at large. The Allstate Foundation will provide $1 million in support of first responders, $500,000 to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, $2 million to the communities where Allstate has the largest employee presence and adding $1.4 million to the Allstate employee and agency force. The Allstate Foundation also helped make Inner Explorer’s audio-guided mindfulness program available to families everywhere for free and provided the National Runaway Safeline with technology resources for remote counselors to help at-risk youth.

🔹 Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers have found evidence of the rate of COVID-19 infection slowing in Tennessee, which reduces the chance that the state will run out of hospital capacity for patients. They stress, however, that social distancing is needed to keep the rate of spread low and that any future rollback of social distancing policies must be contingent on widely available testing and comprehensive tracing of infected patients and the people they were in contact with. The model predicts if the current social distancing policies continue to reduce the spread of the disease, there would be an estimated peak of hospitalizations in mid-June. If the state were to experience additional gains from social distancing, under that more optimistic scenario the peak of hospitalizations could be lower and could be as early as mid-May. Maintaining the current rate of spread of the virus, or with additional gains that reduce that rate of spread, would also prevent hospitals in the state from being overwhelmed, the model indicates. If the state were to prematurely lift current social distancing policies and guidelines, it would almost certainly cause hospitals to be overwhelmed and cause the peak of transmission to be later in the summer or after, according to the model.

Read more

Maintain your financial health during COVID-19 outbreak

Kingsport senior's dress arrives same day venue says prom a no-go

Eastman again asks community to help stop COVID-19 outbreak

Tennessee Board of Education clarifies graduation requirements

SWVA, NET see 12 new confirmed COVID-19 cases

Second Harvest seeks monetary donations as community need rises

Hawkins local governments begin scheduling meetings again

COVID-19: 'The good, the bad and the ugly'

Status of Kingsport, Sullivan proms uncertain

Ballad tightens spending while preparing for COVID-19 case surge

Wednesday, April 8

Schedule changes

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today requested the General Assembly move the May general election and all special elections scheduled for May 5, 2020, to the November 3, 2020, general election date to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The governor is also exercising his statutory authority (§ 24.2-603.1 of the Code of Virginia) to move the June primary elections from June 9, 2020, to June 23, 2020.

🔹 Thirty-six Tennessee Department of Health COVID-19 assessment sites across the state will be open from 9 a.m. to noon local time on Friday, April 10, and Saturday, April 11. Nurses at each site will conduct nasal swab collection for testing. Test results may be available within 72 hours of arrival at the lab, depending on the volume of tests the testing lab receives. Locally, that includes Greene County Health Department, 810 W. Church St., in Greeneville, and Washington County Health Department, 219 Princeton Road, in Johnson City. Tennessee’s rural county health department clinics will be closed for other services on April 10 in observance of Good Friday. 

🔹 The 6th annual Tennessee Medieval Faire has been postponed due to the global pandemic. Original show dates were May 23-25, May 30-31 and June 6-7 in Harriman, Tennessee. The festival producer, Darkhorse Entertainment, LLC, hopes to host the Medieval Faire in October, when they normally have the Tennessee Pirate Fest. Dates have yet to be set because of the uncertainly of the pandemic. For festival updates, visit their website www.TMFaire.com or like and follow them on Facebook www.facebook.com/tennesseemedievalfaire.

News updates

🔹 Sullivan County Schools notified parents it will begin using school buses for meal delivery starting Thursday, April 9. The system will continue to offer drive-up service at its five current locations (Blountville Elementary, Bluff City Elementary, East High School, Ketron Elementary and Rock Springs Elementary). Anyone who cannot make it to one of the drive-up locations and needs delivery should contact School Nutrition at (423) 354-1015. Delivery requests must be made before 3 p.m. the day before meal distribution. Any requests after that time will not be added to the bus routes until the following distribution date. Beginning Tuesday April 14, meal distribution days will change to Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the five locations and by bus system delivery. “There is a false rumor circulating, that we will lose funding for our program. Please know this is not the case. We are able to provide meals to all children throughout the duration of the closure. This program is not impacted by increased participation. It is the desire of Sullivan County Schools that any child who would benefit or enjoy meals participates in our program.”

🔹 Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order 25, which extends the postponement of elective medical and dental procedures until April 30, 2020.

🔹 United Way of Southwest Virginia announced the Backpacks Unite program will continue, even while students are not in school. In partnership with Food City, each of the families of the 1,085 children in over 30 schools in Southwest Virginia who participate in Backpacks Unite will receive a $30 Food City gift certificate for the family to purchase groceries at their local Food City store. Gift certificates can be used to purchase food only and exclude the option to purchase alcohol, tobacco products or lottery tickets.

🔹 East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy is producing hand sanitizer to help ETSU Health clinics and first responders curb shortages and prevent the spread of COVID-19. If interested, first responders can contact Collins at collincc@etsu.edu to inquire about receiving free sanitizer.

🔹 Ballad Health’s updated visitation policies do not permit visitors in its emergency departments or outpatient facilities, such as cancer centers or sleep labs. Ballad Health Medical Associates patients maybe be granted one visitor, with provider approval, who must be screened prior to entry. Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis for hospice and end-of-life care.

🔹 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded $4,848,350 to health centers in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District for addressing the coronavirus. Health centers in the Ninth District supported by this round of funding include Clinch River Health Services in Dungannon ($565,175).

🔹 Two Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) staff members from the Saltville Medical Center have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). The two employees are currently quarantined at home and following all isolation procedures to avoid community spread. “Any patient that entered the Saltville Medical Center between the dates of Monday, March 30, 2020 and Friday, April 3, 2020 should consider themselves exposed to COVID-19,” said Kristin Bresowar, MD, medical director. Over the following days, any patients who were in the facility during the time who had direct contract with affected staff will be contacted personally. Bresowar advises that all patients who were in the facilities during those dates should monitor themselves for any symptoms of COVID-19 and try to separate themselves from any other household members, if possible. Patients are asked to contact SVCHS for testing if symptoms should develop. For more information, call (276) 496-4492.

🔹 The cast of the StoryTown Radio Show, while unable to perform a live show in April, are still bringing to life the stories of Jonesborough and the region this month in a specially-made production that will be broadcast on April 29 at 8 p.m. on WETS 89.5 FM. The episode will also be available on the StoryTown Podcast beginning May 1. To listen to the podcast or the hear past podcasts, visit storytown.simplecast.com.

🔹 The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission is kicking off its annual Help4TNDay celebration on April 8. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the tornadoes that ripped through Middle Tennessee in early March, the theme of Help4TNDay 2020 has shifted to Innovation and Responsiveness. Throughout the month of April, the ATJ Commission will promote virtual and telephonic legal clinics and other ways to obtain legal help. It will also release online resources for volunteer attorneys and the general public. These resources will be posted and shared through the ATJ Commission’s social media pages on Facebook and Twitter, @JusticeForAllTN. Links will also be made available at justiceforalltn.com/Help4TNDay.

🔹 Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and the global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca have joined forces to identify candidates for antibody-based treatments that could protect people exposed to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. Under a recently signed agreement, genetic sequences for antibodies discovered in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC) will be provided to AstraZeneca for identification of the most promising candidates for clinical assessment and future clinical use. The goal is to develop antibodies that could be given to people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to reduce the severity of their illness and speed recovery.

🔹 The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health has launched a clinical trial to understand if hydroxychloroquine, a well-known drug used for malaria and rheumatologic conditions, is safe and effective in treating hospitalized adults with COVID-19. The ORCHID trial (Outcomes Related to COVID-19 treated with Hydroxychloroquine among In-patients with symptomatic Disease), led by Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), enrolled its first patient on April 2 and will include hundreds of patients to determine if hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment against the virus projected to hospitalize thousands of U.S. residents in the coming weeks. The trial is being conducted within the Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung Injury (PETAL) Clinical Trials Network, which is a network of approximately 50 medical centers in the U.S. that collaborate to run large research studies. The PETAL Network is funded by NHLBI.

Read more

SWVA, NET see seven new confirmed COVID-19 cases

Northam recommends delay in Virginia’s May elections, eases alcohol sales restrictions for restaurants

Carters Valley VFD offering children's birthday drive-by throughout COVID-19 crisis

Of One Accord's food pantries serving more during COVID-19 crisis

Pandemic prompts Kingsport to make Customer Service changes

Ballad Health to furlough 1,300 employees

First two COVID-19 cases in Scott, third in Wise

Ballad anticipates increased fast COVID-19 testing capacity, tightens visitor restrictions

Tuesday, April 7

Schedule changes

🔹 Based on the Executive Order by Gov. Ralph Northam and the nation’s health protection agency that all mass gatherings be cancelled during the coronavirus pandemic, the Carter Family Fold will remain closed through June 10. Should further closures be necessary, announcements will be made on the Fold’s website and Facebook prior to those events. “We hope that circumstances change and we can re-start our Saturday shows before that time,” a statement reads. “We regret that cancelling shows is necessary, but we want to do all we can to keep everyone safe.”

🔹 Bristol Motor Speedway officials announced that the Pinty’s U.S. Short Track Nationals presented by Vore’s Welding and Steel, one of the premier short track stock car races in the country, has been rescheduled to September 26, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

News updates

🔹 The Drop Collaborative has developed a program in response to the COVID-19 crisis that will teach local residents at-home vegetable gardening methods with online training. It is seeking community support to gather needed materials for the project. A skeleton crew of four Drop Collaborative affiliates brand new to vegetable gardening will record their experience planting 15 raised beds at the Drop Family Farm. They will receive training from an expert raised bed gardener, Kingsport farmer and Master Gardener Ben Hunter. All surplus food will be donated to One Acre Cafe or Second Harvest Food Bank, whose missions involve addressing regional food scarcity. Participants will benefit from watching the team of brand new gardeners learn with expert advice how to grow their own food source. Other educational tools will include online conference calls, resource documents and Q&A sessions with vegetable gardening experts. In order to launch this program, The Drop Collaborative is seeking assistance from local businesses, individual donors and community associations to obtain needed materials. Both direct equipment and cash donations will be accepted with a total estimated project budget of $3,400. Anyone who is interested in donating or becoming a program participant can fill out the DC Covid-19 response form at www.dropcollaborative.com/covid19.

🔹 The city of Kingsport will no longer be accepting in person water/utility bill payments at the Justice Center. Starting Monday, April 13, customers who wish to pay their water bill in person will now have to visit the old KATS transit center building, located at 109 Clay St. Customer Service will be closed to the public Wednesday and Thursday for the move and will be closed for Good Friday, April 10. Customer Service will reopen in the old transit building on Clay Street starting Monday morning, April 13. Individuals wishing to open a new utility account and establish service or obtain a business license will continue to do so by appointment only. Please call (423) 343-9860.

🔹 By Executive Order Number 16 issued by Gov. Bill Lee on March 20, the Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold a meeting electronically on Tuesday, April 14, at 6 p.m. There will be no access permitted to the public at the physical location of the meeting. The meeting will be conducted electronically, and members of the public can attend and listen to the meeting electronically via www.k12k.com under “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 under “Board,” then “Board Schedule & Notes” within two business days of the meeting.

🔹 This week, The Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia launched a crowd-sourcing collection project entitled “Historians At Home.” Historians At Home is a letter-collecting campaign that gathers, saves and shares first-person accounts of the COVID-19 pandemic from local residents. It allows The Heritage Alliance, a local history non-profit, to engage with the public remotely and collect original, first person materials from this highly irregular historical moment. Contributors are asked to write a letter or email detailing their experience and perspective, and are provided with a series of starter questions to consider. Historians At Home is a great activity for all ages, and also fits well into a home-school curriculum. For more information on the Historians At Home initiative or the Heritage Alliance, call (423) 753-9580 or email info@heritageall.org.

🔹 Allstate is providing a Shelter-in-Place Payback to help its personal auto insurance customers in these challenging times. Most customers will receive 15% of their monthly premium in April and May, totaling more than $600 million. Customers will receive the money back through a credit to their bank account, credit card or Allstate account. The fastest way for customers to receive this payback is to utilize the Allstate Mobile app. Allstate is also offering free identity protection to all Americans. To help people, Allstate is making the Allstate Identity Protection product free for the rest of the year, with no opt-out-requirement. Allstate Identity Protection helps protect people from identity theft and financial fraud and provides more control over information shared digitally. U.S. residents can get the free identity protection product through Dec. 31, 2020, regardless of whether they are already Allstate customers, by signing up in April or May. For more information, visit www.allstate.com.

Read more

Celebrated singer-songwriter John Prine has died at 73

Sullivan County Sheriff's Office warns of phone scams

Food City's Smith: Don't hoard during COVID-19 outbreak

Hawkins This & That: Rescue Squad bass tournament Saturday with COVID-19 precautions

Hawkins school director hopeful that the state clears seniors for graduation

Tennessee's COVID-19 confirmed cases now top 4,000

How to make a cloth face covering

Times News launches business info service

Volunteers sought for COVID-19 response

Northam: Testing turnaround still critical as COVID-19 surge nears

Appalachia deputy fire chief announces second COVID-19 case

Monday, April 6

Schedule changes

🔹 The Sullivan County Board of Education meeting originally set for Thurdsay in Blountville has been postponed until April 23. A work session is set for 4 p.m. that day, followed by a meeting at 5 p.m. Matters on the agenda will include consideration of extending the employment contract of Director of Schools David Cox. Because of the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, some participants will participate remotely, as allowed by an executive order of Gov. Bill Lee. In addition, because of the pandemic the work session and meeting will not be open to the public but will be available for viewing online.

🔹 The 18th annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival, previously scheduled for May 16 in Unicoi, has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision comes after Gov. Bill Lee placed the state under a “Stay at Home” order last week because COVID cases and unnecessary traffic were both on the rise.

🔹 In order to protect public health and safety during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Virginia Creeper Trail will be temporarily closed, effective Monday, April 6, at 5 p.m. The decision was made jointly by the managers of the trail — the U.S. Forest Service and the towns of Abingdon and Damascus. “Recent overcrowding along portions of the trail, concern for increasing the burden on local Emergency Medical Services and the health and safety of all trail users were the driving forces behind this decision,” said Matthew Crum, president of the Virginia Creeper Trail Conservancy. Please direct questions to the Virginia Creeper Trail Conservancy at 804-334-5853.

News updates

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that the Department of General Services’ (DGS) Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) is one of the first public health labs in the nation to use genetic technology to help public health officials better understand and track the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen prevention and response efforts. DCLS is using next-generation sequencing to genetically decode some Virginia samples that contain the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. Looking at this genetic fingerprint can help public health officials track how the virus is changing and provide insights into how it is being transmitted.

🔹 Sylvan Learning of Kingsport, a leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K-12, has pivoted its business delivery to be exclusively online to continue providing solutions to families in need of educational support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To learn more about Sylvan’s online education resources, visit www.sylvanlearning.com.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced $200 million in grants to be distributed to every county and city government across Tennessee for one-time, local expenses in fiscal year 2021. Funding is based on population as published by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each county will receive at least $500,000, and each city or municipality will receive at least $30,000. Funds may be used for road projects, I.T. upgrades, capital maintenance, utility system upgrades and public safety projects. Certain disaster-related expenses are also eligible for funding.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced the state of Tennessee will allocate $10 million in Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants to support hospitals that are facing financial strain due to the ongoing response to COVID-19. The funds, capped at $500,000 per hospital, will be allocated from the state’s FY20 COVID-19 response appropriation and distributed by the Department of Finance & Administration. For participating hospitals, the grants will serve as a bridge over the coming weeks while elective procedures are suspended and new federal funds are still processing.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) launched a special hotline this month to help make it easier for families with children to check on their application for emergency cash assistance. Applicants can call 833-496-0661 to learn the status of their application, including approval or denial and how much money the approved family can expect to receive. Applications for emergency cash assistance will be accepted through May 29, 2020. The department is asking applicants to complete the application process online at https://tdhs.servicenow.com/relief?id=relief_registration.

🔹 The Scott County School Board will hold its regular April school board meeting electronically on Tuesday evening, April 7, at 6:30 p.m. Pursuant to Section 2.2-3708.2 of the Code of Virginia, this meeting will only cover topics that pertain to the emergency situation of the COVID-19 outbreak and/or essential business that requires immediate action, including approval of necessary payment of claims during this time of emergency. Non-essential items will not be on the agenda. The meeting can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-XRSamkq6M.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Revenue has extended the due date for filing and paying the professional privilege tax from June 1, 2020, to July 1, 2020. Governor Bill Lee included the tax extension in Executive Order No. 24. The professional privilege tax is a $400 annual tax for individuals licensed or registered to practice certain professions in Tennessee. Beginning this year, only the following professions are subject to the tax: agents, broker-dealers, and investment advisors registered under Title 48 of the Tennessee Code; attorneys; lobbyists; and physicians and osteopathic physicians.

Read more

How to (really) work from home

Tri-Cities Airport still open for business

Ex-ETSU soccer star Schoenfeld gets home just in time

Tennessee Department of Health reporting 3,802 COVID-19 cases in state

Pratt's reopening for five days before Easter

Virginia Creeper Trail temporary shutdown effective immediately

COVID-19 idles Domtar

Northeast Tennessee Red Cross hosting two blood drives in April

Americans brace for 'hardest, saddest' week of their lives

Sunday, April 5

Schedule changes

🔹 The Kingsport Diabetes Association meetings currently scheduled for April 14 and May 12 will be rescheduled for later this summer. “As always, the health and welfare of our members and followers is of the utmost importance as we follow social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. We wish for better days ahead as we look to share good ideas to limit exposure and protect ourselves, as we realize that diabetes is a complicating risk for COVID-19. Things we can control, such as keeping medication and supplies on hand, using home delivery and mail order, as well as proper diet and testing are even more important,” David Thompson said in an email. Please check the website at Kingsportdiabetes.org for other links to stay informed.

News updates

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health report lists no deaths in Washington County from COVID-19, a change from Saturday’s report that noted two. On Sunday, a department spokeswoman said the prior report resulted from a transcription error: “Washington County does not have any deaths reported at this time.” The state’s report Sunday indicated a total of 44 deaths over 16 counties, an increase of one from Saturday. In Northeast Tennessee, one death each was listed in Hawkins, Sullivan and Greene counties. The number of overall COVID-19 cases in Tennessee rose by 312, from 3,321 on Saturday to 3,633 on Sunday. There were 328 hospitalizations and 295 cases listed as recovered. Locally, there are 77 cases in far Northeast Tennessee, including 23 cases in Washington County, 21 cases in Sullivan County, 17 cases in Greene County, 10 cases in Hawkins County, 3 cases in Carter County, 2 cases in Johnson County and 1 case in Unicoi County.

🔹 Current Virginia Department of Health testing results (as of 5 p.m., April 4) show 2,637 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia with 431 hospitalizations and 51 fatalities. Of those cases, 15 are in Southwest Virginia, including 2 in Lee County and 1 in Wise County (Lenowisco district); 5 in Washington County, 1 in Bristol, 1 in Carroll, 1 in Galax, 2 in Smyth and 2 in Wythe County (Mount Rogers district).

🔹 The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) are warning taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to COVID-19 economic impact payments. United States Attorneys Thomas T. Cullen and G. Zachary Terwilliger,and the Virginia State Police along with Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Washington DC Field Office, made the announcement today in an effort to prevent taxpayers in need from being victimized by criminals using the recently approved payments as an opportunity to commit a crime. Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or get you to “verify” your filing information in order to steal your money. Your personal information could then be used to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme. Because of this, everyone receiving a COVID-19 economic impact payment is at risk. If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal identifying information or clicking on links, delete these texts and emails. Do NOT click on any links in those texts or emails. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a scam. Remember, the federal government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get a legitimate benefit. No fees. No charges. Anyone who asks for an up-front payment for a promised benefit is a scammer.

🔹  On Wednesday, April 8, Northeast State Community College will host a virtual town hall for students from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. to provide updates and answer questions about online learning and resources. Staff will answer questions submitted by students prior to the event; those questions may be sent to StuNews@NortheastState.edu. To join Wednesday’s virtual town hall, students should visit https://zoom.us/j/634626025. The meeting ID is 634 626 025 followed by the # sign. There is no participant ID; just press # again when prompted for the participant ID.

Read more

Pandemic disrupts Appalachian Trail dreams

Officials warn of potential COVID-19 economic impact payment scams

Tiger at Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus

Holmes staying put to protect family during scary time

No plans yet to change any election dates

Let's pray for our health care workers

Saturday, April 4

News updates

🔹The Virginia Department of Health's Lenowisco Health District is confirming a case of COVID-19 in a Wise County resident, a male in his 70s. He is hospitalized. Due to patient privacy, no further information about the patient will be disclosed by VDH.

🔹 Two Washington County, Tennessee, deaths were added Saturday to the state toll from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health.

🔹 Current Tennessee Department of Health testing results (as of 2 p.m., April 4) show 3,321 cases (+254 in 24 hours) of COVID-19 in Tennessee with 311 (+18) hospitalizations and 43 (+6) fatalities. Of those cases, 71 are in Northeast Tennessee, including 22 in Washington County, 18 in Sullivan County, 16 in Greene County, 9 in Hawkins County, 2 in Johnson County, 3 in Carter County and 1 in Unicoi County. There have been 5 fatalities (2 in Washington, 1 in Greene, 1 in Hawkins, 1 in Sullivan).

Read more

Discovery Church delivers boxes of encouragement

Trump says 'toughest' weeks ahead as coronavirus spreads

Wise County reports first confirmed COVID-19 case

Closed Kingsport Senior Center keeping in contact with members via social media

Military recruiting struggles as enlistment stations close

Friday, April 3

Schedule changes

🔹 Houchens Food Group announced Friday its grocery and convenience stores will be closed for Easter Sunday, April 12. The day will offer each employee a much-deserved day of rest and time to spend with their loved ones. “The store teams have been incredible, and we can’t thank them enough for the dedication and commitment in serving their communities during this unprecedented and difficult time,” the release said. Houchens Foods Group operated stores include Hometown IGA, Crossroads IGA, Price Less Foods, Buy-Low, Simpson’s Market, IGA Express, JR Foods, Save-A-Lot, Food Giant, Pic-N-Sav, Piggly Wiggly, Market Place, Mad Butcher, Big Star, Sureway, Mad Butcher, Ripley Market, Sav Mor and Food Giant Cash Saver.

🔹 To protect public health and safety and align with guidance from Virginia health officials and experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as to comply with Virginia statewide stay-at-home orders, the Clinch Ranger District of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests is implementing temporary shutdowns to include all campgrounds and day use areas. The shutdowns include Bark Camp Recreation Area, Cave Springs Recreation Area, Cane Patch and Phillips Creek Recreation Areas, Hanging Rock Recreation Area, High Knob Recreation Area, Keokee Lake Recreation Area, High Knob Observation Tower and Birch Knob Observation Tower. All trails and trailhead parking areas remain open, although restrooms are closed. For more information, contact the Clinch Ranger District at (276) 679-8370.

News updates

🔹 In its daily briefing to community and civic leaders, Ballad Health said it is suspending all clinical and non-clinical student experiences at its facilities effective Wednesday, April 8.

 🔹 Current Tennessee Department of Health testing results (as of 2 p.m., April 3) show 3,067 cases (+222 in 24 hours) of COVID-19 in Tennessee with 293 (+30) hospitalizations and 37 (+5) fatalities. Of those cases, 68 are in Northeast Tennessee, including 20 in Washington County, 18 in Sullivan County, 16 in Greene County, 8 in Hawkins County, 2 in Johnson County, 3 in Carter County and 1 in Unicoi County. There have been three fatalities (1 in Greene, 1 in Hawkins, 1 in Sullivan).

🔹 Current Virginia Department of Health testing results (as of 5 p.m., April 2) show 2,012 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia with 312 hospitalizations and 46 fatalities. Of those cases, 12 are in Southwest Virginia, including 2 in Lee County (Lenowisco district); 3 in Washington County, 1 in city of Bristol, 2 in Smyth, 2 in Wythe (Mount Rogers district); and 2 in Tazewell County (Cumberland Plateau district).  

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Education has released a public survey seeking feedback from all stakeholders on the most effective ways to help school districts address immediate needs to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. H.R. 748, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Security Act” (CARES Act) is federal legislation to provide $2 trillion in emergency relief in response to COVID-19 and includes $30.75 billion nationally for Education Stabilization Funding. Tennessee school districts are eligible to receive one-time relief funding, once it becomes available, based on their Title I formula percentages. Each state will be required to submit a plan that the US Department of Education must approve in order to receive funding, and the federal application is expected to open mid-April. Due to this timeline, the deadline to complete the survey is Monday, April 13. The public survey can be accessed here.

🔹 Longtime Bristol Motor Speedway partner Food City is continuing its long running fan fest in a virtual sense today (Friday, April 3). Food City Family Race Night will be held on the Food City social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) beginning at 1 p.m. and running through 9 p.m. Food City will share memories of the fan-favorite event and engage with fans and drivers throughout the day. Those interested in sharing their favorite photos from previous Food City Family Race Night events can use the hashtag #FCRaceNightMemories. Food City Family Race Night kicks off a fun weekend of virtual race activities, culminating with the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Food City Showdown on Sunday, April 5 at 1 p.m., simulcast on FOX (where available), FS1 and the FOX Sports app.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced an initial $2.5 million in emergency funding to shelter Virginia’s statewide homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic. This emergency support will provide temporary housing for the approximately 1,500 Virginians who are currently unsheltered or rely on shelters that require them to leave every day. The funding will also provide housing for individuals in shelters that may need to be quarantined, or where social distancing is not feasible. Funding will be used for hotel and motel vouchers, case management, food, cleaning supplies, and medical transportation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide partial funding to support individuals experiencing homelessness who are 65 and older, those with other pre-existing conditions, and those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

🔹 Tennessee’s 2020 statewide spring turkey hunting season will be held as scheduled and the state’s lakes and rivers and access areas controlled by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will remain open. Tennessee spring hunting turkey annually attracts thousands of Tennesseans to the woods. Chairman Kurt Holbert urges hunters, anglers, wildlife viewers and others who enjoy the outdoors to take necessary precautions.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Corrections today announced the state corrections system has one new COVID-19 case in the incarcerated offender population. This offender is incarcerated at the Central Virginia Correctional Unit 13 for women in Chesterfield. The Virginia DOC, with about 30,000 incarcerated offenders, now has a total of four inmates with COVID-19. The three other cases are at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women (VCCW) in Goochland. Statewide, four VADOC employees and one contractor have tested positive for COVID-19. The employees include one officer at the State Farm Correctional Complex; one officer in training at VCCW; one officer at Indian Creek Correctional Center; and one employee at the Norfolk Probation and Parole office. The contractor is a contract nurse at VCCW.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today announced an initial $2.5 million in emergency funding to shelter Virginia’s statewide homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic. This emergency support will provide temporary housing for the approximately 1,500 Virginians who are currently unsheltered or rely on shelters that require them to leave every day. The funding will also provide housing for individuals in shelters that may need to be quarantined, or where social distancing is not feasible. “As we battle this unprecedented public health crisis, we must make sure no one is left behind,” said Governor Northam. “I have issued a statewide Stay at Home order, but we know there are many Virginians with no home to stay in. With this funding, we will ensure people experiencing homelessness have access to immediate housing options and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order 24 which, among other things, gives Commissioner of Health authority to allow post-degree, pre-licensed mental or behavioral health professionals to treat patients through telemedicine under the supervision of a licensed professional; extends payment due date for the professional privilege tax from June 1 to July 1; suspends until July 1 the April 6 deadline for filing applications for property tax relief and tax freezes, so that elderly and other vulnerable populations will not have to visit public buildings to apply; and suspends expiration of marriage licenses, which normally happens within 30 days of obtaining the license if no ceremony is held, between March 12 and May 31 is until June 30, so that those delaying their weddings because of COVID-19 don’t have to pay for a new license. Read the executive order here.

Read more

Wise County School Board to livestream sessions

Sullivan County Sheriff's Office to assist high-risk population

Hawkins County's first COVID-19 death reported by state

All Tennessee state parks to close April 4

Racks by the Tracks festival postponed

Wise County COVID-19 case report a mistake

Thursday, April 2

Schedule changes

🔹 The Blue Plum Festival, scheduled for June 5-6 in Johnson City, has been canceled because of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. The annual music festival’s board is discussing options for a smaller event, possibly this fall.

🔹 The Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC) has announced new dates for its 2020 National Summit celebrating 25 years of innovation in transforming our region. The Summit will now be held July 15-16 at Milligan College in Johnson City. The TVC’s annual National Summit is a two-day event designed to share information and advance collaboration between our region’s federal, educational, community and business leaders.

🔹 To protect public health and safety and align with guidance from Virginia health officials and experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as to comply with Virginia and West Virginia statewide stay-at-home orders, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests officials are extending temporary shutdowns to include additional day-use areas such as picnic sites, interpretive sites, shooting ranges and swimming sites. The shutdowns include: All developed campgrounds and cabins, all public restrooms, all visitor centers, all trail shelters and more. Trailhead facilities and access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, including parking lots dedicated to the trail, remain temporarily shut down as well. For a list of specific facilities on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests that are temporarily shut down, visit FS.USDA.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation.

News updates

🔹 The Northeast Tennessee American Red Cross in Kingsport is hosting a blood drive Tuesday, April 7, and Wednesday, April 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Northeast Tennessee American Red Cross, 660 Eastern Star Road, in Kingsport. Volunteer donors are in a unique position to ensure essential medical care continues during the coronavirus pandemic for those who depend on lifesaving transfusions, such as surgical patients, accident victims, new moms with complicated childbirths, patients going through cancer treatment and more. Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions have been implemented to ensure the health of Red Cross donors, employees and volunteers. Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information.

🔹 As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease continues to impact communities across the country, Tennessee banks are working around the clock to assist borrowers, including through the new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The U.S. Treasury Department and Small Business Administration issued further guidance for the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which will provide up to $350 billion in fully forgivable loans to help small businesses maintain payrolls during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the revised guidance for the program that is set to launch Friday, April 3, many banks still await final approval to make these loans. There will be banks that are ready to make these loans right away once they can get the final implementation rules from SBA and Treasury. Tennessee bankers ask for patience from the public as the program begins.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday Virginia has received a Major Disaster Declaration to aid in the Commonwealth’s response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Northam requested this federal disaster assistance on Monday, March 30. A Major Disaster Declaration designation provides federal public assistance for all areas in the Commonwealth of Virginia affected by COVID-19 at a federal cost share of 75 percent. This allows state agencies, local governments, and certain non-profit organizations to purchase additional supplies and receive reimbursements for COVID-19 related costs under its Public Assistance program. In addition, the Major Disaster Declaration authorizes federal agencies to provide direct emergency assistance to Virginia.

🔹 The Tennessee State Board of Education announced Thursday it will convene a special called electronic meeting April 9 at 2 p.m. (CDT) to enact emergency rules governing K-12 graduation requirements for Tennessee’s high school seniors in response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. “Our Board takes our responsibility to students, educators and districts very seriously, especially in times such as these,” said Ms. Lillian Hartgrove, chair of the State Board of Education. “Our members and staff are standing by to make this process as smooth and transparent as possible under these circumstances.” During the special called meeting, members of the Board will also address guidance regarding licensure issuance for teacher candidates set to complete their educator preparation programs during the 2019-2020 school year. Current educator preparation rules require student teachers to obtain 15 weeks of classroom teaching time. However, school closures across the state may prohibit teacher candidates from completing these requirements.

🔹 The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) are warning taxpayers to be alert about possible scams relating to COVID-19 economic impact payments. Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check to them or get you to “verify” your filing information in order to steal your money. Your personal information could then be used to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme. Because of this, everyone receiving a COVID-19 economic impact payment is at risk. To report a COVID-19 fraud scheme or suspicious activity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling the NCDF Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or sending an email to disaster@leo.gov. For more information, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov/coronavirus.

🔹 Current Department of Health testing results (as of 2 p.m., April 2) shows 2,845 cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee with 263 hospitalizations and 32 fatalities. Of those cases, 64 are in Northeast Tennessee, including 20 in Washington County, 17 in Sullivan County, 16 in Greene County, 7 in Hawkins County, 2 in Johnson County, 1 in Carter County and 1 in Unicoi County.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee will sign Executive Order 23 requiring that Tennesseans stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities as data shows an increase in citizen movement across the state. Data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation analyzed traffic patterns for March 2020. While safer at home measures and further restrictions on businesses showed a steep drop-off in vehicle movement from March 13-29, data beginning on March 30 indicates travel is trending upwards, again. The administration also analyzed data from Unacast to understand cell phone mobility and determine movement trends among people. Unacast indicates the movement of Tennesseans is trending toward pre-COVID-19 levels. The executive order remains in effect until April 14, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. Gov. Lee will address these measures in the press briefing today at 3 p.m. CDT.

🔹 To increase coronavirus (COVID-19) testing, the Northeast Regional Health Office has established assessment sites in Carter, Greene, Hawkins/Rogersville and Washington counties. Assessment sites begin effective April 3 until further notice. Assessment sites are open to pre-screened and pre-registered patients only. Residents who have concerns they may have symptoms of COVID-19 can contact the Northeast Coronavirus Information Line at 423-979-4689 between 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Pre-registration is required for testing at all sites and will be unavailable at the sites. National Guard medical teams will be onsite to assist with testing. The sites will be open in the health department parking lots on the following days: Greene & Carter County Health Departments: Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-11 a.m.; Rogersville & Washington County Health Departments: Monday-Friday from 1 p.m.-3 p.m.

🔹 Dolly Parton has made a generous gift to Vanderbilt University Medical Center that will increase scientific knowledge and advance the battle against COVID-19. Parton made the gift in honor of her longtime friend, Naji Abumrad, MD, professor of surgery, to support research teams who are working urgently to perfect treatments and cures for COVID-19. VUMC’s researchers are testing an array of already existing drugs in urgent clinical trials aimed at reducing life-threatening symptoms associated with COVID-19. In addition, investigators are focusing on entirely new therapies that could effectively treat and prevent the infection. Both strategies are aimed at providing a bridge for those infected, given a safe and effective vaccine is projected to be 12-18 months away. For more information, visit the Vanderbilt Health COVID-19 Fund website.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has released data on new unemployment claims across the state. For the week ending March 28, there were 94,492 new claims filed statewide; that’s up from 39,096 the previous week. Also for the week ending March 28, there were 4,749 new claims filed in Northeast Tennessee.

Read more

Gov. Bill Lee strengthens stay-at-home order

“Stayin’ In but Workin’ Out” challenge series

Rogersville among four NET health department COVID-19 testing locations

Scott supervisors OK electronic meetings during outbreak

Ballad confirms second COVID-19 death

Courts adapt as Virginia Supreme Court emergency order extended

Eastman announces death of Kingsport team member due to COVID-19

Gov. Bill Lee orders Tennesseans to stay at home

Sullivan launches remote learning website, distributes devices

ETSU announces two cases of COVID-19

Hawkins volunteers distribute 500 free face masks despite elastic shortage

Wednesday, April 1

Schedule changes

🔹 Kids Fishing Day at Natural Tunnel State Park has been canceled. The event was previously scheduled for April 25.

🔹 The new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is Oct. 1, 2021. Acting Secretary Chad Wolf Statement on the REAL ID enforcement deadline: “Due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the Department of Homeland Security, as directed by President Donald J. Trump, is extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline beyond the current October 1, 2020 deadline. I have determined that states require a 12-month delay and that the new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is October 1, 2021. DHS will publish a notice of the new deadline in the Federal Register in the coming days.”

🔹 Tennessee motor vehicle renewals due in March or April have been extended to June 15, 2020, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Bill Lee extended the deadline for obtaining these renewals through Executive Order No. 15. “We appreciate our continued partnership with Tennessee’s 95 county clerks in administering vehicle title and registration across the state,” Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano said. “We hope this extension of time will alleviate people’s concerns about renewing their registrations in the near term, so they can focus on their health and safety.” To protect the health and safety of the public as well as county clerk staff amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the department strongly encourages motorists to renew online at tncountyclerk.com.

🔹 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 April. This is not a cancellation of constituent service hours, but another way the congressman can effectively assist his constituents with the extraordinary measures put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Congressman Roe’s staff continues to be available for designated office hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 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.

🔹 Due to the current coronavirus concerns, the Bloomingdale Ruritan Club has postponed its annual Easter egg hunt. The event was previously scheduled for April 11. A new date will be decided on later as the current situation dictates.

🔹 Due to current COVID-19 issues, evening hours at Watauga Orthopaedics will be temporarily suspended at its Kingsport and Bristol offices effective March 30. Appointments and walk-in care will continue to be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Johnson City office will continue to operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome during these hours. Weekday appointments are available between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Physical therapy will maintain its current hours of operation by appointment at all three locations.

News updates

🔹 Current Department of Health testing results (as of 2 p.m., April 1) shows 2,683 cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee. Of those cases, 62 are in Northeast Tennessee, including 21 in Washington County, 17 in Sullivan County, 15 in Greene County, 5 in Hawkins County, 2 in Johnson County, 1 in Carter County and 1 in Unicoi County.

🔹 Gov. Bill Lee, during his daily update, reminded Tennesseans that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and all Tennesseans are encouraged to be vigilant during this time of seclusion and social distancing and to call the Child Abuse Hotline (1-877-237-0004) if they suspect any incidents of child abuse or neglect. Reports can also be made online at tn.gov/dcs or by using the MyTN app.

🔹 The Virginia State Police encourages all Virginians to adhere to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s directives and do their part by staying home in order to best mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19 within the Commonwealth. State troopers, for their personal protection and for the safety of the public, are minimizing their direct contact with the public. All department recruitment events, public presentations, training, ceremonies, etc., have been canceled or postponed through June 10. Virginia State Police will not be making random traffic stops on vehicles nor conducting checkpoints to determine if a driver is traveling for a permissible reason. For any additional questions related to the statewide “Stay at Home” order, go to www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/faq.

🔹 To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Appalachian Orthopedics is remaining open to reduce ER and traditional urgent care traffic for area residents with bone, joint and muscle concerns. A screening process has been set up for patients to go through upon arrival to keep sick or at-risk patients out of the office. Systems are in place to avoid crowded waiting rooms, and every exam room is sterilized between patient visits.

🔹 The Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, has made available more than $16 million to help Virginia public safety agencies and local government agencies respond to the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19. The Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) program, authorized by the recent stimulus legislation signed by President Trump, will allow eligible state, local and tribal governments to apply immediately for these critical funds. Allowable projects and expenditures include, but are not limited to overtime, training, travel expenses, supplies, including personal protective equipment for medical personnel and first responders, and initiatives focused on addressing the medical needs of inmates in state and local detention centers.

🔹 Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch has declared a state of local emergency and issued a "Safer at Home" directive. This order will close all non-essential businesses and restrict travel outside of the home.

🔹 With an increase in regional COVID-19 testing capacity, ETSU Health will close its drive-through COVID-19 testing site, located at 325 North State of Franklin, effective April 1. While the drive-through site will no longer be open, ETSU Health will continue to administer COVID-19 testing in its clinics. Since its opening on March 17, ETSU Health’s drive-through site has administered approximately 500 COVID-19 tests. The site was one of the first drive-through testing sites in Tennessee and was instrumental in detecting the first few cases of community spread of COVID-19 in the Appalachian Highlands.

🔹 Starting this week, Ballad Health will be among the first healthcare systems in the nation to deploy rapid testing for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Instead of test results for COVID-19 taking five to seven days, this new rapid molecular test, developed by diagnostics company Cepheid, will provide patients in the Appalachian Highlands with test results in five to seven hours.

🔹 The Kroger Co. and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union announced a new increase to the pay and benefits for more than 8,000 Tennessee grocery workers at Kroger stores across the state. This victory for more than 460,000 Kroger grocery workers nationwide was secured by UFCW, which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery, retail and other industries. “Following talks between UFCW, America’s largest food and retail union, and Kroger, UFCW is proud to join the company today in announcing a $2 per hour wage increase, additional emergency paid leave, new workplace safety measures, and other critical worker protections,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone.

🔹 The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at East Tennessee State University has partnered with the College of Business and Technology’s Department of Management and Marketing to provide guidance, information and resources to small businesses in the region amidst the COVID-19 crisis. On Thursday, April 2, from 4-5 p.m., the TSBDC is offering a free Zoom webinar to explain the Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan. The webinar is designed to help small businesses navigate the COVID-19 crisis by assisting them in the SBA Disaster Loan application process. This session is geared toward small business owners who are thinking about applying for the loan, as well as those who have started the process but may have questions or lack the proper documentation. The webinar is free and pre-registration is required. For more information, or to register for the webinar, contact Mark Bays, TSBDC director, at (423) 439-8505 or tshipley@tsbdc.org.

🔹 University of Tennessee System President Randy Boyd – in consultation with chancellors at UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center – has announced that summer session classes at all campuses will be delivered online in response to COVID-19. At UTHSC, clinical rotations in hospitals will continue with students following COVID-19 protocol. Each campus will be sending out specific communications to their faculty, students and staff regarding the impact to its respective campuses. The UT System has a comprehensive resource guide that provides information and resources surrounding COVID-19: tennessee.edu/coronavirus.

🔹 As we continue being socially distant, Visit Kingsport is urging neighbors to step out on their porch or yard each night at 6 p.m. to wave to your neighbors. We are all in this fight together, so get outside and say hello (a safe six feet away). Follow Kingsport Strong on Facebook for updates about Kingsport’s Wave Movement and to share your waves.

🔹 Reeves Surgery Center, a multiuse facility operated by Dr. Donny Reeves, M.D. of Reeves Eye Institute, has expanded to offer telehealth to the Tri-Cities community. The facility has implemented insurance-covered and HIPAA-compliant telecommunications to perform routine eye appointments, primary care and COVID-19 pre-screening to provide access to needed medical attention during recommended social distancing practices, to continue to provide a service to existing patients and to ease stress on regional testing centers and reassure the public.

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Spotlight on the Arts: The show must go on

Tennessee Department of Health reporting 2,683 COVID-19 cases, including 62 in NET

Most county clerk services available online, by mail

Ballad Health to deploy rapid testing for COVID-19

Adoptions doubled at Hawkins animal shelter after COVID-19 quarantines began

Need to get out of the house? You can still go golfing

Kingsport school board approves employee pay during pandemic

Bills coming due? Some tips to survive financially

Tuesday, March 31

Schedule changes

🔹 The Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department is postponing registration for its summer program due to the current COVID-19 situation. Parents who are interested in enrolling their child or children should check the parks and recreation website for updates. If you have any questions, contact Renee Ensor at (423) 224-2489. For more information, visit www.kingsportparksandrecreation.org.

🔹 In light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Department of Revenue has extended the tax filing and payment deadlines for certain taxes. The filing deadlines for Franchise and Excise Tax and Hall Income Tax returns originally due April 15, 2020, have been extended to July 15, 2020. Interest and late filing penalties will not be applied to returns filed and payments made on or before this extended due date. More information regarding deadline extensions for these taxes can be found in important notice #20-05 and important notice #20-06 on the department’s website. The filing deadline for Business Tax returns originally due April 15, 2020, has been extended to June 15, 2020. The Business Tax is a tax on gross receipts and applies to most businesses that sell goods or services. More information regarding this extension can be found in important notice #20-07. Beyond extending certain tax deadlines, the department is available to assist business owners who may be unable to pay their taxes or who file them past the deadline. Taxpayers can request penalty waivers or ask for a payment plan that provides monthly payments over time. The department will review these requests on a case-by-case basis to ensure taxpayers needs are best met.

🔹 The April committee and board meetings of the Tri-Cities Airport Authority have been canceled due to the current concerns about COVID-19 and Gov. Bill Lee’s recent direction to suspend all large gatherings. In a memo, Executive Director Gene Cossey said, “We will assess the situation and resume meetings in June.”

News updates

🔹 Per the Executive Order from Gov. Bill Lee and at the decision of the city of Kingsport officials, playgrounds within the city will begin closing April 1. The playgrounds will be closed until further notice. City park spaces, including Bays Mountain Park and the Greenbelt, will remain open, and residents are encouraged to visit in small groups and continue practicing social distancing. Kingsport would like to remind all residents to continue to follow the best practices, including washing hands correctly and as often as possible, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, leaving home only for necessary trips and of course practicing social distancing in public spaces. For more information, visit www.kingsporttn.gov/covid-19-response.


🔹 Current department of health testing results in Tennessee (as of 2 p.m., March 30) show 2,239 positive cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee, including 175 hospitalizations and 23 fatalities. The latest statistics show four cases in Hawkins County, two cases in Johnson County, 13 cases in Sullivan County, 14 cases in Washington County, one case in Carter County and one case in Unicoi County. Please note: State numbers are updated at 2 p.m. daily and there may be a lag in the reporting of cumulative numbers at the state level.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Corrections late Tuesday received its first positive COVID-19 test results for incarcerated offenders. Three offenders at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland, Virginia, tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Three VADOC employees and one contractor have also tested positive for COVID-19. The employees include one officer in training at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women (VCCW); one correctional officer at Indian Creek Correctional Center; and one employee at the Norfolk Probation and Parole office. The contractor is a contract nurse at VCCW. All VADOC facilities are operating on modified lockdown in order to minimize contact between groups of offenders from different buildings, and Virginia Correctional Enterprises is manufacturing tens of thousands of sneeze/cough guard masks for use by Virginia DOC staff and offenders.

🔹 The United States Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Tennessee a grant to provide mobile behavioral health care units for rural counties in East and West Tennessee. These mobile units will expand services Tennessee provides through partnerships with non-profits. Tennessee’s front-line crisis services system is well-equipped to meet the needs of Tennesseans. Available resources include a 24-7 crisis phone line (855-CRISIS-1 or 855-274-7471), mobile crisis for both adults and children and youth, crisis walk-in centers, crisis stabilization units, and crisis respite.

🔹 Effective immediately, Ballad Health and Niswonger Children’s Hospital will allow only one visitor in its neonatal intensive care unit, as well as rooms with pediatric patients throughout the health system. The approved visitor must be a parent or guardian. Labor and delivery units will continue to allow one designated visitor per room subject to a health screening before entering, to ensure they’re in good health. No visitors are permitted in our inpatient hospital units, long-term care facilities or behavioral health centers. Exceptions for extenuating circumstances must be made on a case-by-case basis. All Ballad Health childbirth preparation and breastfeeding courses offered to the community will no longer be provided in person. We are in the process of creating a video option.

🔹 First Horizon Foundation announced today that it is donating $2.5 million in support of COVID-19 emergency relief efforts to nonprofit organizations throughout its footprint. In the Tri-Cities, $5,000 was donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee to help those who need additional food assistance.

🔹 The Mount Rogers Health District of the Virginia Department of Health is reporting the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Carroll County, a second case in Wythe County, and a third case in Washington County, Virginia. There are no community contacts of concern in these cases, and there is no evidence of community transmission in these counties at this time.

🔹 Frontier Health’s Holston Counseling Center and Holston Children & Youth Services in Kingsport is offering telephonic and/or tele-video services for therapy, Intensive Outpatient programs, medication management, care coordination/case management and peer support. This allows those in the community to receive these needed services from the safety of their own homes.

🔹 An individual who applies for unemployment benefits in Tennessee must do weekly certifications in order to receive benefits. These certifications are necessary to ensure a claimant is eligible to receive benefits for that week, which lessens the chance of having an overpayment. Claimants can complete the certification process on their smartphone. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has a smartphone app that allows claimants to easily complete their weekly certifications without having to use a computer or internet service. The Jobs4TN mobile app is available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

🔹 As part of the world’s collective effort to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Eastman recently partnered with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and Austin Peay State University to support the local production of 10,000 protective face shields for medical personnel in the state capital of Nashville. The partnership comes after THEC informed Eastman they had used and exhausted all the local supply of acetate sheet – the large, clear plastic shield that attaches to the headband – from local retailers. Together, the goal is to produce 10,000 face shields in two weeks using 3D printers at colleges and universities around the state.

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TDH latest report shows 2,239 COVID-19 cases in Tennessee

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Roe: Federal government needs 'wartime' mentality to deal with coronavirus

New Hawkins school lunch schedule includes pick-up and deliveries, less 'exposure'

Monday, March 30

Schedule changes

🔹 The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are temporarily shutting down trailhead facilities and other access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail to prevent groups from congregating and to protect public health and safety. The decision aligns with state and local measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, many recreation opportunities are still open for public use, including dispersed camping and other activities that support social distancing and small groups. “We realize our communities and our visitors value the recreation opportunities the forest has to offer,” said Joby Timm, George Washington and Jefferson National Forest Supervisor. “A lot of consideration went into this decision. The health and safety of our employees and the public remain our top priority.” For a list of access sites affected by this closure, check here.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy's (DMME) Big Stone Gap and Lebanon offices will limit office hours beginning Tuesday, March 31 through April 30. This is in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases. The agency requests customers first use online services for payments or call to make a credit card payment. For customers that do not have that option, the offices will receive and receipt those payments on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 11 a.m. Certifications needing renewed will be extended through April 30. “Coal miners and companies needing proof of certifications can find those on our website by searching their name. Coal and gas companies needing to make payments should do so through DMME’s accompanying e-forms systems... The work of our agency will continue during this time. DMME employees will be working in the field and from home and available via phone and email. An emergency contact list is available on DMME’s website.

News updates

🔹 Current department of health testing results in Tennessee (as of 2 p.m., March 30) show 1,834 positive cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee, including 148 hospitalizations and 13 fatalities. The latest statistics show four cases in Hawkins County, two cases in Johnson County, 11 cases in Sullivan County, 14 cases in Washington County and one case in Unicoi County.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Health’s Mount Rogers Health District announced a new confirmed case of COVID-19 in Smyth County. The case is an employee of the Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute. The SWVMHI and Virginia Department of Health have been working closely together to ensure that employees and patients that are close contacts to the case have been notified and provided guidance on isolation and quarantine by the Mount Rogers Health District.

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Safer at Home order issued in Sullivan

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issues 2-week 'safer at home' order, closes non-essential businesses

Northeast State classes will remain online for summer semester

Johnson City, Washington County issue safer at home orders

KOSBE ready to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19

UPDATED: Northam issues stay-at-home order for Virginia residents

Contracted Sullivan bus drivers may not be paid during closure

Hawkins sheriff doesn't anticipate problems enforcing Emergency Declaration

Sullivan schools to distribute digital devices 

Sunday, March 29

News updates

🔹 The Virginia Department of Health’s Mount Rogers Health District announced that a resident of the district, a man in his 80s who was ill with COVID-19, has died. “Sadly, we have experienced our first local COVID-19-related fatality. We send our sincere condolences to this person’s family,” said Karen Shelton, M.D., director of the Mount Rogers Health District. “Unfortunately those over 65 and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of serious complications from COVID-19,” said Shelton. “Everyone, especially at-risk individuals, are strongly advised to take steps to minimize contact with others who are ill, practice social distancing and stay at home as much as possible.” For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. Please note: This fatality is not yet reflected in the VDH website dashboard, which is updated daily with cases recorded by 5 p.m. the evening before.

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Going the (social) distance

King for a day at the hoarder-ravaged Stone Drive Walmart

Country singer Diffie dies of coronavirus complications

Two Eastman employees test positive for COVID-19

How do you homeschool when you never have? Moms offer advice

NET health departments ask public to call prior to arrival for appointments

Saturday, March 28

Schedule changes

🔹 The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina, and the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee are temporarily shutting down trailhead facilities and other access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail to prevent groups from congregating and to protect public health and safety. The decision aligns with state and local measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

News updates

🔹 The Northeast Regional Health Office has confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of March 28 in Carter and Johnson counties. Carter County has 1 case and Johnson County has 1 case. To date there have been 33 cases throughout the region. In addition to Carter and Johnson, there are 8 cases in Greene County, 2 cases in Hawkins County, 6 cases in Sullivan County, 1 case in Unicoi County and 14 cases in Washington County. Several of the cases have no history of travel or contact with a known case, indicating likely spread in the community throughout the region. As of March 28, six cases have been hospitalized, two of whom are still currently hospitalized.

Read more

Southwest Virginia health districts activate COVID-19 call centers

United Way of Greater Kingsport establishes COVID-19 relief fund

'Virginians, you need to stay at home' – Northam warns of COVID-19 testing delays, protective gear shortages

City officials concerned about public following social distancing in parks

Eastman asks community to be example of social distancing to help stop spread of COVID-19

Goodwill Tenneva closes stores in response to COVID-19 outbreak

Hanks, Wilson back in U.S. after coronavirus isolation

Country singer Diffie tests positive for coronavirus

Friday, March 27

Schedule changes

🔹 A portion of the Cherohala Skyway (SR165) has been closed to thru traffic. “Motorists heading into North Carolina from Monroe and Blount counties need to be aware of closures that are now in place. Graham County in North Carolina is currently prohibiting traffic from entering the county. Cherohala Skyway (SR 165) in Monroe County is now closed at the TN/NC state line. Motorists on US 129 in Blount County can enter North Carolina in Swain County, but will be stopped at the Graham County line,” TDOT’s Mark Nagi announced Friday. “Information will be updated as it becomes available on the TDOT SmartWay system.

🔹 Ballad Health, Bristol Tennessee City Schools and Bristol Virginia Public Schools are following current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization guidelines regarding the novel coronavirus and large gatherings and are canceling the Power of Health Expo and Power of Play 5K set for April 25 at Bristol Regional Medical Center. Preregistered participants for the Power of Play 5K will be contacted by the event organizers to receive their registration refund.

🔹 Jonesborough’s new StoryTown Podcast has decided to reach out and ask listeners to share their own stories for future episodes. The podcast aims to help listeners escape and travel through geography and time through the magic of storytelling. This one-hour storytelling program is filled with true-life adventures of people past and present from Jonesborough, Tennessee, and the surrounding Southern Appalachian Region. If you would like to listen to the StoryTown Podcast for yourself, visit storytown.simplecast.com and then share your own story to appear on a future episode.

News updates

🔹 BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee warns members that scammers are taking advantage of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to be alert of potential scam activity. Reported scams include unsolicited phone calls that could be an attempt to fraudulently gain personal information. BlueCross is urging members and customers not to give personal information to these callers. BlueCross has shared this alert on its COVID-19 resource website, bcbstupdates.com. Anyone receiving a suspicious call should report it to the BlueCross Fraud Unit at 1-888-343-4221.

🔹 The Tennessee Public Utility Commission ordered private-investor owned natural gas, electric, water and wastewater utility companies to suspend the disconnection of utility services due to nonpayment during Tennessee’s state of emergency status invoked by Gov. Bill Lee. The commission’s regulatory jurisdiction and authority extends only to private investor-owned public utilities and not to utilities services provided by any city, county, utility district or cooperative entity.

🔹 COVID-19 (coronavirus) has disrupted the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Public cookie booths were suspended halfway through the booth sales. This disruption means that troops across Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians’ 46-county footprint have nearly 300,000 boxes of delicious cookies on hand that need to find a home. A digital cookie store has now been launched that will allow the community to go online and purchase cookies that consumers can donate or purchase for delivery at a later date, when it is safe to do so. This will help local troops in our community move their cookie inventory and fund their Girl Scout experiences for the year. Visit girlscoutcsa.org and click on “Digital Cookie” banner.

🔹 The United Way of Greater Kingsport (UWGK) has been helping the community for over 85 years. Now, with the cumulative effects of COVID-19 yet unknown, UWGK is launching the UWGK COVID-19 Relief Fund to increase efforts in their fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in the community. “The fund will support community organizations that are working to meet the needs of individuals affected by COVID-19 in the Greater Kingsport area,” said UWGK Executive Director Danelle Glasscock. “For both immediate needs and longer-term response, these funds will be focused on assisting vulnerable populations, including children, families, individuals experiencing homelessness, the elderly and ALICE.” ALICE, an acronym coined by United Way, represents all who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This demographic is made of men, women and families who work hard and earn more than the official Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living. For individuals or corporations interested in donating, they can visit the UWGK website www.uwaykpt.org/covid19relieffund or text “HELPING” to 303-06.

🔹 BenchMark Physical Therapy continues to operate seven outpatient clinics in the Tri-Cities area as physical therapy is considered an essential service during the coronavirus pandemic. However, BenchMark also is using telehealth to see patients from the comfort and safety of their homes. Under the direct supervision of a physical therapist, patients are connecting one-on-one using a phone, computer or tablet and a secure internet connection to discuss symptoms, progress and home-exercise programs on a video call. To schedule a telehealth appointment with a BenchMark therapist, contact your nearest clinic by visiting urpt.com/telehealth.

🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music Museum has created several activities to help students and families stay busy in an engaging and fun way. Each activity is related to aspects of museum content, from songwriting and the banjo to important figures from the 1927 Bristol Sessions and Radio Bristol. Activity sheets and videos can be found at www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org.

🔹 The Cumberland Plateau and Lenowisco Health Districts have activated public health call centers to answer questions and provide information about COVID-19 and related issues, including symptoms, how to minimize the risk of exposure for yourself and your loved ones, local and statewide conditions, testing resources and how they are used, and what to do if you think you may be ill. The Lenowisco Health District call center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and can be reached at (276) 415-3430.

🔹 The Bristol, Tennessee Department of Parks and Recreation has introduced a series of exercise videos and social media activities designed to keep community members active during the coronavirus outbreak, along with a reminder that more than 30 scenic city parks remain open to the public. The videos are available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watchBTNTV and are being shown periodically on the City’s BTN-TV, available to BTES cable subscribers on channel 16 and to Charter/Spectrum subscribers on channel 192. And while Slater Community Center and the Steele Creek Nature Center are currently closed, all City parks remain open to the public. Gate fees at Steele Creek Park are currently being waived, and Steele Creek Golf Course is operating during regular business hours with standard fees. The only change is that shelter and equipment rentals, including golf carts, have been suspended.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development has a comprehensive list of resources on TNECD.com for Tennessee employers and workers. Updates will be made to the resource page on a regular basis.

🔹 The Tennessee Forestry Commission will meet by electronic means April 7, 2020, at 9 a.m. CDT. This measure serves to protect the health and safety of citizens and government officials during the COVID-19 emergency response. The meeting is open to public participation via an internet-based teleconferencing system. There is no cost to participants. The agenda includes approval of the previous meeting minutes, formulation of nursery seedling production for 2021 – 2022 and pricing for 2020 – 2021, and appointment of a nomination committee to select new Commission officers. The Tennessee Forestry Commission comprises seven members representing the public’s interests as they relate to forest resources in the state. The commission advises the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on forest issues. For more information, contact the Division of Forestry at (615) 837-5520 or visit www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests/commission.html.

🔹 USDA Rural Development has launched a COVID-19 resource page to keep customers, partners and stakeholders continuously updated on actions taken by the agency to help rural residents, businesses and communities impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Visit www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus for information on Rural Development loan payment assistance, application deadline extensions and more.

🔹 To protect customers, employees and the community, First Bank & Trust Company closed lobbies to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The bank’s offices are conducting business through drive thru facilities and may offer extended banking hours, if needed. Office staff is available to meet with customers by appointment. Customers can call their local branch or their loan officer to arrange a time. First Bank & Trust Company is also providing loan modification options on a case-by-case basis to address liquidity needs while businesses weather this health crisis. Electronic banking options are available for consumers and businesses alike who are practicing social distancing.

🔹 Jonesborough Area Ministerial Association (JAMA) is in need of non-perishable food donations and volunteers. It has also extended food pick-up hours to assist with the growing need. The organization’s biggest needs are sugar, self-rising flour, cornmeal, evaporated milk, any kind of canned meat, spaghetti O's, canned ravioli, jelly in plastic containers and bread; donations can be dropped off at Jonesborough Senior Center parking lot from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Friday or Jonesborough United Methodist Church from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Monetary donations for food can be sent to JAMA FOOD PANTRY P.O. Box 151 Jonesborough, TN 37659. With the increasing need to serve families, JAMA has set a second distribution day. In addition to the normal distribution day each Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., they have added Tuesday afternoons from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., which will begin March 31. The JAMA Food Pantry serves residents holding a Jonesborough, Telford or Limestone address. Volunteer opportunities are available for checking ID’s, packing food boxes/bags and stocking shelves. For more information about volunteering and the Food Pantry as a whole, call Pastor Karen Lane, JAMA president, at (423) 753-3942.

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Thursday, March 26

Schedule changes

🔹 The Oasis of Kingsport Women’s Ministry will open on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to allow homeless ladies to use the shower facility only. “We may open a second day if we find one day isn’t sufficient for this service,” the agency announced. “We will not be open for regular services until further notice. Safety procedures have been put in place to help protect our volunteers and our homeless clients for showers.” ... The Oasis will not be open for its PERKs program or classes at this time and will only serve those women classified as homeless without access to shower facility. 

 🔹 George Washington and Jefferson National Forest officials are temporarily shutting down use of all campgrounds, bathrooms, OHV trails, trail shelters and many day-use areas. Campgrounds and picnic shelters are temporarily unavailable for reservation on Recreation.gov. Those already holding reservations will be notified as soon as possible, and refunds will be processed. Processing refunds may be delayed, however, due to the volume of cancellations. Contact a District Office for status updates on George Washington and Jefferson National Forests facilities and sites, or visit www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation.

🔹 HomeTrust Bank implemented the following steps to help safeguard customers and employees beginning Friday, March 20: 1) Customers are directed to drive-thru lanes at branches for in-person transactions. 2) Lobby services are available by appointment. To schedule an appointment, customers can call (800) 627-1632 and press #. 3) Saturday branch hours will be temporarily suspended beginning Saturday, March 28. 4) Customers are encouraged to utilize HomeTrust’s 24-hour ATMs and online and mobile services.

🔹 The Johnson City Symphony Orchestra canceled its April 18 concert. “During this time of social distancing, the JCSO is completing our planning for an exciting 2020-2021 season. We are re-booking the world-renowned violinist Melissa White and carrying our tribute concerts to Ralph Van Brocklin and Mitch Link into next season. We will also be presenting fresh, new collaborations along with your orchestral favorites. Due to the extreme financial impact of concert cancellations, we ask patrons, whenever possible, to consider donating the cost of your ticket (and receiving a tax deduction for the total ticket value). Should you wish, instead, to exchange your tickets (by way of a voucher for our 2020-2021 season) or request a refund, please email gm@jcsymphony.com with your request. We do not need the physical tickets to process requests. Refunds will be issued in 30-60 days.”

🔹 The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced late Wednesday that 2020 spring turkey hunting season is set to open for business in Tennessee beginning Saturday, April 4. Turkey hunting is an excellent way to keep social distance, enjoy the outdoors, and take part in a popular activity which has seen tremendous growth in recent years. “The coronavirus outbreak has affected many aspects of normal life. Fortunately for the thousands of Tennesseans who head to the woods each spring in pursuit of the wily game bird, the season will go on as scheduled through May 17. Conditions have forced a change in that turkey check stations at wildlife management areas will not be operational this year. “We are in extraordinary times that none of us have ever seen before,” said Ed Carter, the TWRA’s executive director. “At TWRA, we have taken precautions while still providing essential services to the public and our resources. We are pleased that our spring turkey season will go on as scheduled as it adheres to guidelines of social distancing and other recommendations.” New requirement this year is “Tag Before You Drag” where hunters tag their big game animal in the field prior to moving. They will be able to use the TWRA on the Go app to simply E-tag and report their harvest in the field in one easy step, with or without cell phone service, prior to moving. If you do not have a phone, attach one of the temporary transportations tags that printed at the bottom of your license this year and you have until midnight on the same day of the harvest to check in online at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com.

News updates

🔹 Gov. Bill Lee announced the state of Tennessee is spearheading a public-private partnership with the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, Tennessee Retail Association, and Hospitality TN to create the Tennessee Talent Exchange powered by Jobs4TN.gov. The goal of the exchange is to quickly match Tennesseans who are out of work due to COVID-19 with companies currently experiencing a surge in business and making immediate hires. The Department of Labor & Workforce Development has modified the state’s workforce development website to quickly post job openings and match job seekers with employers. Additional information can be found here.

🔹 Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order 20 to ensure Tennessee can further mobilize health care workers to fight COVID-19. The executive order accomplishes these actions, among others: 1) Loosens restrictions around retired medical professionals to help get qualified individuals back in the workforce. 2) Temporarily suspends continuing education requirements so professionals can continue working through the pandemic. 3) Calls for the availability of phone assessments for individuals with mental illness or emotional disturbances. 4) Expands telemedicine efforts so that all licensed providers may utilize telemedicine during COVID-19 as long as they are practicing within their normal scope of practice.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Health’s Mount Rogers Health District announced Thursday a new confirmed case of COVID-19 in the district. The patient is a Bristol City resident who contracted the illness during out-of-state travel. The person is self-isolating at home and there is no concern over community contact. “We continue to see new cases of COVID-19 throughout the Commonwealth, and it’s now in our area. This reminds us how very critical it is that people follow public health guidelines on social distancing and good hygiene,” said Karen Shelton, M.D., director of the Mount Rogers Health District. “Social distancing is one of the most effective strategies in limiting the spread of COVID-19, and lessening the impact of this pandemic.”

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health reported that there are 957 cases of coronavirus across the state, including three deaths and 76 hospitalizations. Local cases include four in Sullivan County, nine in Washington County, one in Hawkins County, one in Unicoi County and eight in Greene County.

🔹 The Tennessee Valley Authority announced an initiative to support increased flexibility for local power companies who are responding to urgent community and customer needs during the ongoing response to the COVID-19 outbreak. TVA will make up to a total of $1 billion of credit support available as an option to local power companies through the deferral of wholesale power payments based on the needs of individual local power companies. Detailed plans will be customized for each participating local power company based on individual needs and financial impacts. A portion of the local power company’s monthly TVA wholesale power payments would be deferred for a period during the ongoing COVID-19 response and an appropriate repayment plan will be put in place. The new initiative builds on actions TVA has already taken to provide regulatory flexibility to allow local power companies to halt disconnection of electric service and respond quickly to their customers’ immediate needs.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released data on new unemployment claims by region for the week ending March 21. There were 1,616 new claims in Northeast Tennessee.

🔹 The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced announced two new tools documenting the spread of COVID-19 at the regional and county levels. The first tool, the COVID-19 Cases in Appalachia map, displays the current number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Appalachia and throughout the U.S. This map is automatically updated throughout the day by drawing on data collected by the Johns Hopkins University. As of March 26 at 1:30 p.m., there were 1,686 confirmed COVID-19 cases across 208 Appalachian counties. The second tool, Explore County-level Coronavirus Impact Planning searchable database, presents a demographic data snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in relation to hospital bed counts, population and businesses, and categories of people at risk for COVID-19 in infographic form for each one of the nation’s counties. These tools, as well as other ARC updates in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, are available at arc.gov/coronavirus.

🔹 During this time of quarantine, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency understands the hardship individuals are experiencing due to many county offices offering limited services and/or closing. If you are needing to pay sales tax on your vessel, the TWRA is encouraging you to call your county clerk’s office to ensure they are open and that they will be able to assist prior to leaving your home. Be advised that the law states, “In order for your vessel to be legal for operation on Tennessee waterways, applicable Tennessee sales tax must be paid and application must be submitted to the TWRA for registration.” However, following the Governor’s Executive Order and any further direction given through future Executive Orders, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission has authorized Agency personnel to temporarily forgive those who aren’t registered because of these closures. As such, it is advised that you keep a photo copy of your bill of sale in your vessel until such time that clerks reopen and taxes may be paid. This will allow you to present proof of ownership to an officer should you be stopped.

🔹 The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has developed a website to support farmers who are making critical decisions and business adjustments. The free resource list is available at tiny.utk.edu/CPA-COVID19. Other publications and resources to help families navigate the COVID-19 crisis are available online at utextension.tennessee.edu or by contacting your local county Extension office.

🔹 The Carter County Sheriff's Office is offering an elder care program as an additional safety net for seniors whose lives and relationships have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program allows seniors to receive welfare checks from deputies on a weekly-monthly basis. Currently, those checks are being conducted by phone only to minimize the risk of spreading disease.

🔹 The Health Wagon is committed to being responsive to the needs of patients, staff and community as the COVID-19 situation evolves. Before the time that the COVID-19 virus was deemed pandemic, the Health Wagon was hastily implementing new policies and procedures to keep patients, employees and partners safe. The Health Wagon has implemented increased sanitizing and disinfecting of stationary and mobile clinics; this continues to be the top priority. In addition, employees are practicing crucial social distancing while seeing patients via many different modalities including telehealth (access at www.thehealthwagon.org) and phone consults at this time. Those who have a smart telephone or computer can connect to providers Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you do not have a smart telephone or computer, the Smiddy Clinic in Wise (5626 Patriot Drive, Wise, VA 24293) and Clintwood Clinic (233 Chase Street, Clintwood, VA 24228) is open with iPads for you to connect to a provider from the lobby area. “We ask that you call ahead in advance to discuss your health care needs,” a statement reads. “We are also asking that patients do not bring guests or allow guests in their vehicle as it may be necessary depending of the need to facilitate a visit in your vehicle. If the visit is for a minor, one healthy guardian can accompany during the visit.” The Health Wagon is low on personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically N95 masks, face shields, disinfectant sprays and sanitizing wipes. There is a limited supply of COVID-19 test kits available at the Health Wagon. At this time, if you feel symptomatic and need to be tested, contact Ballad Health at (833) 822-5523.

🔹 The state of Tennessee experienced an unprecedented spike in new initial unemployment claims, according to data released by the United States Department of Labor. For the week ending March 21, 2020, Tennesseans filed 39,096 initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits. The week prior, the state received 2,702 new unemployment claims. The latest figure represents a nearly 20 fold increase in week-to-week claims. Nationwide, Americans filed 3,283,000 new unemployment claims, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week's revised national level. Currently, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD) is processing these claims as quickly as possible to determine eligibility and distribute benefit payments. TDLWD has added additional resources to help process the influx of new claims, including training 200 department employees to shift their job tasks to unemployment. Soon, nearly one-third of TDLWD employees will work to provide customer service and process new claims. The department is currently expanding capacity and exploring other methods to increase its workforce. The maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Tennessee is $275 before the deduction of federal taxes. Claimants receive this benefit through a debit card or direct deposit to a bank account.

🔹 Mountain Home National Cemetery and other National Cemeteries are stepping up to the challenge of providing service through the pandemic. National Cemetery staff members continue to provide an honorable burial service for veterans and other eligible persons. A statement reads, “We have limited services to direct interments to keep our families and staff member safe. The family is still able to view but there is a limit of 10 persons and no committal service or military honors. We will provide those services for families who wish to proceed after the emergency. We provide world class customer service to our Veterans and their families. Part of our commitment is to keep everyone as safe as possible. We keep visitors safe by assisting them with visiting a gravesite when they are unable to visit on their own, ensuring our facilities are safe and accessible, and in many other ways. The measures we have in effect now are just another way we are keeping everyone safe.”

🔹 The state of Tennessee launched a public service announcement campaign that urges all Tennesseans to adopt preventive health measures to slow the spread of coronavirus. “Do your part, stay apart” features Gov. Bill Lee, First Lady Maria Lee and Tennessee celebrities like Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, University of Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway, former NFL Titan Eddie George and Taj George, University of Tennessee athletics director Phil Fulmer and Vicky Fulmer, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith and Cece Winans, among many others. Dozens of music artists, athletes and sports organizations who collectively reach millions of Tennesseans will join the campaign via social media. Like most Tennesseans practicing safe social distancing, the participants have recorded messages from the safety of their homes to emphasize that Tennesseans should stay home as much as possible, avoid gathering with friends, at church or in any unessential activity – and outside the home to maintain a six-foot distance from others. In addition to preventive health behavior, the message encourages Tennessee citizens to watch out for neighbors, especially those who may be vulnerable to illness: “Right now, the best way for us to care for one another is to keep our distance – and take care of our neighbors. Give them a call or video chat. We’re all in this together. Please do your part, by staying apart.” The “Do your part, stay apart” PSA campaign will launch initially on social media and will very soon be supported by broadcast partners Charter Communications (Spectrum) and Comcast, as well as Outdoor Advertising Association Tennessee, which donated poster and digital billboards across the state. Social media handles are #TNStayApart @GovBillLee @TNDeptofHealth.

Read more

Kingsport YMCA providing childcare for healthcare workers, first responders

Let's talk about social distancing

All Sullivan school employees, bus drivers to be paid during COVID-19 closure

Out-of-school Tenn. students can turn to PBS for instructional content

Milligan College employee tests positive for COVID-19

Governor asks Liberty University to reconsider students’ return to campus

Shutdown extended a week, Hawkins schools now set to reopen April 27

Sullivan school board to hold emergency pay meeting

Tri-Cities mayors, health officials: Area at 'tipping point' in COVID-19 battle

Senate passes coronavirus rescue package on unanimous vote

Wednesday, March 25

Schedule changes

🔹 Tennessee State Parks will transition to day-use schedules for all 56 state parks, opening daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The new schedule goes into effect on March 26 and will be in place until at least April 10. During this period, all public gathering spaces such as visitor centers, shelters and playgrounds at state parks will be closed. Additionally, parks cabins, lodges and campgrounds close. Future reservations with arrival dates between now and April 9 will be canceled. The parks will waive cancellation fees during this time. In a statement late Wednesday, Tennessee State Parks announced it is “joining the CDC and the Tennessee Department of Health by encouraging residents not to travel, but to visit only their nearby parks.” The park system is also announcing a series of operational changes effective March 26. “Our state parks are part of the fabric of Tennessee communities and have been an important place of renewal during this crisis,” Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said. “The measures announced today will continue to provide healthy outdoor spaces for Tennesseans while providing more protection for our neighbors and our staff. We can do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19 while continuing to provide open spaces when our neighbors need it most.”

🔹 The Tennessee Supreme Court issued an order reiterating that all Tennessee courts will remain open during the coronavirus outbreak, but extending the suspension of most in-person judicial proceedings through April 30. In addition, the order also instructs judges not to take action to move forward cases involving eviction, ejectment or displacement except in exceptional circumstances; includes alternatives for notarizing documents; slightly modifies the list of exceptions to the suspension of in-person hearings; and clarifies that courthouses in Tennessee should remain open for essential hearings and filings, even if some entrances are closed or an appointment must be made to enter.

🔹 The TSSAA announced Wednesday it is urging member schools to continue to follow Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s recommendation and suspend interscholastic athletics through April 24. “On Monday, March 24, Governor Lee extended the statewide school closure to April 24, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consistent with the Governor’s statement, and in the interest of the health and safety of competitors, coaches, officials, and spectators, we urge every member school – both public and independent – to continue to follow the Governor’s recommendation and suspend interscholastic athletics through April 24, 2020. This suspension should include games, scrimmages, practices, and organized workouts or conditioning.”

🔹 The city of Kingsport building department has closed its doors to the public in an effort to protect citizens and staff, but is still open for business. The city encourages the development community to keep in contact with Development Services via phone or email to check on the status of a project or with any questions or concerns. Development Services will do its best to keep all projects moving forward at the best pace possible. It is important to note that there may be a delay in turn-around time for items such as subdivision plats, which require original signatures. This is due to some required signatories working from home during this time. These employees will schedule time to come into the office to sign those documents at their earliest convenience. The county Register of Deeds is only recording documents by appointment at this time. All applications can be found on the city website at the following links: Planning/Development-related applications — www.kingsporttn.gov/planning-commission; Building Department-related applications — www.kingsporttn.gov/city-services/building/building-permit-application. The phone number for the Building Division is (423) 229-9393; the number for Planning & Zoning is (423) 229-9485.

🔹 The Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold a special called meeting electronically on Tuesday, March 31, at 6 p.m. Members of the board may attend the meeting electronically, including, but not limited to, telephonically. The physical location of the meeting is in the Tennessee Room at the KCS Administrative Support Center, 400 Clinchfield St. The purpose of this electronic special called meeting is to make a determination that meeting electronically is necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of Tennesseans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider approval for the use of stockpiled days from the 2019-20 school calendar, and to consider approval of a compensation plan for KCS employees during the COVID-19 school closure. The agenda can be accessed at https://go.boarddocs.com/tn/kingscs/Board.nsf/vpublic?open. The regularly scheduled board work session has been cancelled. There will be no physical access permitted to the public at the physical location of the meeting. Members of the public can attend and listen to the meeting electronically via www.k12k.com 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 within two business days of the meeting.

🔹 The staff of the First Tennessee Development District will continue to work remotely through the week April 3, 2020. The FTDD offices will reopen on Monday, April 6, should the circumstances warrant. Through Friday, April 3, the FTDD offices, located at 3211 N. Roan St. in Johnson City, will remain closed to all except essential personnel. All district programs and public health services, such CHOICES, CREVAA, Information & Assistance, Options Counseling, and Meals for Seniors, will continue to operate and staff have the capability to work remotely. Preparations over the last week have ensured the district is able to meet the needs of every community across Northeast Tennessee.

🔹 The regular monthly meeting of the Lonesome Pine Regional Library Board of Trustees has been postponed until Thursday, May 7, at 1 p.m.

🔹 The Town of Unicoi has made the following changes: closing of the Unicoi Tourist Information Center, closing of the Bogart-Bowman Cabin, keeping Town Hall open with limited staffing, and holding electronic public meetings. These measures will be in effect immediately and through April 30 at 5 p.m. These measures, and others, may be in effect for extended periods as recommended by the Center for Disease Control, Gov. Bill Lee and the federal government.

News updates

🔹 STREAMWORKS, powered by Eastman in Education, is partnering with some of the region’s largest entities to help combat the impact of the COVID-19 virus in the Appalachian Highlands region. Eastman, Ballad Health, East Tennessee State University, Northeast State Community College and others are coming together to help produce 7,000 face shields to protect healthcare workers in this time of need. There is a shortage of healthcare personal protective equipment due to the overwhelming number of cases of COVID-19 worldwide. Initiatives to connect healthcare providers with the necessary supplies have been attempted online by reallocating supplies from nonessential medical and dental service providers, but the need is still prevalent even in our region. STREAMWORKS is doing its part to fill this shortage by producing face shields using 3D printing and laser cutting technology. At full capacity, STREAMWORKS will be producing 500 face shields per week while maintaining proper social distancing due to the largely automated nature of 3D printing. To aid in this initiative, Ballad Health has purchased two additional high-end 3D-printers.These machines are already running 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and are part of a larger group of volunteers from Eastman, Ballad Health, East Tennessee State University, Northeast State Community College and Spectra3D Technologies from Weaverville, NC., who are all working to help get these face shields into the hands of healthcare workers as soon as possible.

🔹 Regional United Ways have united in a collective response to the pandemic by establishing a regional fund. This fund will be used to support nonprofit organizations across the region that are directly assisting individuals impacted by the pandemic. Both immediate and long-term, these efforts will focus response efforts on vulnerable populations, including children, families and the ALICE population. ALICE, an acronym coined by United Way that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents men, women and families who work hard and earn more than the official Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living. Donors can text NETNSWVARelief to 41444 to give, or give online at NETNSWVARelief.org.

🔹 Due to grocery store shortages, Johnson City and Kingsport’s Texas Roadhouse locations are selling ready-to-grill steaks directly to the public. The ready-to-grill kit includes meat, seasonings and directions for consumers to cook at home. Texas Roadhouse is offering is offering a variety of cuts, including Ribeye, New York Strip and Sirloin. Pork chops will also be available for purchase. Call the restaurant for details, hours and availability, which varies by location. Currently, every Texas Roadhouse location is open daily for Curbside To-Go service and Family Value Packs, which allow guests to pick up food without leaving their cars. Orders can be placed online, through the website or app, or by phone. Family Value Pack, dinners-for-four, start at $19.99 and include a choice of entrée, a large salad, four side dishes, fresh baked rolls and honey cinnamon butter. Entrée options include Cheeseburgers, Grilled Chicken, Chicken Critters, Pulled Pork, Beef Tips, Sirloin Steaks and Ribs.

🔹 Beginning next week, ETSU Health is bringing medical care closer to home for its patients by offering telemedicine appointments. Telemedicine is the use of electronic audio and video communication to provide remote health care services to patients. Currently, the telemedicine services are best for patients having simple visits for medication checks; review of blood pressure or blood sugar control; post-operative follow-up that does not require a physical exam; medication or behavioral health counseling; counseling for a simple medical question or issue; discussion of concern for a respiratory illness and what to do (such as with COVID-19); or a sub-specialist consultation.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is making essential financial resources available to families that have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. Beginning 10 a.m. CST Thursday, March 26, families can begin applying, online, for up to two months of emergency cash assistance if they were employed as of March 11 and they’ve lost employment or at least 50% of their earned income as a result of the pandemic. The department is asking applicants to complete the application process for emergency cash assistance online at https://tdhs.service-now.com/relief?id=relief_registration. Applicants are required to upload their verification to the application prior to submitting to TDHS. Once the application and verifications have been submitted, no further action will be needed. Applicants do not need to call the DHS office for an interview. Applicants will receive a notification of denial or approval via email within five days. If approved, applicants can expect an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to be sent within five to seven days of approval via mail.

🔹 The Greater Kingsport Family YMCA is offering a modified childcare beginning on Tuesday, March 24, for EMS, law enforcement, fire, hospital staff and other mission-critical workers. This program is for critical use — parents who are first responders or medical personnel or current Y families who need childcare to be able to work and support their families. Enrollment will be limited to physical space and staffing capacity under current CDC guidelines. The information and materials needed to register for Emergency Childcare & Schools Out Camp can be found at www.ymcakpt.org/youth/emergencychildcare. Print and complete all, sign, scan and send to swalker@ymcakpt.org. If you are unable to print/scan back, email your name and basic information about your children per the application to swalker@ymcakpt.org.

🔹 The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability is asking healthy Tennesseans to consider volunteering to help seniors across the state. Volunteer opportunities may include the following: 1) Delivering meals, food boxes or household supplies to homebound or at-risk older adults. 2) Telephone Reassurance – Phone calls made from home to check on an older adult and make sure their basic needs are being met. 3) Other volunteer assistance as needed. If you can volunteer to help this vulnerable population, sign up at https://www.tn.gov/aging/learn-about/volunteer-opportunities.html.

🔹 In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Frontier Health will be offering an easier way to access needed services. During this time, it will offer telephonic and/or tele-video services for therapy, intensive outpatient programs, medication management, care coordination/case management and peer support. Frontier is in the process of contacting people who are currently receiving services to give them information on how to access care through this new format.

🔹 East Tennessee State University and community partners are addressing the shortage of medical equipment by developing and manufacturing face shields. The face shield design uses materials donated by Eastman. Pieces of the shields are cut from a template using a laser engraver. All the face shield parts are collected and put into kits that will be assembled by Facilities Management staff at ETSU. Andrew Worley, emergency management specialist, will assist with shield assembly and ensure staff adhere to all COVID-19 work precautions, including social distancing. ETSU is working closely with STREAMWORKS, an educational program powered by the Eastman Foundation that is producing 3D printed face shields in its STEM Gym. Quick work and tweaks to their 3D printers have reduced printing time to two hours per headband.

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Third COVID-19 case reported in far Southwest Virginia

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Ballad Health welcomes donations of handmade masks for respiratory patients

Scott County woman turns concern for sister into a production line

Nursing home, health officials assessing contacts by COVID-19-positive visitor

Hawkins schools' youngest learners aren't falling behind thanks to Pre-K homework

Chop House has gone 100% curbside, offers 20% discount

Trump, Congress agree on $2 trillion virus rescue bill

Once booming concert industry goes quiet

Tuesday, March 24

Schedule changes

🔹 In a joint letter to families and staff of Bristol, Kingsport and Sullivan County Schools, school leaders announced that the closure of all three systems has been extended through Friday, April 24. This includes all extra-curricular and athletic activities.

🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music Museum will remain temporarily closed to the public until at least April 22. BCM will continue to monitor the situation regarding the virus and will rely on the guidance from public health officials including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization concerning any decisions moving forward.

🔹 Kingsport City Schools has postponed the 2020-2021 Pre-K Screening and Kindergarten Registration, originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 31, until further notice due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). A new date for the events has yet to be determined.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee extended the statewide school closure to April 24, 2020. The Department of Education has secured a partnership with PBS to offer instructional content on television while students are at home. The filing deadline for franchise and excise taxes has been delayed until July 15, 2020. Taxpayers will have until July 15 to file returns and make any payments, including quarterly estimated payments, originally due in April. Additional information can be found here.

🔹 In light of heightened COVID-19 concerns, King University has announced all remaining classes for the spring 2020 semester will be completed via distance learning. As an added measure, King will delay its spring commencement ceremony, originally scheduled for May 2. “As we all work toward minimizing risk and maintaining a healthy community, we know it is in the best interest of everyone at King and in our region to keep our on-campus population as small as possible for now,” said Alexander Whitaker, president of the University. “Our hearts are certainly with our students and their families, especially our seniors, as we navigate these challenging days, and we will do everything we can to help ease this transition and celebrate our graduates’ well-earned degrees.” Although the commencement ceremony will be delayed, the conferring of degrees will take place as scheduled on May 15, 2020, for those who have completed requirements. An announcement will be made at a future date regarding the rescheduling of commencement.

🔹 Virginia High School League will delay decision to provide options on spring sports season until May. The VHSL held a conference call Tuesday morning with its VHSL Crisis Management team to discuss all options relating to spring sports and academic activities after the current academic year ends and into the summer. The VHSL Crisis Management team unanimously recommended to delay any final action until May.

🔹 Ben Franklin will change its store hours to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, effective March 30.

🔹 The 21st Annual Boone Lake Clean-Up has been postponed from its original April 25 date. “Due to circumstances surrounding the coronavirus, the Boone Lake Association Board has made the decision to postpone the clean-up until late summer or early autumn. While it is the hope of everyone that we will return to normal more quickly, it just doesn’t make sense to suggest next month, and then having to cancel and schedule for the next month, and so on. Rather, the association has made the decision to push the date back until the “coast is clear” and volunteers can get out and help to improve the quality of the water by removing trash and litter.” Event sponsors have been notified and support the decision. “The full time BLA Crew is in good health and working each day to keep the lake clean and safe. We will keep normal operations as long as it is prudent and reasonable with priority given to the health and safe working conditions of the crew,” the release said.

🔹 Operating under authority of Executive Order 16 signed Friday by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, BrightRidge will now conduct all Board of Director meetings electronically at least through the duration of the order. BrightRidge will conduct its meetings telephonically beginning Tuesday, March 24, at 4:15 p.m. As required under Executive Order 16, a full audio recording of the meeting will be posted at BrightRidge.com under the “Community” section along with a meeting agenda within 48 hours of the meeting.

🔹 Kingsport Area Transit Service (KATS) will stop all scheduled bus routes at the end of the day on Tuesday, March 24. Starting Wednesday, March 25, KATS will begin offering on demand-fixed route bus service where riders call the KATS dispatch office to request a bus. This service change is in response to emergency coronavirus measures being taken across the country. This method of bus operation encourages only essential travel and social distancing, allowing only a maximum of nine riders per bus. The “on-demand fixed route service” will operate as follows: 1) Riders will need to decide which bus stop is most convenient place for them to be picked up. 2) Riders can call (423) 224-2613 at least one hour before needing to be picked up. Give name, bus stop location, pick-up time and destination bus stop. 3) If confirmed, the rider will be given an estimated time when a KATS bus will arrive at the stop. 4) Riders can call (423) 224-2613 when ready to be picked back up at the bus stop. Bus fare will continue to be $1 each way for the general public, and $0.50 each way for disabled passengers, seniors and veterans. KATS Dial-A-Ride ADA paratransit services will continue to operate unchanged during this time.

🔹 Beginning Monday, March 23, the Tennessee Lottery temporarily closed the Nashville Headquarters claim center and the claim centers at the district offices in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis. All Tennessee Lottery Drawings and VIP Rewards Drawings, including Play It Again!, will continue as scheduled. Players can claim prizes less than $600 at any of our retailer locations. Prizes of $600 or more can be claimed by mailing in the signed winning ticket with a completed claim form to P.O. Box 290636, Nashville, TN 37229-0636. Reminder: All mail-in claims for drawing-style tickets must be postmarked within 180 days after the official winning draw date for that ticket and 90 days after the announced game end date for instant tickets. Learn more here

🔹 The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame has announced that the 2020 Induction Ceremony, scheduled for June 13, 2020, in Knoxville, has been postponed and will be rescheduled for June 12, 2021. The Hall of Fame Class of 2020 — Debbie Brock (Veteran Player), Carol Callan (Contributor), Swin Cash (Player), Tamika Catchings (Player), Sue Donohoe (Contributor), Lauren Jackson (International Player) and Carol Stiff (Contributor) — will become the Class of 2021. The 2020 Trailblazers of the Game recipient, the 1980 US Women's Olympic Basketball Team, will become the 2021 Trailblazers of the Game recipient. All tickets purchased by guests will be refunded in full automatically by TicketMaster and the Tennessee Theatre Box Office. For questions or inquiries, please email info@tennesseetheatre.com.

🔹 Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems (SVCHS) has made changes to optometry appointments in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). These changes were implemented on Monday, March 23, and will stay in place until further notice. These changes include: 1) Postpone all routine eyecare, including new patients to optometric services. 2) Urgent and acute care will be provided as deemed necessary by optometric staff. 3) Direct all patients who have questions or wish to schedule an appointment to the optometric assistant at (276) 496-4492 extension 1222. 4) The optometric staff will triage patients via phone to determine necessity of examinations. 5) Expiring contact lens and glasses prescriptions will be renewed on a case-by-case basis. 6) Optometry staff will make every effort to refer emergent cases to a specialist without requiring an office visit to SVCHS. For questions regarding these changes, please call (276) 496-4492.

News updates

🔹 Five Tusculum University students have tested positive for the coronavirus. “None of these students has been on the campus for several days. We are heartened the initial reports we have received indicate students are doing well. With the amount of time that has elapsed since students moved off campus, we continue to encourage our Pioneers to use healthy practices and social distancing to reduce their risk while they are off campus,” a release issued by the university said.

🔹 The Northeast Regional Health Office that serves Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties has confirmed additional cases of COVID-19 as of March 24. To date, there have been seven cases in Washington County and five in Greene County, with a total of 14 cases in the region. The Tennessee Department of Health will post COVID-19 updated numbers online by 3 p.m. each day at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html.

🔹 The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $250 million in grants from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to help communities provide meals for older adults. Tennessee received a grant for $4,868,765.

🔹 In an abundance of caution, in anticipation of potential community need, and due to the positive COVID-19 case reported in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, Ballad Health is moving aggressively to implement a regional COVID-19 surge plan for Wise County, Virginia – a move that can benefit and protect the entire region served by Ballad Health’s Wise County services. Lonesome Pine Hospital will be designated as the Wise County COVID-19 treatment and quarantine facility. This move will ensure acute care patients who can be treated in a community hospital will be served in a facility focused on their needs, while other patients with health care needs not related to COVID-19 will be treated at Norton Community Hospital. If any patients present with more serious needs than can be served locally, they will be treated at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Bristol Regional Medical Center in Bristol, or Johnson City Medical Center in Johnson City. The emergency room at Lonesome Pine Hospital will remain open, however, all non-COVID-19, acute care, surgical and obstetric services currently provided by Lonesome Pine Hospital will immediately be moved to Norton Community Hospital in order to ensure proper focus on local resources. Patients needing surgery and labor/delivery services will receive their care at Norton Community Hospital.

🔹 The Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians (GSCSA) is launching a series of virtual programs and badge workshops that kids of all ages can participate in to learn new activities and fill their time while confined at home and practicing social distancing. The program team will take over to share STEM, life skills, nature and outdoor-based activities girls can do in their own backyard, and some behind the scenes looks at Girl Scout camp properties: Camp Tanasi and Camp Adahi. Videos can be joined live or re-watched at facebook.com/GirlScoutCSA.

🔹 Ballad Health is welcoming handmade mask donations from community for respiratory patients. Because the masks are not medical grade, they will not be worn by team members as they provide care. Rather, they’ll serve as a vital barrier for patients who come in with respiratory ailments, and they’ll also help prevent patients from touching their faces. A sewing pattern and instructions are available at www.balladhealth.org/COVID19.

🔹 Atmos Energy employees and contractors will continue to maintain and operate critical natural gas infrastructure while the nation responds to the pandemic. Employees who work in the community are practicing physical distancing to slow the spread. Employees are also taking prevention measures recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and those who can are working from home. Screening protocols are in place to stop some types of work and safely limit when service technicians will be in your home or business. The corporation has also temporarily suspended natural gas disconnections for non-payment. Customers with any questions are encouraged to call 888-286-6700.

🔹 Legal Aid of East Tennessee (LAET) is staying open to meet the legal needs that will be created or compounded by the coronavirus crisis. In order to keep everyone safe during these uncertain times, our attorneys, paralegals, and other professionals are working remotely and limiting in-person meetings to emergency situations; however, there are several ways to reach us and find out if you qualify for free legal help: 1) Call the closest office (see list at www.laet.org), and a paralegal or other trained professional will either answer the phone or call you back to gather additional information. 2) Complete the Online Intake Application located on our website, www.laet.org, and a paralegal will contact you. 3) Current clients can continue to call or email their individual attorneys as usual.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Health reported there are now 290 cases of COVID-19 across Virginia, including seven deaths. In the southwest region, there are still only two cases in Lee County.

🔹 The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, can provide immediate counseling to anyone who is seeking help in coping with the mental or emotional effects caused by developments related to the coronavirus pandemic. The helpline is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, free resource that responds to people who need crisis counseling and support in dealing with the traumatic effects of a natural or human-caused disaster. The helpline is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Helpline specialists are trained to assist callers who have a range of symptoms. The helpline immediately connects callers to trained and caring professionals from the closest crisis counseling centers in the nationwide network of centers. The helpline staff will provide confidential counseling, referrals and other needed support services. More information is available at disasterdistress.samhsa.gov.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is partnering with The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to make $10 million in new assistance available to help licensed childcare agencies that were impacted by the recent COVID-19 emergency and the March 3 tornado disaster. Starting Tuesday, March 24, agencies will be able to apply for grant money to recoup some of their losses and expenses. Licensed childcare agencies are encouraged to learn about grant opportunities and to apply online by visiting www.childcaretennessee.com.

🔹 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $418,976 to seven community health centers located in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District. The funding may be used for screening and testing, acquiring medical supplies and boosting telehealth capacity. Locally, Clinch River Health Services in Dungannon will receive $53,608.

🔹 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded $2,022,622 to 29 health centers in Tennessee stemming from the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020. Health center recipients in Tennessee may use these awards to address screening and testing needs, acquire medical supplies and boost their telehealth capacity in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Local recipients include East Tennessee State University ($62,041) and the Rural Health Services Consortium in Rogersville ($89,989).

Read more

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Smith: Panic buying causing shortages at Food City

Hawkins man who tested positive for COVID-19 has no idea how he got it, feels fine

Cavaliers' Jones sees promising season cut short

Trump says he hopes US will be reopened by Easter amid virus

Smokies closing for two weeks to help curb outbreak

K-Mets planning ahead with cautious optimism

"Never shut down happiness" -- BoomTown partners with DKA to help downtown businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis

NASCAR’s televised virtual race offers nice diversion

Tokyo Olympics officially postponed until 2021

Sullivan schools give out almost 4,000 meals Monday

Outbreak leaves road racing scene at standstill

Monday, March 23

Schedule changes

🔹 Based on daily changes in the status of the coronavirus pandemic and guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control, The Dollywood Company is delaying the opening of Dollywood and suspending the operations of Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, effective March 24. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins remains open at this time. “The coronavirus crisis is unprecedented, and based on the ever-changing developments, we are constantly re-evaluating our options and hoping to open in May,” Dollywood President Craig Ross said. “We are looking daily at all of our options to present an exciting and entertaining 2020 season that is a great experience for our guests, but our first priority is the safety of our hosts and guests. Dollywood will continue to watch the conditions within our region, consult with our medical experts and follow CDC guidelines to determine the re-opening date for the parks and resort. We will continue to communicate any additional changes as they occur.” For guests with resort reservations or tickets for this period of temporary closure, contact 1-800-DOLLYWOOD for rescheduling information.

🔹 Tusculum University has rescheduled spring commencement to August due to the coronavirus, in an effort to ensure graduating students still have an opportunity to formally celebrate their academic accomplishments, the university announced Monday afternoon. “The university was originally set to hold graduation Saturday, May 9, but to protect the health of students and their families, Tusculum has now scheduled the ceremony for Saturday, Aug. 8. Graduation will occur at 10:30 a.m. in Pioneer Arena and be held for spring and summer graduates. “Graduates will not have to wait until August to have their degrees conferred and their diplomas awarded,” said Dr. Tricia Hunsader, Tusculum’s provost and vice president of academic affairs. She said that will enable graduates to reference their degrees on their resumes and applications for advanced degree programs as soon as possible after the completion of the spring semester.

🔹 The 25th Annual Fiddlers & Fiddleheads Festival, the town of Unicoi’s longest-running festival, has now been canceled amid COVID-19 concerns. Mayor Johnny Lynch made the decision Monday morning after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s announcement Sunday regarding closures of bars, gyms and restaurant dining rooms across the state. “We were hoping it wouldn’t come to this since it was going to be a special year for the festival as it celebrated 25 amazing years,” Mayor Lynch said. “But our main concern is the safety and well-being of our residents and any potential visitors to the community. Given the uncertainty surrounding the ccronavirus and the recent spread into our region, I feel this cancellation is what’s truly best for our citizens.” The event is a joint effort between the Town of Unicoi and the Unicoi Business Alliance. Vendors that have already registered will be contacted and all fees will be refunded.

🔹 The 2020 Watauga Orthopaedics/Times News Relays have been canceled due to the constantly changing landscape of the novel coronavirus pandemic, meet officials said Monday. The meet was scheduled for April 30 and May 1 at Dobyns-Bennett High School and traditionally brings together the best competition between Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. “The cancellation of all Virginia public schools’ remaining academic year and coinciding spring sports season was a big tipping point. It doesn’t make sense to showcase an area all-star meet without all the stars being present,” meet director and Times News sports writer Tanner Cook said.

🔹 Beginning Tuesday, March 24, Kroger Mid-Atlantic stores will dedicate the first hour of operation on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to seniors and other at-risk customers. From 7-8 a.m., these customers can have first access to the store.

🔹 The Salvation Army of Greater Kingsport has canceled its monthly advisory board meeting, originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 24.

🔹 Ballad Heath Foundation has made the decision to amend its spring calendar. The Dickenson Community Hospital Radio Auction, scheduled for April 4-5 (benefiting Dickenson County Hospital Foundation), will be rescheduled to a later date. Wine, Women & Shoes, scheduled for April 18 (providing breast cancer screening programs), will be rescheduled at a later date. Broadway Comes to Greeneville, scheduled for April 26 (benefiting Niswonger Children's Hospital), will be rescheduled at a later date. Boots & Bow Ties, scheduled for May 2 (benefiting Appalachian Highlands Dental Center), will be rescheduled in spring 2021. Ticket sales for these events have been suspended. If tickets were already purchased, the proceeds can be donated to the events’ intended causes. Refunds are also available by calling 423-302-3131 or emailing foundationreply@balladhealth.org“Ballad Health remains committed to our mission, and that means we must take all necessary precautions and adhere to social distancing efforts to flatten the curve and keep our community safe,” said Jack Simpson, president of Ballad Health Foundation. “We look forward to when these events are rescheduled, and we can all come together to benefit these meaningful causes.” Simpson also anticipates a greatly increased demand for the foundation’s patient assistance fund. If anyone would like to help Ballad Health Foundation meet those needs, please consider making a gift today at www.balladhealth.org/foundation.

🔹 The Greater Kingsport Republican Women meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, at Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant has been canceled. The group will meet again on May 4 at the same location. Lunch will begin at 11:30 a.m with the meeting at noon.

🔹 Effective March 24, Kingsport Press Credit Union will transition to closed lobbies and will utilize ATMs, drive thrus and home and mobile banking. A statement reads, “Employees will still be available, so call if you need additional assistance regarding account services, loans, etc. We’ll figure it out together as we go forward in these unusual times.”

🔹 In response to COVID-19 and in order to comply with social distancing recommendations from the CDC and Governor Bill Lee, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is suspending in-person service at all TWRA offices. Until further notice, offices will not be open for walk-in service. People can still call any office, email ask.TWRA@tn.gov, or visit www.TNWildlife.org for information. Licenses and boat registration are available online 24/7/365 at www.GoOutdoorsTennessee.com.

🔹 Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective immediately, all Kingsport Police Department Defensive Driving Schools, to include DDC4 and Alive at 25, will be cancelled through the end of May 2020. Tentative plans are to resume classes in June 2020. Anyone with a case pending in Kingsport City Court that is dependent upon completion of Defensive Driving School for disposition will not be penalized by this unavoidable delay. Anyone who was scheduled to attend a K.P.D. Defensive Driving School between now and May 31, 2020, who has not already been contacted by the court is asked to promptly contact the K.P.D. Records Division at (423) 229-9427 to reschedule their class.

🔹 In response to guidance from state health officials and experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all camping, cabins, group recreation sites and restrooms in the Cherokee National Forest will be closed effective at noon March 23. The closure will remain in effect until at least May 15, at which time it will be reevaluated.

🔹 2Ton Tattoo and Empire Electric Tattoo announced Monday morning that it will close until at least April 6. A statement reads, “We want to protect our environment, artists, families, and most importantly, you (our clients). We want to thank each and everyone of you for your support and your understanding. We will begin getting in touch with our already scheduled appointments. The deposits that have already been placed will be honored. In this time of uncertainty, we hope that everyone stays safe. We will be back soon! This too shall pass.”

News updates

🔹 As of Monday afternoon, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 615 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the state, including two deaths. There are two confirmed cases in Sullivan County and six in Washington County.

🔹 Due to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declaring all schools in the Commonwealth closed for the remainder of year in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, all VHSL spring sports and activities are canceled. The VHSL will hold a conference call Tuesday morning with its VHSL Management Crisis team to discuss all options relating to spring sports and academic activities following the current academic year and into the summer. The VHSL will announce a decision on Tuesday following the meeting. “We need to support our Governor and State Superintendent. These actions were taken to protect Virginians, keep them safe and healthy and to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun. “Our Crisis Management team is made up excellent school representatives and has been vital in all deliberations regarding COVID-19. In every situation, every decision we make has been, and will be, in the best interest of public health, including that of, most importantly, our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and families.”

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee established the COVID-19 Unified Command, a joint effort to be led by Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, to streamline coordination across the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Military. More information regarding COVID-19 response is available at www.tn.gov/governor/covid-19.html.

🔹 Tusculum University learned Monday that a third student has tested positive for the coronavirus. The student had traveled out of state during spring break with the first two students who tested positive. “We are following the same process with this third student as the others, providing to the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office the names of everyone who has had contact with this person. None of these students has been on the Tusculum campus for several days. Tusculum is praying for these students and their families,” a release from the university states.

🔹 The American Electric Power Foundation is donating $288,000 to agencies providing COVID-19 relief efforts across Appalachian Power’s three-state service area. The gift is part of an overall $1.5 million coronavirus relief donation from the AEP Foundation. United Way chapters, many of which have established Community Response Funds related to the virus, will receive $204,000. Food banks and feeding centers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee, as well as the American Red Cross, will receive $84,000 in funding. Local organizations receiving special COVID-19 funding include United Way of Greater Kingsport and United Way of Southwest Virginia. The AEP Foundation is funded by AEP and its utilities, including Appalachian Power.

🔹 Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is teaming up with academic, governmental and and corporate partners in an unprecedented, fast-tracked global effort to develop antibody-based treatments to protect people exposed to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. Researchers from the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC) have rapidly responded to this outbreak by building a comprehensive “toolkit” to identify and analyze antibodies isolated from the blood of survivors for their ability to neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Thousands of antibodies that already have been identified by the VVC are now being analyzed for their ability to inhibit the virus and, more importantly, to prevent it from causing illness. The goal is to develop and manufacture the most promising lead antibodies in preparation for initiating clinical trials to test their efficacy in humans.

Read more

Watauga Orthopaedics/Times News Relays canceled for 2020

Go online to help get your book on

VHSL Crisis Management Team to meet

Kingsport board meeting to be livestreamed

Scott County declares emergency, announces office closures due to COVID-19

Sullivan, Bristol free meals for those 18 and younger launched Monday

Northam: Virginia schools closed for rest of spring semester

Mountain Home outpatient tests positive for COVID-19

Kingsport City Hall, public-facing departments to close

Sunday, March 22

Schedule changes

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is taking immediate steps to ensure access to critical services and benefits for customers while protecting the health of employees and the public in response to COVID-19. After a careful analysis of foot traffic and the health and safety guidelines for COVID-19 provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Tennessee Department of Health, the TDHS has decided to move to appointment only for in person services beginning Monday, March 23, 2020. Local offices will have employees available to respond to questions or applications via telephone. Customers can find the number to their local office by going online here

🔹 Beginning Monday, March 23, the Kingsport Times News offices at 701 Lynn Garden Drive will be closed to the public until further notice.

News updates

🔹 Public health districts across Virginia have activated public health call centers, to answer questions and provide information about COVID-19 and related issues, including symptoms, how to minimize the risk of exposure for yourself and your loved ones, local and statewide conditions, testing resources and how they are used, and what to do if you think you may be ill. You may call any of the centers, but it may be most helpful to contact the center nearest you. Visit vdh.virginia.gov/lenowisco to learn more.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order Sunday limiting restaurants to takeout, drive-thru and delivery services only and closing all bars and gyms across the state. Executive Order 17 also prohibits social gatherings of 10 or more people and restricts visits to nursing homes, retirement homes and long-term care or assisted-living facilities to “essential care only.”

🔹 A second student at Tusculum University has tested positive for coronavirus, the university announced Sunday afternoon. 

Read more

Meals on Wheels makes delivery changes because of pandemic

Lee order to limit restaurant service, close bars and gyms

Sullivan schools give online, at-home learning options

Daily Devotional: In an upside-down world, turn to the living God who hears your cry

Times News offices to close to the public

Saturday, March 21

Schedule changes

🔹 The Upper East Tennessee Senior Golf League has canceled all tournaments until May 11 due to the recommendations of the CDC to not have events that exceed 50 people. Hopefully our league will start up on May 11 at Link Hills Country Club in Greeneville, Tennessee.

🔹 The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings for March 23 and March 24 will be held at the Civic Auditorium, located at 1550 Fort Henry Drive. While Kingsport is still holding these meetings, all attendees will have to adhere to the current CDC guidelines for COVID-19, including avoiding close contact and covering coughs and sneezes. The audio for this meeting is scheduled to be posted to the city website before noon on Wednesday, March 25.

News updates

🔹 Eastman Chemical Company issued the following release: “Due to an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in and around our region along with increases in some popular spring travel destinations, Eastman is instructing all of its Kingsport employees to avoid personal travel until the end of April. We are also encouraging members of the community to take the same precautions. “Right now, we have a limited number of cases in the Tri-Cities region and none of these cases involve Eastman employees, but they are all related to travel outside our area. This is a shared responsibility among all of us in our community and we are asking everyone to pull together as a region, even if that means personal sacrifices, in order to avoid further spread of this virus here at home. We must do this for the sake of all employees, families and community members — particularly those at higher risk of complications — and to avoid disruptions for our local businesses which will be critical for our regional economy.”

🔹 The Kroger Family of Companies (NYSE: KR) announced Saturday it will provide a one-time bonus to every hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing and customer service associate, amounting to $300 for every full-time associate and $150 for every part-time associate. The special bonus will be paid to frontline associates who were hired on or before March 1, covers the payroll period March 8 - 28, and will be payable on April 3. The company today also expanded its COVID-19 emergency leave guidelines to include paid time off for self-isolation and symptoms as verified by an accredited health care professional. This expands the new guidelines, announced on March 14, which allows paid time off for associates diagnosed with or placed under quarantine due to COVID-19. In each scenario, all associates will be eligible to receive their standard pay for up to two weeks (14 days).

🔹 United Methodist congregations, though they may not be having in-person worship services this week, are uniting in their response to the recent devastating health crises, weather events and disasters by donating to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) on Sunday, March 22. Known as UMCOR Sunday, the special offering received in churches of The United Methodist Church helps the agency cover administrative expenses so that donations received at other times of the year can be directed to disaster response efforts. In recognition of the impact the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is having on worship services UMCOR is accepting donations online.

🔹  Bristol Motor Speedway is teaming up with Marsh Regional Blood Center on Monday, March 23, to host a blood drive to assist with the shortage of blood in the Appalachian Highlands region. With a nationwide shortage of blood supply growing, the blood drive provides local residents the opportunity to donate in a time of need. The event will begin Monday at 10 a.m. and run through 4 p.m. at the Marsh Regional mobile unit inside the North Entrance of Bristol Motor Speedway off Hwy 11 E / Volunteer Pkwy.

Read more

Seniors League suspends play through May 11

Lee order to limit restaurant service, close bars and gyms

Lenowisco Health District confirms two cases of COVID-19 in Lee County

Mount Carmel closes library and senior center; city, county meetings canceled

Feds, Virginia announce coronavirus fraud task force

Sullivan County releasing, furloughing inmates

Tennessee reports first COVID-19 death

Friday, March 20

Schedule changes

🔹 Due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19, and the extraordinary circumstances it is causing across the state and nation, Tennessee Extension offices are temporarily closed to public access to help protect the health and safety of the employees and the communities they serve. In a letter to employees on March 19, UT Extension Dean Robert Burns and Tennessee State University Associate Dean of Extension Latif Lighari announced that Extension county offices statewide will close to public access beginning March 20. Additional facilities including regional offices, 4-H Centers, Lone Oaks Farm, the Center for Profitable Agriculture, and the Soil Plant and Pest Center will also be closed to public access.

🔹 Bristol, Tennessee municipal buildings will close to the public at 5 p.m. Friday, March 20, and remain closed until further notice. City Manager Bill Sorah announced the decision Friday afternoon as the city continues to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the region. The Slater Community Center and Steele Creek Nature Center closed earlier this week, and now public access to all other city buildings will be restricted. Community members still will have access to the lobby of the Bristol, Tennessee Police Department, however, and may use a phone available there to request an officer. Additionally, city transit buses will continue to operate on a regular schedule, with fees suspended to ensure transportation to vital community resources remains available. Transit buses will be restricted to 10 passengers at a time. While city buildings are closed, residents may use a variety of bill-paying options and electronic forms to conduct business. Residents are reminded that all city parks remain open, and gate fees at Steele Creek Park are currently waived.

🔹 In response to COVID-19 and in order to comply with social distancing recommendations from the CDC and Governor Lee, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is shortening in-person service at all TWRA offices. Until further notice, office hours will be 8-11 a.m. Monday through Friday. People can still call any office, email ask.TWRA@tn.gov, or visit www.TNWildlife.org for information. Licenses and boat registration are available online 24/7/365 at www.GoOutdoorsTennessee.com, and fishing is a great family-friendly activity that follows recommended social distancing guidelines. Spring turkey season will open April 4 for hunters statewide.

🔹 Salvation Army is continuing its noon meal, but it is now a “grab and go” sack lunch. The dining room will be closed for lunch until further notice. The shelter remains open. However, space may be limited due to the need to distance beds 6-10 feet apart. Salvation Army is still providing social services from its office between 9-4, regular business hours, Monday-Thursday. The process has been streamlined so there is less contact between clients and employees.

🔹 The income tax filing date has been pushed back from April 15, to July 15, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. Mnuchin announced the decision in a tweet Friday saying that at President Donald Trump’s direction “we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”

News updates

🔹 In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation would like to explain the reasons for delays customers and firearms dealers may have experienced this week while securing a firearms background check or appeal in the state, and the steps being taken to alleviate the situation. On Thursday, the Tennessee Instant Check System (TICS) experienced an uncharacteristic delay in processing transactions as a result of three things: a sharp increase in background check requests in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, limited staff access to TBI facilities as a result of an employee’s positive diagnosis, and an approximately one-hour, unplanned outage in the technical connection needed to process the background checks. The increase in background check requests in Tennessee aligns with national trends during the pandemic. TBI processed 14,657 transactions between Thursday, March 12, and Monday, March 16. During the comparable five-day period, February 13, through February 17, TBI processed 7,901 transactions.

🔹 The Northeast Regional Health Office has confirmed three additional cases of COVID-19 as of March 19: two in Washington County and one in Greene County. The Northeast Region Health Officials are working with state and local officials to support the ongoing investigations of COVID-19 cases. The overall risk to the public remains low as COVID-19 is not currently widespread in Tennessee or the United States. As of 3 p.m., there are 228 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the state of Tennessee.

🔹 The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting on Tuesday, March 24 at 7 p.m. will remain open to the public. The town has been closely monitoring news regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) and is keeping the safety of residents as a top priority. In the interest of everyone’s well-being, it is encouraged to take advantage of the live stream video that will be available on Jonesboroughtn.org on Tuesday, March 24, at 7 p.m. It is requested for those in attendance to practice social distancing by sitting 6 feet away from one another as well as sanitizing before entering and after exiting the board room. There will be sanitizer stations at the door.

🔹 As of Friday afternoon, Virginia has 114 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to a statement from Senator Todd Pillion. Tests continue to be conducted in Southwest Virginia.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD) has seen a large increase in the number of unemployment claims. This increase, along with public health concerns, has prompted a change in strategy for the agency. To meet the current demand for unemployment benefits and address public health concerns, the department will limit access to American Job Centers and shift resources to triple the number of staff trained to process claim applications. Starting Monday, March 23, each American Job Center across Tennessee will begin limiting access to facilities and conduct business through phone and internet. This change will allow state-employed staff to switch their focus from workforce development tasks to claims processing. Nearly 200 employees work inside Tennessee’s 23 comprehensive American Job Centers. This shift in job duties will bring the total number of staff focusing on unemployment to approximately 300, which is roughly one-third of the department’s employees.

🔹 Make-A-Wish East Tennessee faces a record number of wishes waiting to be granted as a result of the recent need to postpone all wishes that involve travel due to the public and medical concerns of COVID-19. As nearly 80 percent of wishes involve travel, 970 wishes nationwide and eleven wishes through Make-A-Wish East Tennessee were immediately impacted with additional wishes impacted every day. The challenging circumstances have inspired Make-A-Wish to think creatively about how to bring hope and joy to Make-A-Wish kids during unpredictable and scary times. On Friday, Make-A-Wish announced “Messages of Hope” to give supporters and the general public alike a fun, easy way to help children with critical illnesses without needing to leave the house. Through “Messages of Hope,” Make-A-Wish invites the public to spread hope and anticipation by writing, recording, or photographing themselves delivering messages of encouragement for wish kids waiting for wishes impacted by COVID-19. Before sharing their messages, participants should consider a donation at etn.wish.org to prepare Make-A-Wish to grant the unprecedented number of pending wishes once normal operations resume. The last step is to post the messages to any social media channel including a tag to Make-A-Wish East Tennessee, and the hashtag, #WishesAreWaiting. Two or more friends should also be tagged and challenged because the more messages shared, the greater the impact on wish kids and their families.

🔹 In response to the increased threat of fraud presented by the coronavirus, federal and Virginia state law enforcement leaders announced the formation of the Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force. The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force is a joint federal and state partnership that will be led by Assistant United States Attorneys from both the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia, in partnership with experienced fraud investigators from the FBI and the Virginia State Police. The mission of the task force is to identify, investigate, and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Virginia. Assistant United States Attorney Michael Baudinet will serve as the COVID-19 Fraud Coordinator for the Western District of Virginia. If you believe you have been victim of fraud, or need more information about COVID-19, visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdva/covid-19-fraud.

🔹 Tusculum University was notified Friday morning, March 20, that one of its students tested positive for the coronavirus. A statement from the university reads, “We immediately set in motion a plan instructing all nonessential personnel to begin working remotely. We are also telling all of our students who are on campus that we are closing the residence halls. We are notifying the health department of all campus members who have been in contact with the infected student so those individuals can be contacted by a health department official regarding next steps. Tusculum University is committed to the well-being of all students, faculty and staff and will continue to be a resource for anyone who needs assistance. The university and classes will continue to function, and we will remain on track to finish the remainder of the spring semester. Our prayers go to the student who tested positive, as well as anyone else who might have had contact with that person.”

🔹 In response to the growing network for school-provided meals, in addition to services provided by Second Harvest and local businesses, the First Tennessee Development District has developed a web-based app with locations and details on feeding sites across Northeast Tennessee. This map details the locations and times for food services provided by area school systems for students, Monday through Friday each week across Northeast Tennessee during the closures prompted by COVID-19. The map also provides information on Disaster Pantries facilitated by Second Harvest Food Bank, in addition to businesses who have committed to provide food during this public health crisis. Each symbol indicates a location, which when clicked, provides information on meal times, contact information where possible, and a link to the service provider. This map is designed to be widely shared to help inform residents across the region of the services available to them at this time. The FTDD is committed to working with local school systems, regional partners, and businesses to keep this map updated and current. For information specific to food services, please contact your respective School System. Any inquires about the content of this map or to alter or add information should be directed to info@ftdd.org. The map can be accessed at https://tinyurl.com/netnschoolclosurefeedingsites.

Read more

PETWORKS making temporary changes at shelter

What do you think about the COVID-19 outbreak?

Regional banks, credit unions changing operations due to COVID-19

Hawkins clerk limits three customers to offices, plans drive-thru

Gov. Northam adds more measures to Virginia emergency declaration

UPDATE: State Health Department reports two cases of COVID-19 in Washington County

Trump moves on invoking powers to spur virus supplies

BrightRidge to end walk-in service due to COVID-19

Hawkins schools, Rogersville City now closed until April 20

The Latest: Standard testing won't be enforced in schools

First Washington County resident tests positive for COVID-19

School meals on wheels: Kingsport buses deliver free breakfast, lunch

Superintendent: Uncertainty in Wise County Schools spring semester continues

Thursday, March 19

Schedule changes

🔹 Barter Theatre is now targeting the end of May for the start of its 2020 season. After a 2019 budget shortfall, Barter launched an urgent fundraising campaign, and underwent significant organizational changes that resulted in a strong financial start to Barter’s 2020 season. The unforeseeable catastrophe of the coronavirus pandemic has put a sudden halt on Barter’s positive trajectory. Barter’s aggressive measures to reduce costs include furloughing 87 staff members and moving the remainder to reduced wages. Barter is also working to find alternative sources of revenue, but these actions alone will not be enough to sustain the company through this difficult time. To ensure that Barter is able to reopen for the 2020 season, it has created a COVID-19 Relief Fund, and is asking patrons to consider purchasing Barter gift cards or tickets for shows later in the year. In addition to the history and culture that Barter contributes, a 2013 economic impact study reported that Barter directly and indirectly generates $34 million annually in local business and tax revenue. To learn more about Barter’s plan for the coming weeks and to read a statement from Producing Artistic Director, Katy Brown, visit bartertheatre.com.

🔹 In a joint statement to citizens of Bristol, Johnson City, Kingsport and all of Sullivan and Washington counties, regional leaders announced that events and programs in the localities will be suspended, and recreation centers and other facilities that draw crowds will be closed. Other services, such as public transit, will operate as regularly as possible based upon the guidance from public health officials. All non-essential meetings have also been canceled, and face-to-face contact is being limited. Citizens are strongly encouraged to conduct business with their city or county online or via phone. Each city is maintaining a webpage with up-to-date schedule changes and information. Please check them often: https://www.bristoltn.org/covid19https://www.johnsoncitytn.org/covid-19https://www.kingsporttn.gov/covid-19-response

🔹 The Mount Carmel Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 26, at 6:30 p.m. has been cancelled.

🔹 Starting on March 23, Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area & Amusement Park will be temporarily closed to the public. The business decision was made in the interest of protecting employees and guests by limiting possible exposure to COVID-19. Ober Gatlinburg will continue to closely monitor CDC recommendations and will notify the public when they are able to reopen. For guests who wish to reschedule their visit, the company will honor unused pre-purchased tickets for one year from the date of purchase. For questions regarding ticket sales and general information, please email fun@obergatlinburg.com or call 865-436-5423. “We sincerely care about our employees and our guests and feel that this precautionary step is in everyone’s best interest,” Ober Gatlinburg President Bruce Anders said. “The health and safety of our employees andguests is our top priority.”

🔹 Some retailers are temporarily closing their stores while others remain open at The Pinnacle during the current COVID-19 crisis. “Currently, all our restaurants remain open, some with drive-through or curbside pick-up only available,” explains Pinnacle Developer Steve Johnson. “Bass Pro Shop, Best Buy and CarMax remain open at this time while other retailers have temporarily closed. Our hearts go out to employees who are temporarily impacted by the closings.” Retailers that have temporarily closed their stores are Alumni Hall, American Eagle, Bath & Body Works, Belk, Carters, Dick’s Sporting Goods, ELife Nails, Francesca’s, GAP, Just Jump, Justice, Kay’s, Kirkland's, Hallmark, Lane Bryant, Loft Outlet, Maurice’s, Old Navy, Osh-Kosh, Party City, Surf & Dirt, The Pinnacle 12, Torrid, Ulta and Yankee Candle. “I recommend that consumers monitor each retailer’s website for the most updated information on their store hours, temporary closings and projected re-openings when the crisis ends. Everything is fluid in their decisions as to when their actual re-openings will occur,” Johnson said. “I urge that everyone remain safe and healthy during this time.”

🔹 Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has directed the Virginia Department of State Police to suspend the enforcement of Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections for 60 days. For a comprehensive list of actions Northam has announced to combat COVID-19 in Virginia, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus.

🔹 The VHSL Foundation has postponed the VHSL Foundation Golf Tournament scheduled for Tuesday, May 12. The tournament, presented by VACORP, has been rescheduled for Monday, October 5. at the Spring Creek Golf Club in Zion Crossroads, east of Charlottesville. Teams who registered prior to the postponement, have a secured spot for October 5. Teams who are not able to accommodate the change in date, may contact Hannah Catherine Munro (hcmunro@vhsl.org) for additional details. Online registration is open and teams may be reserved at: https://gofan.co/app/school/VHSL/Golf

🔹 In keeping with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the First Tennessee Development District is reducing on-site operations to limit exposure and slow the potential spread of COVID-19 in the region. Through March 27, the FTDD offices, located at 3211 N. Roan St. in Johnson City, will remain closed to all except essential personnel. Due to the nature of the district’s work, the intent is to maintain vital operational programs and public health services such CHOICES, CREVAA, Information & Assistance, Options Counseling and Meals for Seniors. Contingencies have also been prepared to enable staff to work remotely, ensuring the district is able to meet the needs of the eight counties and twenty municipalities across Northeast Tennessee.

🔹 In accordance with the CDC guidelines and at the most recent recommendation of NASCAR, Kingsport Speedway is postponing all events through May 3 due to coronavirus concerns. A statement released Thursday afternoon said, “The safety and health of our fans, race teams, staff and other stakeholders remains our highest priority. We plan to have a full season of racing and will provide a revised 2020 schedule and additional updates in a timely manner as they are available. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and our continued prayers go out to everyone during these difficult times.”

🔹 Effective immediately, the Jonesborough office of the Heritage Alliance is closed to the public from March 19 through April 20. Staff will still be available by phone and by email. In the coming weeks, the Heritage Alliance will be increasing its online content with digital exhibits and more YouTube videos on the Chester Inn’s YouTube page. During this time, the Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum will also be closed with plans to reopen on April 18. Town Tours will also be suspended until April 18. The Jonesborough & Washington County History Museum and Archives will be closed to the public until further notice. The Architectural Salvage Warehouse will reopen for the season on April 18 and be open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The History Happy Hours scheduled for March 26 and April 16 have been cancelled.

🔹 Lighthouse Productions has canceled its fourth annual “Honor Our First Responders Concert” featuring Karen Peck & New River and The Guardians. The concert was originally scheduled for April 4 at Ross N. Robinson Middle School.

News updates

🔹 Mountain Empire Older Citizens Transit, with support of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Federal Transit Administration, will offer transportation free for the general public beginning March 23 through April 30. MEOC Transit serves Lee, Scott and Wise counties and Norton. Normal fares range from 75 cents to $1.50 per boarding. MEOC Transit, which operates a demand-response service, is maintaining its normal operating schedule for now and has increased frequency of its bus sanitization routines during the pandemic. Service is offered Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. As always, MEOC Transit services are for all ages. To schedule a ride, call (276) 523-7433 at least 24 hours in advance. MEOC remains committed to providing service for essential trips in the community, including to medical providers, pharmacies and grocery stores, said MEOC Executive Director Michael Wampler. “We hope that, in some small way, waiving fares will help reduce the burden of those struggling the most.”

🔹 As of 3 p.m. Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health reports the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee is 154. That includes 75 in Davidson County, 30 in Williamson County, 4 in Shelby County and 2 in Knox County. There is one confirmed case in Sullivan County.

🔹 The United Way of Washington County TN has established a Washington County Community COVID-19 Response Fund, which will provide local support to local nonprofits. One hundred percent of the donations to this fund will go directly to vetted nonprofit programs helping citizens in Washington County who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. For more details about the fund and to donate, visit https://uwowc.org/covid-19/.

🔹 William Wall, executive director of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, said Thursday morning that no cases of COVID-19 have been reported within a local correctional facility statewide. The local correctional facilities have been supplied with examples of screening tools, suggestions, prevention methods and presentations regarding the coronavirus. Local facility administrations have been extremely diligent in implementing protocols which best serve their community, inmates and employees to prevent or suppress the spread of the virus. “I hope this will provide a level of solace to the public who are worried about their loved ones that are incarcerated or working within one of the local correctional facilities,” Wall said in a statement. “TCI will continue to provide service, resources, and the ever-changing information to the local facilities as we receive it, please visit the TCI website for information at www.tn.gov/tci.”

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Tennessee Aquarium offers virtual visits to ease boredom of social distancing

Information sharing platform created to help local businesses

Five hand-washing stations now available in downtown Kingsport

We deliver: Norton schools handling feeding challenge

Church Hill, Rogersville senior centers shut down, but Mount Carmel's stays open

Kingsport schools release at-home study plans, add bus meal routes

COVID-19 forces more changes to Virginia colleges, businesses

Kingsport Chamber launches campaign to help small businesses survive crisis

Creation Kingdom Zoo launches educational video series, keeps outdoor exhibits open

Wednesday, March 18

Schedule changes

🔹 Due to the escalating concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board’s Executive Committee has made the decision to cancel the HCIDB meeting set for Thursday, March 26. “Safety is of the utmost importance, and with the way things are so rapidly developing, we feel limiting potential exposure is the safest course of action. I sincerely hope everyone stays safe and healthy through these trying times we are facing as a community and world,” the meeting announcement said.

🔹 PETWORKS Animal Shelter announced adjusted hours for the shelter at 2141 Idle Hour Road in Kingsport. It will remain open all days except Sunday and Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m. Appointments are requested for pet adoptions, fosters and drop-offs. In order to preserve space for incoming animals and lost pets, we temporarily will not be accepting surrendered pets unless the owner has passed away or is in an emergency situation. Call 423-247-1671 or visit petworkstn.com to learn more or to make a donation.

🔹 The Music on the Square Anniversary Gala and Masterpiece Mingle in Jonesborough have been postponed. The StoryTown Radio Show for March, Easter Eggstravaganza, and the Donald Davis storytelling concerts have been canceled.

🔹 The Rogersville Men’s Prayer Breakfast will be postponed until further notice, according to a statement from Dr. Blaine Jones. “We know God is in control, first and foremost. We know He wants us to inundate Him with our prayers for healing of our nation — from viruses, politics, hatred and other issues as well. He also wants us to be understanding and take precautions in our daily lives. That being said and to err on the side of caution, the Rogersville Men’s Prayer Breakfast will be postponed until further notice. Please, observe ‘social distancing,’ avoid large crowds/groups, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face and, most of all, continue your prayers to Our God and Heavenly Father for healing of our nation and our world.”

🔹 Jonesborough Little League has suspended games into April.

🔹 Mountain Empire Older Citizens has postponed its annual Walkathon for the first time in its history. The event is the largest fundraiser for the Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly. MEOC hopes to hold the fundraiser later in the year. MEOC also also postponed its Harold Lester Memorial Golf Tournament, and has temporarily closed eight senior nutrition sites in Big Stone Gap, Coeburn, Pound, Norton, Hiltons, Nickelsville, Jonesville and Pennington Gap. Site participants will receive nutrition services through the home-delivered meals program, plus socialization via phone and internet. Mountain Empire Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) has enacted outside visitor restrictions and is prioritizing urgent care needs of its participants.

🔹 The Town of Jonesborough announced the closure of the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, the McKinney Center and the Jonesborough Senior Center, effective Wednesday, March 18, until at least April 17. If you have questions regarding tickets or visitor information, call the Visitor Center at 423-753-1010 or McKinney Center at 423-753-0562. The Meals on Wheels program will continue with drivers increasing cleaning and sanitation efforts. Members in need of meals to be delivered are asked to contact the Jonesborough Senior Center at 423-753-4781. The MyRide program will continue rides to the grocery store, doctor, pharmacy, etc. To set this up, call Susan Katko at 423-788-4770.

🔹 The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre has canceled the remaining performances of “Shrek.” Ticket holders have three options: a donation, a voucher or a reimbursement. “Because of the theatre’s loss of revenue, please consider permitting the ticket payment to be a much-needed donation. However, ticket holders may request a gift certificate (voucher) for one of the season’s remaining shows, or a reimbursement.” For a voucher, contact madelyn.goward@yahoo.com or call 423-782-8733. For reimbursements or for season pass-holder credit, call 423-753-1010.

🔹 The Town of Jonesborough announced the Recorders Office and Administrative Area of Town Hall has temporarily closed to the general public as of Wednesday, March 18, and is looking to reopen April 17. The general public can still access the public safety dispatcher area. Until April 17, residents can pay their water bill, tax payments, police fines and other payments online, by phone or through the mail. A drop box in the door opening to Town Hall, located at the covered connection with the Post Office, is accessible to the public for payment drop-off as well as a drive-by box at the end of the Post Office parking lot. To pay over the phone, call 423-753-1040.

🔹 Northeast State Community College announced the cancellation of a number of events, including transfer advising visits from Bethel (March 19), UT Chattanooga (March 19), LMU (March 23), Tusculum (March 26) and Austin Peay (March 31) at the Blountville campus and ETSU (March 19) at the Elizabethton campus. Other canceled events are: Women’s History month speaker Paula Casey, March 19; USDA site visit and TEC tour, March 23; Holston Stamp Club meeting, March 19; Moms Demand Action meeting, March 28; debate tournament, March 28; Tri-Cities Rotary Club, every Monday through March; Civil Air Patrol, every Monday through March; Civil Air Patrol/Cyber Patriot Training, every Saturday through April 4; TECTA from ETSU, April 1; Tennessee Math Teachers Association math contest, April 7; and spring career fair, April 8. During the campus closure, the bookstore on the Blountville campus will be closed. The bookstore website will remain open and accessible for students. Also postponed are Arduino Day, March 31; Scholars Attic Rummage Sale, April 2-3; and “Echoes and Images” art exhibition and reading, April 

🔹 At the recommendation of the CDC and the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, the City of Kingsport will close the Kingsport Public Library and all other community centers, effective at 5 p.m., Thursday, until further notice. Additionally, all rentals of city facilities are suspended until at least April 3. This decision comes from City Manager Chris McCartt. The closures include Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium (the park itself will remain open), Kingsport Aquatic Center, Kingsport Carousel, Kingsport Farmers Market, Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts, Kingsport Public Library, Kingsport Senior Center, Renaissance Center and Kingsport Parks and Recreation’s Lynn View Community Center, VO Dobbins Sr. Complex, Brickyard Park and Domtar Park. All of Kingsport’s parks and on-site bathrooms remain open at this time, but all programming including athletics are suspended. At this time, all other city offices remain open. If you have rented a city facility between now and April 3, please contact the facility. As of March 17, the CDC recommends that for the next 15 days, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events of 10 or more people; and for the next eight weeks, cancel events of 50 or more people. If anyone who has already booked a rental has questions or wishes to cancel, please reach out to the facility directly.

🔹 The Kingsport Area Transit Service (KATS) will begin limiting the number of passengers in transit vehicles to no more than 10 at one time. To ensure riders continue to get to essential destinations, passengers can assist by following guidelines to avoid discretionary travel and practicing social distancing. In an effort to provide additional vehicle sanitation, KATS will stop fixed-route service for one hour from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Buses will not run during this hour so that the vehicles can receive disinfectant treatments. To learn more, visit kingsporttransit.org.

🔹 All services at Bloomingdale Baptist Church will be canceled through at least April 4, the church announced on its Facebook page. The office will be open during normal business hours. Concerning services, we will be live streaming Sunday morning services as well as recording videos of Bible lessons throughout this time to post on our website, Facebook, and YouTube and will try compile these weekly messages on DVD for those without Internet access.

🔹 The Republicans of Kingsport has canceled its regular meeting scheduled to take place April 6 at Food City on Eastman Road due to the coronavirus pandemic.

🔹 The City of Kingsport Senior Center and Renaissance Center closed at noon, Wednesday, and will remain closed until further notice.

🔹 The Kingsport Carousel is closed until further notice.

🔹 Due to COVID-19 and in cooperation with CDC guidelines, First Presbyterian Church is postponing all of its April concerts. The church will notify the community when these events are rescheduled.

🔹 Based on recommendations from President Donald Trump, Gov. Ralph Northam and the nation’s health protection agency that all mass gatherings be canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, the Carter Family Fold will be closed until May 2. Should further closures be necessary, announcements will be made on the Fold’s website and Facebook page prior to those events. “We hope that circumstances change and we can re-start our Saturday shows before that time. We regret that cancelling shows is necessary, but we want to do all we can to keep everyone safe.”

🔹 The 2020 UVA Wise volleyball alumni game, originally scheduled for Saturday, March 28, inside the David J. Prior Convocation Center has been canceled due to the latest developments regarding COVID-19.

🔹 The TSSAA Hall of Fame luncheon and induction ceremony, originally scheduled for April 18, has been postponed. In a release, the TSSAA said “it is our hope that we will be able to have this event some time this fall... and will make an announcement when a new date is finalized.”

🔹 The 2020 Virginia High School Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, scheduled for Sunday, April 26, has been postponed until Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Charlottesville. Fourteen athletes, coaches and contributors make up the Class of 2020. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased on-line: https://gofan.co/app/VHS.

🔹 The Tusculum University Cheer and Dance Tryouts, scheduled for April 26, have been canceled.

🔹 Tusculum College’s Make-A-Wish 5k Run/Walk has been canceled. If you still wish to donate to the Tusculum Athletics Make-A-Wish fundraising efforts, contact Jenna Restivo at jrestivo@tusculum.edu.

🔹 The East Tennessee Historical Association announced Wednesday that the Museum of East Tennessee History, located in the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville, will be closed March 19-April 3. “We will continue to monitor the situation and re-evaluate as needed going forward.” All ETHS public programming — Brown Bags, lectures, genealogy classes, teacher workshops, and student museum tours —have been postponed for dates to be determined when it is deemed to be safe for public gatherings. The ETHS Annual Meeting and Awards, scheduled for May 5, has been postponed and will be rescheduled for later in the summer.

News updates

🔹 As of 2 p.m., Wednesday, the Tennessee Department of Health reports the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee is 98. That includes 58 in Davidson County, 24 in Williamson County, 4 in Shelby County and 2 each in Knox and Sumner counties. There is one confirmed case in Sullivan County. Seven other counties also have one confirmed case. 

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee provided an update on Tennessee’s efforts around COVID-19 relief. Among the highlights, it says 15,000 state employees are currently working from home through the state’s Alternative Workplace Solutions (AWS) program with plans in place to place another 8,400 employees on AWS. It also says Lee spoke with the Grocers Association Wednesday and confirmed the strength of the supply chain, and that Tennesseans should grocery shop as they normally would and avoid stockpiling and hoarding.

🔹 Marsh Regional Blood Center has issued an urgent call for donations. As schools and local organizations close for several weeks, thereby canceling planned blood drives, Marsh Regional Blood Center faces the possibility it will be unable to meet the needs of patients in this region, a release reads. “We need people to turn out in force and donate,” said Don Campbell, director of Marsh Regional. “Nationally, blood drives are being canceled, and hospitals and health systems are in urgent need for donations. This could turn into an unprecedented blood shortage, unless our donors come out and give as soon as they can. If you’re healthy, feel well and haven’t been exposed to COVID-19, we need you to donate now.”

🔹 Earlier today, Ballad Health sent out a press release detailing how COVID-19 is affecting blood supply. Marsh Regional Blood Center is issuing an urgent call for donations. More information on this and other COVID-19 updates and information are available on www.balladhealth.org/covid19. Total positive COVID-19 cases in Ballad Health facilities: 0

🔹 Northeast State Community College will transition all face-to-face classes to to online instruction for the remainder of the spring semester. Students should check D2L for information about course assignments and check their Northeast State email and the college’s website for further updates.

🔹 Make-A-Wish East Tennessee announced Make-A-Wish America “has made the difficult decision to postpone all wish travel, as well as wish kid participation in all activities and events related to Make-A-Wish that involve large gatherings, until further notice” in the wake of COVID-19 uncertainty. On average, 77 percent of wishes involve air travel. Make-A-Wish East Tennessee has postponed 11 wishes across its 36-county territory. Nationwide, 970 wishes were immediately impacted with 30 more wishes estimated to be postponed each day.” 

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Southwest Virginia school systems kick off meal deliveries

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COVID-19: What do you really need to know?

Tuesday, March 17

Schedule changes

🔹 The Washington County Tennessee Library will close to the public, effective 6 p.m., March 18, until further notice. In addition, in accordance with CDC recommendations, all programs will be suspended until May 11. “Although our doors will be closed, staff will still be in the building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to renew books, answer questions and any other help we can provide. All materials may be returned in our book and A/V drops. We will strive to provide the best service possible to our patrons during this uncertain time.” Patrons can reach the Jonesborough Library at 423-753-1800 and the Gray Library at 423-477-1550. For links to the library’s many online services, visit www.wclibrarytn.org.

🔹 The closure of Bristol City Schools, Kingsport City Schools and Sullivan County Schools has been extended through Friday, April 3, 2020. This includes all extra-curricular and athletic activities.

🔹 The Rogersville City School special called board meeting for Thursday, March 19, has been postponed. Date will be announced at a later time.

🔹 The fish fry at Oak Glen Community Center in Fall Branch, scheduled for March 20, has been canceled.

🔹 Volunteer Ruritan of West Carters Valley has canceled its fish fry scheduled for Friday, March 20.

🔹 St. Dominic Catholic Church in Kingsport has canceled its fish fry scheduled for Friday, March 20.

🔹 The Sullivan County Department of Archives and Tourism announced it has canceled its “Heritage Fridays” programs in March. Friday’s event at Bristol Motor Speedway, the April 3 event at Warriors Path and April 17 event at Kingsport Theatre Guild are all canceled.

🔹 The Hawkins County Commission meeting, scheduled for March 23, at 6 p.m. has been canceled.

🔹 The Appalachian District United Methodist Fellowship meeting, scheduled for Monday, March 23, has been canceled due to the coronavirus problem.

🔹 The steak dinner by Fairview #80 Order of Eastern Star, planned for March 29, has been canceled.

🔹 Virginia’s 75 Department of Motor Vehicles offices, as well as mobile units, will close to the public. Online services will remain available, and anyone needing to renew a license or vehicle registration is encouraged to do so online. For those who cannot renew online, or whose license or registration expires before May 15, DMV will grant a 60-day extension.

🔹 United Way of Southwest Virginia announced that, “Due to the uncertainty of current health concerns, we have asked our employees to postpone in-person trainings and events, as well as work remotely as advised by President Trump. These were difficult but necessary decisions. We will remain accessible and operational and intend to share content through email and social media platforms.”

🔹 The Virginia High School League announced, “Official team matches for VHSL esports will be suspended for the next two weeks. Continuation of regular season matches will be reassessed during this time. Students will continue to have access to their PlayVS platform accounts, and if they have access to equipment outside their school facilities, can continue to play the games remotely. Not all students or systems have the same access to resources, and we feel it best to follow the instructions of the Governor and State Superintendent, and suspend esports programs along with all other school activities.

News updates

🔹 Ballad Health and East Tennessee State University announced Tuesday that Dr. Jonathan Moorman, division chief for ETSU’s Infectious, Inflammatory and Immunologic Disease and vice chair of research and scholarship at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine, is joining the Ballad Health Corporate Emergency Operations Center (CEOC) as a liaison with ETSU and the medical community. More details on this and all COVID-19 updates and information are available on www.balladhealth.org/COVID19Total positive COVID-19 cases in Ballad Health facilities: 0. 

🔹 The Southern Conference is canceling all athletics-related activities for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year following unanimous votes of the league’s Council of Presidents and directors of athletics. It includes competition, championships, organized practices and meetings, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. “With the recent developments during this unprecedented coronavirus crisis, the membership feels it is necessary to revise our position and cancel all athletic related activities for the spring,” Southern Conference Commissioner Jim Schaus said. “The health and safety of student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans is of utmost importance and discontinuing all activities is prudent and necessary. My heart breaks for those student-athletes who will not get the opportunity to compete in Southern Conference regular-season and championship events this year as well as some potentially in NCAA championships. However, protecting their health will always be most important and supporting their welfare our hallmark.”

🔹 Food City is adjusting store hours of operation to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily, and designating the first hour of operation from 7 to 8 a.m. for customers 65 and older, as well as customers with underlying health conditions. “At Food City, the safety of our valued customers and dedicated team of associates is our top priority. With the continuing health concerns surrounding COVID-19, effective immediately, we are temporarily adjusting our store hours of operation to 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. daily, to give our associates additional time to clean, sanitize and restock. The first hour of operation from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m. will be specifically designated for customers 65 and older, as well as customers with underlying health conditions to shop to avoid busier shopping periods. We are working diligently to continue to maintain stock levels to service our customers and are in constant communication with supply chain teams.”

🔹 Kroger Mid-Atlantic announced adjusted operating hours, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Kroger stores and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Kroger Fuel Centers until further notice. The company also enacted its Emergency Leave Guidelines, allowing paid time off for associates diagnosed with, or placed under mandatory quarantine, for COVID-19. To keep stories stocked and to support those looking for permanent jobs, Kroger Mid-Atlantic also said it has hundreds of immediate positions available. The positions are combined across our retail stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers. Candidates may apply via jobs.kroger.com, and could be placed for employment within several days of applying.

🔹 The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger/Zero Waste Foundation announced a $3 million commitment to rapidly deploy hunger-relief resources to communities disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation’s $3 million commitment will be equally distributed between the Foundation's nonprofit partners, Feeding America and No Kid Hungry. The funding will not only support local food banks nationwide, but also fund initiatives that ensure children, whose schools may be closed, still have access to nutritious meals.

🔹 Conference Carolinas announced it has decided to cancel its spring championships and the remainder of its athletics competitions through the end of the 2019-20 academic year. The conference had tried to keep open the possibility of returning to athletics competition and host its spring championships in April, but it has been determined that this is no longer viable due to the continued evolution of the COVID-19 public health threat. “All involved in Conference Carolinas have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to see if there was any way that we could continue athletics competition this academic year, but we believe it is not in our best interest for numerous reasons,” Commissioner Chris Colvin said. “Once again, we understand the ramifications of what this means for our student-athletes, coaches and administrators. However, the growing scale of the pandemic coupled with the NCAA’s recent decision to grant an additional season of eligibility to spring sports student-athletes changes the dynamic for our member institutions and student-athletes.” Last week, the NCAA made the decision to cancel all of its remaining winter and spring championships. The safety and well-being of Conference Carolinas student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans are always of the utmost importance. Conference Carolinas will continue to monitor all of the important and relevant information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

🔹 Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) issued the following statement on Ninth Congressional District traveling staff office hours: “The coronavirus outbreak has led to a great deal of uncertainty in planning for the coming weeks, and this includes the schedule for Ninth District traveling staff office hours. Some of the locations that host my staff in the Ninth District’s jurisdictions have decided to close temporarily during this public health situation, and others could make the same decision. If your jurisdiction is still scheduled to host traveling office hours, I encourage you to call my district office in Abingdon or check my social media accounts during the duration of the coronavirus outbreak to make sure they are still being held. If you planned to attend the traveling office hours in a jurisdiction where they have been canceled, please contact my district offices. The Abingdon office can be reached at 276-525-1405, and the Christiansburg office can be reached at 540-381-5671. Contacting these offices could also allow for making alternative arrangements for meetings with my staff.” 

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced additional steps to help Virginians impacted by novel coronavirus (COVID-19) stop the spread of the virus in the Commonwealth, and to protect public health. “Everyone must play a role to help flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of this virus, and that starts with social distancing,” said Governor Northam. “We know this will be a hardship for many businesses, and we are assisting workers affected by closures. Public health relies on every individual using common sense and making responsible decisions. We can and will get through this difficult time. But we must work together to do so.” Among the steps: Northam told Virginians to avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, per federal guidelines. This does not include normal operations at essential services such as manufacturers, distribution centers, airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, grocery stores, or pharmacies. Those with chronic health conditions or aged 65 or older should self-quarantine. Public health experts advise that individuals with underlying medical conditions and those aged 65 or older are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. All restaurants, fitness centers and theaters are mandated to significantly reduce their capacity to 10 patrons, or close. Restaurants are encouraged to continue carry-out and takeaway options. 

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam requested and the Supreme Court of Virginia granted a judicial emergency in response to COVID-19. From Monday, March 16, through Monday, April 6, non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings in all district and circuit courts are suspended absent a specific exemption. This includes a prohibition on new eviction cases for tenants who are unable to pay rent as a result of COVID-19. All non-exempted court deadlines are tolled and extended for a period of 21 days.

🔹 Zaxby’s announced its services will be limited to drive-thru only, effective today. “All Zaxby’s team members will continue to take additional steps to clean and thoroughly sanitize the restaurants to safeguard the health and safety of our guests using the drive-thru. This includes our standard practice of strict cleaning and hygiene-related protocols, disinfecting work areas, equipment and apparel, and not working while sick,” the statement said.

🔹 Bojangles announced it will close its dining rooms across all its restaurants and offer only to-go options, including drive-thru service, takeout and delivery where available, to support local communities’ efforts to control the spread of coronavirus. The change will take effect immediately. Most stores will continue to operate on a normal schedule with some flexibility for individual franchise operators who deem it necessary to adjust hours to support team members and customers effectively.

Read more

NASCAR intends to run all Cup races

Three Sullivan systems now out until at least April 6

COVID-19 in Sullivan: a matter of when, not if, community spread will be detected

ETSU establishes COVID-19 testing site

Make-a-wish event in Kingsport postponed

Food City adjusts store hours of operation, will hire 2,500 associates

Kingsport schools feeding program open to all 18 and younger

Monday, March 16 

Schedule changes

🔹 NASCAR announced the Food City 500 race weekend, April 3-5, at Bristol Motor Speedway has been postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date. BMS officials will continue to work closely with NASCAR on a rescheduled race date, while maintaining contact with local and federal government and health officials for the latest information on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

🔹 University of Tennessee Interim President Randy Boyd has announced all in-person delivery of classes will be moved online for the remainder of the spring semester and alternative commencement ceremonies will be planned at all UT campuses in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. “In an effort to avoid further disruption for our students, faculty and staff, we will move instruction entirely online for the remainder of the spring semester,” Boyd said. “In addition, commencement ceremonies will not be held in May. Each campus is looking at alternative commencement options at this time.” Each campus will be sending out specific communications to their faculty, students and staff regarding the impact to its respective campuses.

🔹 The YMCA of Bristol will close at 9 p.m., Monday, March 16, and remain closed until at least Monday, March 30, the YMCA Board of Directors and CEO Rick Matthews announced Monday. “As an organization rooted in social responsibility, we must do our part and take the steps needed to help slow the spread of this virus,” Matthews says. “Our decision to temporarily close the facility is based on the advice of state and national government and health agencies, and has one central goal in mind — to protect the health and well-being of our community and staff. We will continue to monitor the situation so that we make the most informed and thoughtful decisions throughout this unprecedented event.”

🔹 The City of Bristol, Tennessee, announced certain city services may be modified in order to limit the potential for spreading the virus. Effective Tuesday, March 17, all parks and recreation programming, including senior adult trips, instructor-led classes and special events are canceled until further notice. Efforts will be made to reschedule programs, and participant fees will be refunded for canceled programs. All city parks and facilities, including the Slater Community, will remain open at this time. Anyone feeling ill is strongly encouraged to avoid these areas and stay home. The Citizens Police Academy, set to begin April 6, has been canceled. Driving schools conducted by the Bristol TN Police Department are canceled for the remainder of March. Bristol, TN, Municipal and Juvenile Court judicial proceedings remain suspended through Tuesday, March 31.

🔹 Kingsport Speedway is postponing its 2020 season opener, originally scheduled for March 21, due to concerns over coronavirus. The event will take place at a date to be announced later, according to a news release issued late Monday.

🔹 Due to concerns surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and out of an abundance of caution for the health and well-being of our staff, volunteers, members and visitors, the offices of your Kingsport Chamber are temporarily closed. Staff members are working from home and have access to emails and voicemails and will respond to any messages accordingly. For general information or any questions, please call 423-392-8800 and someone will respond to your call. Thanks for your understanding and please be safe and stay well.

🔹 The Virginia Department of Corrections announced Monday that volunteers will not be allowed to enter correctional facilities until further notice. Last week, the Virginia DOC canceled all offender visitation until further notice. While visitation at correctional facilities is cancelled for now, off-site video visitation, facilitated through Assisting Families of Inmates (AFOI), remains available.

🔹 Keep Kingsport Beautiful is canceling its March 19 “Edible Landscaping” seminar with Christy Shivell of Shy Valley Farm Studio & Garden. In addition, the Keep Kingsport Beautiful Tree Fund Planting scheduled for Friday, April 3, has been postponed until further notice.  

🔹 All Kingsport-sponsored programs, classes and events have been suspended indefinitely. This decision comes from City Manager Chris McCartt at the recommendation of the CDC and the Sullivan County Regional Health Department. All city facilities will remain open under normal operating hours. City staff will attempt to reschedule any paid programs and honor tickets that have already been sold.

🔹 Hands On! Discovery Center will close to the general public from Wednesday, March 18, to Tuesday, March 31. “The health and safety of our community is our top priority. We hope to re-open the Discovery Center as soon as possible with guidance from health officials,” the announcement read. “If you have any questions, please contact us through social media or email at handson@visithandson.org.”

🔹 Symphony of the Mountains, at the direction of its board, has canceled or postponed most remaining concerts and events for the 2019-2020 season. The “Happy Birthday Beethoven Celebration,” originally scheduled for Saturday, March 14, will now occur as part of the 2020-21 season. The Voices of the Mountains concert, scheduled for April 3, has been canceled, along with all remaining rehearsals. The Youth and Primo Orchestra concerts and Youth for Youth concert have been canceled, along with all remaining rehearsals for the season. The “Viennese Ball” Symphony Gala, scheduled for April 4, has been postponed until Sept. 19 at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center. The SOTM Brass Quintet concert, on April 26, in Big Stone Gap is still planned. A decision regarding the event will be made in April.

🔹 Second Harvest Food Bank and community pantry/soup kitchen partners continue to operate normal hours. “We are working with agency partners to establish emergency disaster pantries and communicating with school officials to determine if mobile pantries are needed. The food bank has established critical function plans to maintain basic business operations if needed,“ Rhonda Chafin, Executive Director Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, said Monday.

🔹 YWCA NETN and SWVA has canceled its Easter Eggstravaganza. “We know this event is a beloved tradition for many families, and have not taken this decision lightly. However, the health, safety and security of our staff, volunteers, their families and yours is of utmost importance to us,” the statement said.

🔹 The Make-A-Wish Foundation has postponed a special wish by 6-year-old Lucas Kinley that was to take place in Kingsport on Thursday and Friday. Lucas was planning to be a superhero and save his home town of Kingsport, with the help of Kingsport police, fire and Pal's Sudden Service. A date on when the wish will take place has not been determined.

🔹 Hawkins County Schools and Rogersville City School will be closed from Tuesday, March 17, through Tuesday, March 31, in reaction to COVID-19 concerns.

🔹 In a release issued Monday afternoon, UETHDA announced changes to its commodity food distribution for March. “Due to the expanding Covid-19 pandemic, the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency will begin adjusting all Commodity Distributions for the month of March. Items will be distributed through a drive-thru option on a first come, first served basis, to income eligible households until all commodities are gone. This will provide for the safety of recipients as well as the volunteers and staff. All recipients must be residents of Tennessee to be eligible for this service. This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Visit www.uethda.org to learn more.

🔹 NCG Cinema announced it will close all 24 NCG locations, including the Fort Henry Mall location in Kingsport. “With the well-being of our NCG family of employees and our loyal patrons as our top priority, we have made the difficult decision that suspending our operations is the best way we can help limit the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). These closures will go into effect Monday, March 16, at 3 p.m. EST across all 24 NCG locations... While operations are suspended, we will be taking additional steps to clean and sanitize our facilities to help ensure that we have the highest quality of cleanliness for our staff and guests to return to,” the statement said.

🔹 The Diocese of Knoxville has closed Catholic schools, including St. Dominic in Kingsport, through April 13 and will institute at-home learning for students. “Due to staggered spring break schedules... Catholic schools in the Knoxville region and St. Mary’s in Johnson City will begin at-home instruction on Monday, March 23. St. Dominic Catholic School in Kingsport will begin at-home learning on Monday, March 30.” Last week, the Diocese of Knoxville Catholic schools suspended all athletics, extracurricular, fine arts, fundraising and other school-related events. “We will continue to evaluate and assess the situation and make further decisions as needed,” a statement from the Diocese reads. “While conducting in-home learning, schools will continue to deep-clean the facilities targeting COVID-19, MRSA, flu and common cold viruses. Teachers and administrators are prepared for at-home learning. Iowa assessments for elementary students will be administered beginning the week of April 20.”

🔹 Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced the 2020 National Archery in the Schools State Tournament, April 2-3, is canceled. All TWRA shooting ranges remain closed, and all TWRA Hunter Education and Boating classes are canceled until further notice.

🔹 Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull announced he is postponing the scheduled Mayor’s Town Hall event, originally scheduled March 31, at the Renaissance Center to a future date to be determined. “The City will continue to listen to citizens and communicate important public information through electronic and other means. I am available for individual and small group meetings as well as responding to email and telephone contacts,” the statement reads. “Approximately 100 citizens attended each of the previous Town Hall events. In view of the on-going COVID 19 Pandemic, it is prudent to curtail public meetings of more than 50 citizens. Accordingly, I encourage our citizens to avoid large public gatherings; observe good public health practices, such as covering coughs and sneezes, refrain from shaking hands, frequent hand washing, and surface cleaning; and practice social distancing. I appreciate that Kingsport citizens continue to act in a socially responsible manner. Together we will endure this difficult period until the health issues subside.”

🔹 Pro-Art Association is postponing all performances through April 16. “The safety of our patrons, students, employees and the greater community is of the utmost importance to us. In compliance with the State of Emergency in effect for Virginia in regards to COVID-19, The Pro-Art Association will postpone all scheduled performances through April 16. We will reevaluate the situation at that point in time to determine when and if we can safely reschedule the postponed performances and proceed with the remaining programs of our 43rd season. 

🔹 World Choice Investments is closing its facilities in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; Branson, Missouri; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, until May 9. Those closures affect The Comedy Barn Theater, Dolly Parton’s Stampede (Pigeon Forge and Brandson), Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud, Pirates Voyage (Pigeon Forge and Myrtle Beach), and Smoky Mountain Opry. “The team at World Choice Investments will meet with the cast members at each facility this week. They continue to watch the conditions within our markets, consult with its medical experts and to follow CDC guidelines. Any additional changes will be released at a later time should they occur,” the release said.

🔹 Eastman Softball announced it will cancel the 2020 tournament, and immediately roll over any 2020 entry fees to the 2021 tournament (April 8-11, 2021).

🔹ACT has rescheduled the April 4, national ACT test date to June 13, 2020, in response to concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). ACT will communicate directly with all students currently registered for the April 4 ACT test. All students registered for the April 4 test date will receive an email from ACT in the next few days informing them of the postponement and instructions for next steps. “ACT is committed to making every effort to help those students impacted by this test date change, particularly those high school seniors who are facing deadlines for fall 2020 college admission,” said ACT CEO Marten Roorda. More information will be shared as it becomes available in the days ahead.

🔹 The Kingsport Christian Women’s Connection ladies luncheon, originally scheduled for Thursday, March 19, has been canceled.

🔹 The 12th Antique Appraisal Fair and Show, originally scheduled for March 21, has been postponed until late June, according to Tammy Kinser, Director of Tourism for the Greene County Partnership and event coordinator. “We are in the process now of contacting all vendors, all antique stores and businesses that have been so wonderful to aid us in the promotion of this award-winning event.”

🔹 The “Elvis Extravaganza,” scheduled to be held at the Boozy Creek Community Center, 1989 Shelleys Road, Bristol, Virginia, on Saturday, March 21, has been postponed until April 18. For more information, call 276-466-0026.

🔹 Barter Theatre will be postponing the opening of “Macbeth,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Peter Pan,” which were originally scheduled for March 26, April 2 and April 7 respectively. “This decision is in response to Governor Northam’s ban on large gatherings, and to ensure the safety of Barter’s staff, volunteers, and patrons,” officials announced Monday. “Barter is in the process of filming these productions for possible streaming to patrons and is working to finalize the technical and contractual requirements necessary to proceed with the distribution. Barter continues to offer its flexible and free exchange policy for all of its shows and hopes that patrons will show their support for the company by continuing to purchase tickets to productions that are scheduled for later this year.” Learn more about Barter’s efforts.

🔹 The Scott County Economic Development Authority (EDA) has canceled its March 18 meeting. “As the COVID-19 virus continues to affect our communities and with the Governor’s urging to cancel all non-essential meetings, theScott County EDA chairman has canceled the March 18 board meeting. The next regular meeting is April 15. All meetings are open to the public,” the notice reads.

🔹 Knoxville Opera Guild has canceled the March 29 High Tea Opera Up Close.

🔹 Tennessee State Parks remain open and free of charge for outdoor recreation as officials continue to monitor the impact of coronavirus in Tennessee. “Time outdoors is proven to relieve stress and improve mental and physical health and is a way to maintain social distance. Local and state parks are useful destinations to find solitude in nature and enjoy the outdoors for solo adventurers and small groups alike,” according to a release issued Monday. “With open green spaces and miles of trails, individuals and families can explore on their own or establish a safe distance between themselves and others. Parks provide opportunities for both adventure-seekers and those looking for relaxation and solitude.” Parks are taking recommended precautions to provide a safe environment for staff and visitors, while recognizing the need for Tennesseans to practice self-care both mentally and physically.

🔹 The United Way of Greater Kingsport announced remaining sessions of VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs are canceled. All in-person group visits to agencies have also been suspended through April 10. The in-person March board meeting (March 24) has also been canceled. The United Way office remains open.

News updates 

🔹 As Ballad Health announced Friday, on Monday at 6 a.m., Ballad Health started visitation restrictions, hospitals started limiting public entry points and engaging all visitors in screening protocols. More details on this and all COVID-19 updates and information are available on www.balladhealth.org/COVID19. Total positive COVID-19 cases in Ballad Health facilities: 0.

🔹 The Tennessee Department of Health reports the COVID-19 case count for Tennessee is now 52 as of March 16, 2020. The age range of cases is 11 to 82 years old. Of the 52 cases, 25 are in Davidson County and 18 are in Williamson County. Locally, there is one reported case in Sullivan County. There is one case in Jefferson County, one in Knox County and one in Sevier County.

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a statement Monday morning, urging every school district in Tennessee “to close as soon as practically possible, with all schools expected to close by Friday, March 20, 2020, at the latest. Schools should remain closed through March 31, 2020, to further mitigate the spread of this infectious disease and we will issue further guidance prior to March 31,” the statement from the governor’s office reads.

Read more

Kingsport suspends all programs and events; facilities to remain open

Area school systems shut down spring sports for two weeks 

MLB delays opening day to mid-May at earliest due to virus

Schools in Hawkins, Rogersville City closed until March 31

Tennessee schools to close by Friday, remain closed until March 31

Food City 500 weekend, Kingsport opener postponed

Sunday, March 15

Schedule changes

🔹 Chick-fil-A on Stone Drive in Kingsport announced it had closed its dining room. In a Facebook post, the restaurant said, “Out of an abundance of caution and care for our team members, guests and community, we have closed our dining room. We will provide service exclusively through the drive thru beginning Monday, March 16, 2020.” It goes on to encourage guests to download the app for mobile ordering (with drive thru pickup) to streamline service. The Chick-fil-A corporate website says, “Our highest priority continues to be the health and well-being of everyone who comes into our restaurants. As we navigate the evolving impact of coronavirus on our communities, we are temporarily closing our dining room seating to help limit person-to-person contact. Some of our restaurants may only offer service through our drive-thrus, while others may be able to offer takeout, delivery or mobile order options. Thanks for your patience. We know these are challenging times, but we’ll continue to do our best to serve you.”

🔹 The Greater Kingsport Family YMCA will suspend all operations in all program areas, including all Schools Out child care, effective March 15 until at least March 30. A notice on the Facebook page reads: “Keeping our community safety, health, and needs as priorities, the Kingsport YMCA is following the recommendations of the Sullivan County Health Department and Y-USA to suspend all operations in all program areas, including all Schools Out child care, effective March 15th until at least March 30th... The Y desires to do our best to support our local healthcare to help flatten the curve of exposure of COVID-19. We have been diligent in our communication with other YMCA’s across the country as well as state, school, health and public officials to ensure we’re planning the appropriate course of action.”

🔹 UPDATE: With the closing of Kingsport City Schools, Girls Inc. of Kingsport will officially be closed effective immediately through March 27. “As we stated before, the girls we serve are our main priority; we feel that closing is the safest decision for them, their families, and the community. We deeply apologize for any inconvenience this closing may cause,” the statement from Girls Inc. reads.

🔹 Bristol City, Kingsport City and Sullivan County Schools will be closed, effective immediately, through Friday, March 27. This includes all extracurricular and athletic activities. The decision was announced in a joint letter to stakeholders at 5 p.m. Sunday. Each school district will be in communication with details specific to your individual situation regarding instruction, food, staff expectations, etc. Read full letter here.

🔹 The Norton City School Board has rescheduled the March 16 budget work session and regular school board meeting for Monday, March 23. The work session will begin at 6 p.m. and the board meeting at 6:45 p.m. in the Council Chambers at the Norton City Municipal Building.

🔹 UPDATE: "As a precautionary measure regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum will temporarily close to the public from Monday, March 16, through Monday, March 30. The Birthplace of Country Music organization (BCM) considers the health, welfare, and safety of our visitors, staff, and community to be our top priority. That priority dictates this temporary closing, which halts all activities and events at the museum during the period of closure. BCM will continue to monitor the situation regarding the virus and will rely on the guidance from public health officials including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization concerning any decisions moving forward. We will communicate any additional changes to the museum schedule that become necessary and/or appropriate. We will be contacting visitors who have tour reservations during the closure to reschedule or refund. If you have a tour scheduled on March 31 or later and want to discuss it with us, please call 423-573-1927.”

🔹 The Sequoyah Council-Boy Scouts of America notified Scouting families, in a letter dated Friday, March 13, that all council or district meetings, events and activities have been postponed due to COVID-19 through April 5, 2020. Committees can use technology to conduct business by conference call or webinar. Camp Davy Crockett will also be closed from March 15 until April 5. Certain vital meetings will be conducted in a virtual format by the committee chair. As all events are postponed, refunds will be reviewed if those activities are canceled. Expo card sales are extended to allow units ample time to achieve their spring fundraising goals. The letter, also addressed unit level activities: “Effective immediately and until further notice, we are directing all units to hold meetings and activities based on your school system’s closures. This is for all units, whether your unit meets at a school or not. If your school system is closed, the unit should not meet or hold activities. If your school system is open, your unit should consider your individual circumstances, the wishes of your chartered organization, and current CDC and local health department guidelines.”

🔹 Starting Sunday, Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets normally open 24 hours will be open only from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice.

🔹 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Sites service suspended until further notice. This includes the site at the Kingsport Senior Center and all other local sites. “As coronavirus (COVID-19) developments change hour by hour, AARP Foundation is doing its part to flatten the curve of transmission. A top priority for us is ensuring we are protecting those most at risk, including our volunteers and taxpayers. Therefore, we are suspending AARP Foundation Tax-Aide services beginning March 16 until further notice.

🔹 Due to campus schedule changes, Grad Kickoff at Northeast State has been postponed until April 21. Students should have received an email with details.

🔹 The VHSCA All Star Game, originally scheduled for March 21, has been postponed. “This game will be played no earlier than Sunday, May 17, and even later, if need be,” Game Director Phil Robbins announced last week.

🔹 To support efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Knoxville Museum of Art will be closed to the public beginning Monday, March 16, and will remain closed until further notice. All events and programs scheduled through April 1 have been canceled or postponed, according to Director of Marketing Angela Thomas. “We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates at www.knoxart.org or the knoxart social media sites. The KMA looks forward to reopening soon and welcoming visitors again.”

News updates

🔹  The Virginia Department of Health updated its dashboard, and there continue to be no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the southwest region. The VDH COVID-19 dashboard is available online.

Read more

Kingsport, Sullivan County schools to close through March 27

Hawkins County courts affected by COVID-19

Saturday, March 14

Schedule changes

🔹 First Broad Street United Methodist Church will not hold services March 15 and March 22. Live streaming available on Facebook.

🔹Waverly Road Presbyterian Church will be moving its services online for the next two weeks (March 15 and 22). All church programs have also been canceled. The food pantry will remain open on Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon.

🔹Appalachian Sustainable Development has canceled its open house on March 19. The ASD’s official ribbon cutting is still scheduled for May 21 at 5:30 p.m.

🔹The First Development District and CareerQuest TN planning team are postponing CareerQuest TN until the spring of 2021. The event was scheduled to take place April 23-24 at East Tennessee State University.

🔹Christ Fellowship Church in Kingsport is moving its Sunday service online for March 15. The service will be posted on the church's website (christfellowship.me) at 9 a.m. and be available all day.

 🔹Bloomingdale Baptist Church is canceling all services for the week of March 15-21. That includes all worship services, Bible studies, Sunday School, Celebrate Recovery, Youth, Awana, and opening the Christian Activity Center for walking.

🔹Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Kingsport announced that Holy Trinity's Pastor and Church Council have chosen to cancel Sunday Worship, Wednesday night Soup Suppers and Lenten worship, and other group meetings, until Palm Sunday, April 5. Their Facebook post says, “In a letter to the congregation this evening (March 13), Pastor Scottie reminds us that God's Word refers to our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit, and as such we need to care for it. This decision is not made lightly. It is in keeping with a recommendation from our Synod Bishop. Please be in prayer for all as we face this global crisis. Also please pray for our church that we may find ways to minister to one another and to the community to meet the special needs brought on as a result of this situation.”

🔹Grace Fellowship Church in Johnson City announced its March 15 and March 22 services will be online only. GFC will offer live streaming both Sundays at 9:15 and 11 a.m. Pastor Matt Murphy said, “we are seeking are seeking to love our community by protecting our community from potential risk, especially those who are vulnerable. We plan to stay engaged with you as we continue to seek God and explore new opportunities to reach out community together during this unique time. Visit gfcnow.com to learn more.

🔹Mafair United Methodist Church has canceled all group activities at the church for the next two weeks. Staff may or may not work in their office space at the church during this time, but all offices will be closed to the public. The church will offer sermons and morning prayer on Facebook Live for the next two weeks.

🔹Zach Williams - The Rescue Story Tour’s March 28 concert at Freedom Hall Civic Center in Johnson City is postponed. Current tickets will be valid for the rescheduled event. If you cannot make it to the rescheduled event, you can receive a refund at your point of purchase.

News updates

🔹 Girls Inc. of Kingsport management updated its members, parents, volunteers and community on precautions it’s taking against COVID-19. “Unless closings are mandated by the state or city, we will remain open to girls. Serving the girls is our main priority and we intend to continue to do so in the safest way possible. With that being said, we will be closed Friday, March 20, to thoroughly clean and sanitize the building to prepare to be open for spring break. During programming, we are taking every precaution necessary to ensure our building is clean and safe for all members.”

Read more

Hawkins County courts affected by COVID-19

How is Kingsport responding to the coronavirus?

Extra year of eligibility for basketball seniors gaining support

Roe: Trump's order to limit travel was 'right thing to do'

House passes aid bill after Trump declares national emergency

Friday, March 13

Schedule changes

🔹 The SAT test scheduled for Saturday, March 14, at UVA Wise has been canceled.

🔹 The Symphony of the Mountains concert, scheduled for Saturday, March 14, has been postponed. If you are a ticket holder, you will be able to use your ticket at the rescheduled concert. If you are unable to attend, the symphony will refund the purchase price. No date has been set for the rescheduled concert. For more information call (423) 392-8423.

🔹 Grace Fellowship Church in Johnson City announced its March 15 and March 22 services will be online only. GFC will offer live streaming both Sundays at 9:15 and 11 a.m. Pastor Matt Murphy said, “we are seeking are seeking to love our community by protecting our community from potential risk, especially those who are vulnerable. We plan to stay engaged with you as we continue to seek God and explore new opportunities to reach out community together during this unique time. Visit gfcnow.com to learn more.

🔹 The Bishop of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church is recommending Methodist churches cancel worship services and other group activities for the next two weeks. Locally, Mafair United Methodist Church has already decided to honor that request and cancel all group activities at the church. Staff may or may not work in their office space at the church during this time, but all offices will be closed to the public. The church will offer sermons and morning prayer on Facebook Live for the next two weeks.

🔹 The Birthplace of Country Music Museum will remain open and operate on a normal schedule; however, BCM has decided to postpone all additional events at the Museum through March 31. Decisions on events in April and beyond will be made as appropriate.

🔹 The Dollywood Company announced it will postpone the grand opening of Dollywood and close its Stampede and Pirates Voyage shows until March 28. “The coronavirus pandemic is an escalating and ever-changing issue. As a result, The Dollywood Company is delaying the opening of its Dollywood theme park to guests for the next two weeks beginning March 14. Dolly Parton’s Stampede and Pirates Voyage also will be closed beginning March 16. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa and Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins will remain open at this time. “We have been following the coronavirus crisis very closely and based on developments within the last 24 hours and in consultation with health experts, we are going to delay our season opening until March 28,” Dollywood President Craig Ross said. “Despite the delay in opening, we are committed to taking care of our hosts while the park remains closed.” “We need to focus on good health and praying for those who are affected. We know brighter days are ahead,” Dolly Parton added. Dollywood continues to watch the conditions within the East Tennessee area, to consult with its medical experts and to follow CDC guidelines. The park will communicate any additional changes should they occur.

🔹 East Tennessee State University has announced its Wayne G. Basler Center for  Physical Activity (CPA) will be closed and all campus recreation programs and events canceled, March 14-April 12. Call 423-439-7980 or email campusrec@etsu.edu for details.

🔹 The Carter Fold released this statement on its upcoming shows: “Based on Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency today and his administration’s recommendation that large public events be cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Carter Family Fold will be closed Saturday, March 14, and Saturday, March 21, 2020. Should further closures be necessary, announcements will be made on our website and Facebook prior to those events. We regret that cancelling shows is necessary, but we want to do all we can to keep everyone safe.”

🔹 Mountain Empire Community College has canceled the following events: After Life program, scheduled for March 15; all intramural activities; MECC’s Scholarships Recognition Night, scheduled for March 24; and MECC’s Hall of Honor Gala, scheduled for April 18. Additional event cancellations may follow. 

🔹 Next week’s Tennessee Ag Day on the Hill activities have been postponed, according to a joint statement from Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. “The General Assembly is encouraging groups who have planned nonessential events and activities in and around the Cordell Hull Building and Capitol to consider rescheduling or postponing,” the statement reads. As a response to this request, and in conjunction with other relevant concerns, the 2020 Tennessee Ag Day on the Hill Committee has elected to postpone the event, with hopes of rescheduling in the near future.

🔹 The Dobyns-Bennett Athletics Department and soccer team announced that “Due to circumstances beyond our control and recent restrictions placed on a number of our participants, our annual (Jon Metcalf Highland Cup) tournament, March 20-22, has been canceled in its entirety.”

🔹 Johnson City Symphony Orchestra announced it will cancel its March 21 concert. “We have already rebooked our incredible guest, Melissa White, for our April concert. We thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to keep our audience and musicians healthy and stand by to bring people together with great music once we emerge from this health situation,” the letter to patrons reads. The following options are available to those who have already purchased tickets: Donate tickets to the JCSO; exchange tickets for a voucher to be redeemed for any 2020-2021 concert; or request a refund for the value of the ticket. Contact Katie Hallenbeck at the JCSO office from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at 423-926-8742 or email gm@jcsymphony.com.

🔹 Literacy Council of Kingsport announced it will suspend all classes through March 31. A statement from Executive Director Dawn Blake says, “With the recent news that COVID-19 is present in our area, our board of directors has decided that it is in the best interest to suspend all classes from March 16-March 31. The board will reevaluate the situation on March 30 and determine when classes may resume... The health and safety of our tutors, students, volunteers and staff is our main priority at Literacy Council of Kingsport.” On Thursday, the agency announced it had canceled its 14th Annual Sy SCRABBLE fundraiser, originally scheduled for Friday, March 13, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. For those who had already purchased tickets, the ticket will remain valid for the future Savvy SCRABBLE® Social Fundraiser event.

🔹 The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency released a statement about its hunter education classes and firing ranges: “Due to the Governor Bill Lee’s declared state of emergency, and for the health of the public, all Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency hunter education classes and firings ranges will be closed until further notice. Governor Lee issued Executive Order No. 14 on Thursday declaring a state of emergency in Tennessee to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19.”

🔹 The Annual Saint Paddy's Lunch Inn Fundraiser, scheduled for Friday, March 20, is postponed. The event will be rescheduled. The popular fundraiser is a benefit for The Shepherd’s Inn — Safe House/Emergency Shelter for women and their children coming from domestic violence settings or otherwise temporarily homeless. “We are disappointed to postpone this event...” says Paul Gabinet, Executive Director of The Shepherd’s Inn. “However, the health of our friends who come to eat with us and our staff is of optimum concern. The funds coming from this benefit help sustain the spring operation of the (Elizabethton) community’s only emergency shelter for these women and children. We will have a difficult time in weeks to come without the support from this event.” Anyone wishing to contribute to the work of The Shepherd’s Inn may send contributions to: The Shepherd’s Inn P.O. Box 2214 Elizabethton, TN 37644.

🔹 The Elm Springs United Methodist Church country breakfast previously scheduled for March 21 has been canceled

🔹 The United Way of Southwest Virginia is postponing the Impact Awards celebration scheduled for April 7. In a note to friends and partners, spokesperson Mary Anne Holbrook said, “We here at United Way of Southwest Virginia extend our thoughts to all who have been impacted by the outbreak to date — either directly or indirectly. Given this evolving situation, I am reaching out to you to let you know that we are postponing the Impact Awards celebration that was scheduled for Tuesday, April 7. We will make all efforts to hold this annual event in the months to come. The health and safety of our community is incredibly important to us. We are continuing to monitor updates from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Virginia Department of Health, and other relevant agencies regarding the situation. As we make decisions about other upcoming events, we will continue to be in touch with you as things evolve.”

🔹 Tennessee State Parks released this statement: “Safety is a top priority for Tennessee State Parks. Tennessee State Parks remain open as we closely monitor COVID-19 and its presence in the state. We encourage all Tennesseans and park visitors to review information provided by the Tennessee Department of Health as it relates to the virus. We know our guests are interested in our efforts to help keep your family healthy during your visit. We have launched a page on our website to update prospective visitors on the measures we are taking. If you are planning a trip to a Tennessee State Park, we invite you to review this information.”

🔹 Jubilee Community Arts concerts and events at the Laurel Theater in Knoxville are canceled for the remainder of the spring season. This includes the 51st Jubilee Festival, March 21-22, and all other events through May 9. Full refunds will be issued for all tickets purchased in advance. Visit www.jubileearts.org for more details.

🔹 The spring meeting of Sullivan County Retired Teachers Association, originally scheduled for May, has been canceled. Activities scheduled for that meeting will be moved to the fall.

🔹 Due to COVID-19, McGlothlin Center for the Arts at Emory & Henry College is canceling the April 7 performance by Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet and Artalk on Dorothy Gillespie. Little Women is now April 21-24. The Spring Choral Concert location is TBD. The Spring Symphonic Band Concert is now April 25.

🔹 The Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville is closed to tours and visitors through March 31, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.

🔹 The Grand Ole Opry, the world’s longest-running radio show, will pause performances that include a live audience through April 4, including performances on March 13-14.

🔹 Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, announced it is temporarily suspending tours beginning beginning March 16 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Though distillery operations will continue as normal, the store, restaurant and tours will close. “The closure will remain in place until the health emergency subsides. All tickets previously purchased during this time are refundable.”

🔹 All performances of Cirque du Soleil’s OVO from April 15-19 at Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena have been canceled, according to a release from the arena’s management office. Ticket buyers who bought tickets through Knoxville Tickets will be issued an automatic refund onto the credit card they used to purchase their tickets. No further action is required. Cirque du Soleil’s Touring Show Division is currently revisiting OVO’s tour plans for the rest of 2020.

News updates

🔹 Ballad Health implements visitation restrictions: As of Monday, March 16, all Ballad Health hospitals will limit their public entry points and engage all visitors in screening protocols. Visitors will also be limited to one guest per patient, and no visitors under age 12 will be allowed. Specific entrances vary per facility, and each one is clearly identified for the public. Ballad Health team members can still access restricted areas through their employee badges. Additionally, before visitors can see patients, they will answer several questions to evaluate any potential COVID-19 risk. If needed, visitors might have their temperatures checked, be given masks or not be permitted to visit. Exceptions to the one-visitor rule will be in place for the system’s birthing center and pediatric departments, which will allow two visitors per patient. Further exceptions to screening limitations and visiting hours are available for hospice, end-of-life care and other circumstances, and they will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Privately employed patient sitters will follow the same screening guidance and protocols as Ballad Health team members. Additionally, Ballad Health has ceased all visitation for its long-term care facilities. Visitors will not be permitted at Francis Marion Manor Health & Rehabilitation, Marion, Virginia; Laughlin Healthcare Center, Greeneville; Madison House, Kingsport; and Wexford House, Kingsport. These restrictions also apply to clinical students and student volunteers assigned to these locations. As with general hospital visitation, case-case exceptions will be considered. These limitations will remain in place until further notice. Ballad Health will issue communication when the restrictions are lifted or modified. All COVID-19 updates and information are available online.

🔹 Pursuant to a notice from the Tennessee Supreme Court in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Kingsport Municipal Court will be temporarily closed for all in-person proceedings for the remainder of March 2020. According to a release from KPD, “All pending cases scheduled during that time frame will be postponed. Anyone having a case set for the remainder of March 2020 has the following options: 1) Satisfy the citation by paying the fine on or before the scheduled court date; 2) Call the K.P.D. Records Division at 423-229-9427 on or before the scheduled court date to have the case reset to a later date; 3) Anyone who is unable to call may visit the K.P.D. Records Division in the Kingsport Justice Center on or before the scheduled court date to have the case reset to a later date, or 4) Anyone not paying the citation or calling to have the case reset by the court date will be contacted after that time by the court

🔹 Local bishop mandates cancellation of United Methodist church services in Holston Conference: A local United Methodist bishop is mandating the cancellation of worship services and meetings in United Methodist churches under her supervision for at least two weeks, effective immediately. Bishop Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor is resident bishop of Holston Conference, which includes 864 churches in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and North Georgia. Her office is located in Alcoa, Tennessee. “The decision was prayerfully made to cancel worship services across the three states that make up Holston Conference,” Taylor said. “The decision is unanimous and mandatory for at least two weeks.” Taylor said she made the decision with the support of her district superintendents, “out of an abundance of caution and our concern for you, our churches, and communities.” A March 12 letter from Taylor to clergy and church leaders throughout the region cited medical advice to implement “social distancing” in faith communities to slow the transmission of COVID-19, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. “We have learned from the spread of the virus that if we delay responding the virus spreads exponentially and overwhelms our hospitals and health care systems. It is my understanding that social distancing is the most effective way of slowing the spread of the virus,” Taylor said. “This is an opportunity for creative ministry. How can we care for our neighbors?” Taylor said in a letter to Holston congregations. “Be aware of the needs of the people around you and how you can offer Christ during a challenging pandemic.” For more information about Holston Conference, visit Holston.org

🔹 The Tennessee Supreme Court issued an order stating all Tennessee courts will remain open during the coronavirus outbreak, but suspending all in-person judicial proceedings through March 31, 2020. Chief Justice Jeff Bivins declared a state of emergency for the judicial branch, which follows Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order and declaration of a state of emergency on March 12. The Order applies to state and local Tennessee courts, including appellate, trial, general sessions, juvenile and municipal courts.

🔹 Milligan College announced Thursday afternoon it would extend its spring break until March 20 and move to online-only classes through April 5.

🔹 Mountain Empire Community College is extending spring break for students by an additional week. The college is currently on a one-week break, and classes were originally scheduled to resume Monday, March 16. College offices will remain open next week. Computer labs, testing, library services, enrollment and other college services will continue to operate from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Faculty and staff will use that time to make preparations for possible additional measures such as shifting all instruction to online, implementing a hybrid approach or taking other actions for which a need may be determined. College officials will continue to monitor the situation in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and other public health agencies. The College will post updated announcements as the situation changes. Students should stay in contact with their instructors by email for detailed instructions related to their specific coursework. Students in health science programs containing clinical and laboratory requirements may receive additional guidance from the Dean of Health Sciences and faculty members about continuation of clinical rotations. A number of upcoming events at MECC originally expected to attract crowds are being canceled. Up-to-date details on event plans as well as academic scheduling will be posted on the college’s website https://www.mecc.edu/coronavirus/.

🔹 Sycamore Springs Senior Living Community, an assisted living and memory care community serving Carter County, has announced safety measures to protect its residents and caregiving staff in the event of a potential outbreak of COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus. “As per CDC guidelines related to COVID-19, our facility is restricting visitors at this time due to reports received from another part of the Tri-State area. We are also requesting that family members arrange for alternate ways of communication with our residents, including phone, text or videoconference, to avoid unnecessary exposure,” Executive Director Rhonda Mitchell said, in a statement. Read the full release.

Read more

Trump declares virus pandemic a national emergency

Northam orders all Virginia K-12 schools closed for minimum of two weeks

VHSL delays start of spring sports competition

Officials cordoning off Wise County courthouse, sending sick home

ETSU announces move to online-only classes following spring break 

Food City responds to the coronavirus threat

Southern Conference suspends athletic competition

TSSAA state tournaments now postponed

Northeast extending spring break, Walters State shifting to online

Thursday, March 12

Schedule changes

🔹 Eighth-grade orientation scheduled at Daniel Boone High School is canceled Thursday and will not be rescheduled. There is information on the website and students may contact the school to schedule a meeting, if needed.

🔹 Boy Scouts of America-Sequoyah Council’s Wilderness Road District Committee canceled its Thursday meeting.

🔹 Johnson City Schools postponed Thursday’s district-wide band concert. “At the recommendation of the Washington County Health Department and to err on the side of caution, Johnson City Schools has decided to postpone the District-Wide band concert this evening. While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington County, with the expectations of a large crowd, we want to take a proactive approach to protect grandparents and others who are known to be vulnerable to the virus. Because we want to use the concert as a platform to celebrate the hard work and dedication of our students, we hope to set a make-up date for the concert sometime in May,” the release reads.

🔹 Catholic Charities of East Tennessee postponed Thursday’s CCETN benefit dinner in Chattanooga.

🔹 Literacy Council of Kingsport has canceled its 14th Annual Savvy SCRABBLE fundraiser, originally scheduled for Friday, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

🔹 tnAchieves is canceling the remainder of its mandatory Tennessee Promise spring meetings “out of an abundance of caution.” Students must view a mandatory webinar to satisfy their meeting requirement. Students, families, mentors and other stakeholders should check their email for more information.

🔹 Ballad Health released a statement about its annual Shamrock 4 Miler event: “Out of an abundance of caution, Ballad Health is following current CDC/WHO guidelines regarding the novel coronavirus and large gatherings and is canceling the annual Johnston Memorial Hospital Shamrock 4 Miler and Leprechaun Walk, presented by Blue Ridge Auto Group on Friday, March 13. We recognize that many of you have trained for this event and want to honor your commitment. We encourage you to run a 4 miler in your community and share on social media with #JMHSHAMROCK. This is an annual fundraising event benefiting the Johnston Memorial Hospital fund of Ballad Health Foundation, which supports the growing needs of healthcare in Southwest Virginia. Those desiring a refund for registration fees can contact the Foundation office at 423-302-3131. If you do not request a refund, the registration fee will be donated to the Johnston Memorial Fund. We will announce at a future date when and where you can pick up your event shirt and medal. Thank you for your commitment to your health, our region’s health, and the Johnston Memorial Fund.”

🔹 Saint Dominic's Fish Fry for Friday, March 13, has been canceled. “Sorry for the inconvenience. We hope to see you next Friday the 20th,” the notice said.

🔹 The Symphony of the Mountains concert, scheduled for Saturday, March 14, has been postponed. If you are a ticket holder, you will be able to use your ticket at the rescheduled concert. If you are unable to attend, the symphony will refund the purchase price. No date has been set for the rescheduled concert. For more information call (423) 392-8423.

🔹 The CIPA Competition at Sullivan North High School, scheduled for Saturday, March 14, has been canceled.

🔹 In a social media post Thursday, the Willow Tree Coffeehouse announced Grammy-nominated artist Will Hoge’s concert on Saturday would be canceled due to concerns about COVID-19. In the statement, it said anyone who purchased tickets would be given a refund.

🔹 Southern Appalachian Plant Society (SAPS) canceled its March 19 gardening lecture by William Cullina. University of Pennsylvania, where Cullina is F. Otto Haas Executive Director of the Morris Arboretum, has banned all university-related travel in an effort to avoid the spread of coronavirus. SAPS plans to reschedule the lecture next year.

🔹 Connect Beyond Festival 2020 organizers announced Thursday the Asheville festival, slated for April 3-5, 2020, is officially postponed. “With recent developments surrounding COVID-19 nationally and in North Carolina, we cannot in good conscience move forward with the festival as scheduled. The safety of our guests and participants is our number one priority,” the release said.

🔹 Dollywood postponed its planned media day activities on Friday, but currently plans to open as scheduled for season passholders, and on Saturday for general guests, according to an email from Dollywood PR Director Wes Ramey. “The exciting economic news we planned to share does not seem appropriate based on what is going on. It doesn’t feel right,” Dolly said. “We need to focus on good health and praying for those who are affected. We know brighter days are ahead.” Dollywood continues to consult with its medical experts and to follow CDC guidelines and will communicate any changes should they occur.

🔹 Crumley House Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center has postponed its Joggin’ for the Noggin! 5K Run/Walk, originally scheduled for March 28. Officials will work with race planners to secure another date for the event, which serves as one of the organization’s “largest yearly fundraisers,” according to Executive Director Guynn Edwards. Participants and those interested in participating are encouraged to visit www.crumleyhouse.com for news regarding the event.

News updates 

🔹 Families and staff of Bristol, Kingsport, and Sullivan County Schools received a joint letter stating that until further notice, school-sponsored student travel will not take place to the following locations: Boston, MA; New York City, NY; Washington, DC and surrounding area; and all locations in California, Florida and Washington. Additional locations may be added as new information becomes available. Currently, restrictions have not been placed on school-sponsored student travel within the region. Questions regarding specific locations should be directed to the Superintendent/Director of Schools. Employees are encouraged to contact their Human Resources personnel to provide details of travel plans outside of the region. Processes for returning to work will be based on CDC and Sullivan County Health Department guidance at the time of their return.

🔹 Tusculum University leaders have decided to convert classes at all three locations to online teaching, effective Monday, March 16. Tusculum has learned about a confirmed case of coronavirus in Knox County. While that person is not a Tusculum family member, the university is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to take additional precautionary measures by shifting to online education. In addition, the South Atlantic Conference, of which Tusculum is a member, has voted to cancel all athletic practices and games for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year. Tusculum wants to be clear: Its three locations will not be closed, and at this time, students can continue to live in the residence halls. We are simply converting our classes to an online setting until further notice. The following people should not return to our three campuses after Spring Break: those who believe they have been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus, those who have been on a cruise, and those who have traveled internationally. Instead, they should self-quarantine for 14 days and immediately contact Dr. Lisa Johnson-Neas, dean of students, at ljohnson@tusuclum.edu or 423-636-7315 to confirm they are not returning to campus. Any student who displays symptoms of the coronavirus should seek medical attention and alert Dr. Johnson-Neas. Faculty and staff members have the same responsibilities as students to keep the university informed. Should they be exposed to a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus or diagnosed with the illness, they must alert their supervisor immediately and participate in quarantining requirements at their residence. If they have a Tusculum-issued laptop, we recommend that they take that computer home each day so they have a means to continue working from home.

🔹 Northeast State Community College will extend spring break one additional week for its students. Traditional and online classes are being canceled March 16-20 to give faculty time to prepare for two weeks of fully online learning from March 23-April 3. Faculty will utilize the additional spring break week to move all coursework online. Faculty will also prepare to continue with online instruction beyond April 3, in the event it becomes necessary. The college’s campuses at Blountville, Elizabethton, Gray, Johnson City and Kingsport will be closed March 16-20 for deep cleaning with hospital-grade products. Supervisors have identified essential employees and will inform them whether they are working on campus or remotely March 16-20. Students should refrain from visiting campus, and remain at home during the extended break and while classes are delivered remotely. 

🔹 At 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Ballad Health issued its first daily update. Each day, it will include any changes, new details and the total number of positive COVID-19 cases in Ballad Health facilities. Total positive COVID-19 cases in Ballad Health facilities: 0.

🔹 The Crumley House Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center announced it will be closing to all visitors through Sunday, April 5, due to COVID-19. The House’s Adult Day Program will also be suspended. The policy change will be reevaluated at a later date. “We are following recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in being proactive with these adjustments,” Executive Director Guynn Edwards said in a statement. “Of course, we will make exceptions for emergency situations, and we ask that individuals understand we simply have the goal to limit traffic flow in our facility, as well as any potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

🔹 Tennessee Department of Corrections suspended visitation until further notice, due to COVID-19. Volunteer services will also be suspended. TDOC said in a statement that those on community supervision will be contacted by their probation and parole officers for reporting guidelines, and onsite staff screening will also begin.

🔹 Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson said, “We are continuing our cleaning and safety procedures. I am meeting with regional superintendents on Friday to discuss a regional plan.”

🔹 Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency Thursday to help the state address the spread of the new coronavirus.

🔹 Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Thursday to help the state address the spread of the new coronavirus.

Sports-related updates

🔹 The TSSAA announced late Thursday that it is suspending the remainder of the girls’ state tournament and next week’s boys’ state tournament. Whether we will be able to reschedule these events will depend on the length of the suspension and the availability of facilities.

🔹 Due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Southern Conference, at the recommendation of the league’s Council of Presidents and directors of athletics, will suspend all athletic competition through March 30, Commissioner Jim Schaus announced Thursday. “Our membership feels that it is imperative to protect the health and welfare of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans by suspending athletic competition due to this very serious virus,” Schaus said. The decision was reached with the input of NCAA, conference and school administrators.The SoCon will closely monitor the situation, as well as national, state and local policies regarding the coronavirus, and re-evaluate the potential for resumption of competition.

🔹 Conference Carolinas, which includes King University, has suspended athletics competition until further notice. The safety and well-being of Conference Carolinas student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans are always of the utmost importance. For this reason, Conference Carolinas has made the difficult decision due to the evolving COVID-19 public health threat to suspend all athletics competition until further notice. “We fully understand the ramifications of what this means for our student-athletes, coaches and administrators who put in so much hard work daily for their institutions, but we feel this is the right decision currently,” Commissioner Chris Colvin said. “Our first priority is always the protection of our student-athletes along with our coaches and administrators. I would like to thank all of our presidents and administrators for working together to help us make this incredibly tough decision.” Earlier today, the NCAA made the decision to cancel all remaining winter and spring championships, which includes all winter NCAA Division II competitions in which Conference Carolinas institutions are presently competing.

🔹 The VHSL canceled the Class 1 boys and girls state championship basketball games following Gov. Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency in the commonwealth. The Class 3, 4, 5 and 6 finals had already been canceled. Honaker and Surry Curry were scheduled to play the Class 1 girls final at 6 p.m. at VCU’s Siegel Center, and Auburn and Mathews were to follow in the Class 1 boys final. Teams in Class 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 will be declared state co-champions. “We felt with Governor Northam declaring a state of emergency, we felt it would be irresponsible to continue the tournament tonight. It’s in the best public interest to cancel the Class 1 boys and girls finals," VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said in a release. “While we understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our teams, we feel this decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of, most importantly, our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, families and fans.”

🔹 The NCAA has canceled all remaining winter and spring championships. “Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships. This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the statement said.

🔹 Major League Baseball becomes the latest sport to postpone action in light of the coronavirus pandemic, canceling spring-training games effective immediately and delaying the start of the regular season for at least two weeks.

🔹 NASCAR released a statement on races in Atlanta and Homestead: “At this time, NASCAR will hold its race events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway without fans in attendance. These events will be restricted to competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race. We will work with public health officials as we determine future scheduling beyond these events.”

🔹 The Virginia High School Coaches Association (VHSCA) basketball game scheduled for March 21 has been postponed. VHSCA Game Director Phil Robbins released a statement saying that May 17, 2020, has been officially cleared for the game to be played at the Virginia-Wise David J. Prior Center providing the pandemic has safely subsided.

🔹 The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has canceled the remainder of the men’s basketball tournament in Nashville. Also off are the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12 tournaments. Based on the latest developments and the continued spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the SEC today announced the suspension of regular season competition for teams in all sports on SEC campuses, as well SEC championship events, until March 30. Read more about the latest impact on sports.

🔹 UPDATE: The NAIA announced today that effective immediately, it will be canceling all remaining winter championship events, including those that are currently underway. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, as well as all involved in our championship events, is the NAIA’s highest priority. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments and NAIA leadership will work closely with our member institutions to determine the best path forward for future NAIA events, including all spring 2020 championships.”

Wednesday, March 11

Local school systems monitoring situation

🔹 Although no field trips, athletic events or other school activities have been canceled or postponed as of Wednesday, the Sullivan County, Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., public school systems are communicating daily with each other and health officials about the coronavirus.

🔹 Virginia, education officials are considering COVID-19 contingency plans. Read more about discussions at Mountain Empire Community College and in Wise County Schools here.

Local colleges announce schedule, delivery changes

🔹 The University of Virginia’s College at Wise has ordered that remaining spring semester classes be held online over concerns about the COVID-19 virus situation.

🔹 The COVID-19 Task Force at Emory & Henry College, comprised of professionals from across campus including academic affairs, student affairs, housing, athletics, the business office, facilities, dining services and marketing/communications, has been working diligently to monitor and respond to the rapidly changing global and national situation as it pertains to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. As a result of all of the available information at this time, the college has made the decision to extend spring break for students on the Emory campus for one week. It will run from Saturday, March 14, through Sunday, March 29. Follow Emory & Henry updates here.

🔹 University of Tennessee Interim President Randy Boyd — in consultation with chancellors at UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center — has announced that all in-person classes will be temporarily suspended until further notice as a proactive measure in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. UT Chattanooga will suspend in-person classes until March 30, while UT Knoxville and UT Martin will suspend in-person classes until April 3. Beginning March 23, UT Health Science Center until further notice will offer all face-to-face lecture classes remotely. Clinical rotations in hospitals will continue as usual.

🔹 Memo to ETSU faculty, staff and students 3/11/20: As part of our ongoing efforts to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and to protect the health of the campus community, East Tennessee State University has made the decision to suspend all outgoing university-related domestic travel effective immediately. This suspension is in place for domestic travel through April 30, 2020. This follows the announcement from this past Monday (March 9) that all outgoing university-related international travel is suspended through June 15, 2020. At this time, university-related domestic athletics travel for competitive events is not restricted and we will continue to follow guidance as provided by the NCAA and the Southern Conference.

Read more

Tennessee spring sports can play on — for now

UPDATED: TSSAA state tournaments now postponed

NCAA tournaments canceled because of coronavirus

Tennessee governor declares emergency over coronavirus

SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 cancel hoops tournaments

Virginia, education officials consider COVID-19 contingency plans

NBA suspends season; March Madness going without fans

Bucs, fans disappointed about NCAA developments

BMS, NASCAR keeping close eye on coronavirus ahead of race week

Sullivan County has first confirmed case of coronavirus

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