Vaccinations of the general public against COVID-19 began over the weekend.

Registration began Saturday morning for individuals over 75 to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Long lines formed later in the day at the former Greene Valley Developmental Center site as the shots began to be administered.

Meanwhile, Greene County started 2021 with 294 new COVID-19 cases and one death from the virus in the first three days of the new year.

The Greene County Health Department was one of seven that began registering individuals over 75 years of age to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Administration of the vaccines also began resulting in long lines early in the afternoon at the former Greene Valley Development Center site.

Those over 75 can still register for the vaccination by calling the Health Department at 798-1749 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Vaccines will be given as supplies are available, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

As they register, individuals will be asked to provide their name, date of birth and a phone number to be notified of their appointment date and time for their vaccination. The vaccinations will require a second shot before full immunity can be provided.

Administration of the vaccinations to individuals over 75 is part of an updated plan by the state for distribution of the vaccine. The plan calls for the phased vaccination of individuals by age groups while also administering the vaccines to groups of people either by vocation or medical conditions.

According to the state, Greene County is currently distributing to Phases 1a1, 1a2 and 1b in its vaccination plan as well as those 75 yrs and older.

Phases 1a1, 1a2 and 1b include hospital, emergency, school and home care health care workers as well as first responders, residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, COVID-19 mass testing site staff, individuals over 18 who cannot live independently due to a medical condition or disability, physicians and their staff in doctor’s offices.

These phases also include outpatient specialty providers, outpatient therapists, pharmacists and staff, urgent care center providers and staff, dentists and other oral health providers, patient transport workers, behavioral health providers, lab workers handling COVID-19 related specimens, funeral and mortuary workers and K-12 and child care teachers and staff.

CASE NUMBERS RISING

With the new cases, 5,811 Greene Countians have contracted the virus since the pandemic began and 805 individuals had active cases of the virus as the holiday weekend ended, according to the COVID-19 update on

Sunday from the Tennessee Department of Health.

The additional death from the virus was reported on Friday. Since last March, 93 people have died locally from the virus.

The largest number of new cases for the holiday weekend was recorded on Friday when 141 were reported by the Department of Health. Saturday’s new case tally was 55 and 98 were recorded on Sunday.

An increasing number of employee COVID-19 cases has resulted in the closing of all the offices in the Greene County Courthouse Annex for cleaning and disinfecting starting Monday. The offices are to reopen as the cleaning is completed.

Greene County had the second most new cases in the Northeast Tennessee region on Sunday and had the third most on Friday. On Friday, Sullivan County had the most cases while Washington was top for new cases on Sunday.

The number of people who have inactive cases locally is 4,913 for the pandemic. Inactive cases are defined by the state has reaching the 14-day point past a positive test or onset of symptoms.

Ballad Health reported a new high mark for coronavirus patients being treated within its facilities in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia — 339 on both Saturday and Sunday, which was seven more than Friday. Sixty-seven of the virus patients were being treated in intensive care units with 38 on ventilators.

On Sunday, there were 39 beds available within the system for COVID-19 patients while there were also six people admitted with virus symptoms awaiting test results, according to the virus scorecard from the health system.

The new death locally was one of 118 reported during the three-day period in Tennessee, according to the Department of Health report. Since the pandemic began, 7,025 people have died from COVID-19 in the state.

For the three-day period, 21,495 new cases of the illness were reported in the state. Since March, 608,297 Tennesseans have contracted the virus.

TESTING CHANGES

Changes to the free COVID-19 testing by the Health Department go into effect on Monday to allow staff to transition from testing to administering the vaccine.

Hours at the Greene Valley test site will now be Monday to 8:30-11:30 a.m. Self-testing kits will still be available for adults Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with drive-thru testing on Tuesdays and Thursdays for those under the age of 18 and adults who do not wish to use a self-test kit that requires online registration.

Free self-swab tests are now available at the CVS Pharmacy location on the Asheville Highway for those who meet Centers for Disease Control qualifications. An appointment is required and can be made at CVS.com.

Ballad Health asks anyone concerned they may have the virus to call the system’s Nurse Connect line at (833) 822-5523 to be scheduled for testing at the individual’s nearest testing site. The line is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tests may also be scheduled using the Ballad Health app or on its website. Testing is taking place at Greeneville Community Hospital West at 401 Takoma Ave.

Most people who contract COVID-19 will become only mildly or moderately ill, according to health experts. However, for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, it can cause serious illness and can be fatal.

Those who need to speak to someone about mental and emotional challenges the coronavirus may be causing, can call Frontier Health’s 24-hour crisis line at 877-928-9062, Tennessee’s 24-hour crisis line at 855-274-7471, or the federal mental health services help line at 1-800-985-5990.

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