Greene County recorded five more COVID-19-related deaths Monday, one of the highest daily tolls during the pandemic, as the state topped 7,000 deaths and experts warned that a new surge could follow the Christmas holidays.
Ninety-eight people have now died from the virus locally, according to Monday’s update from the Tennessee Department of Health. The five local deaths were among the 21 recorded in the Northeast Tennessee region and the 143 reported statewide, according to the data.
As of Monday, the Tennessee Department of Health was reporting 7,168 deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. The state also had the third highest per capita rate of COVID-19 cases in the country last week, with a rate of 93.3 new cases per 100,000 people, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. Only Arizona and California had more cases per capita.
Tennessee’s numbers were down slightly in the beginning of January after rising rapidly in the first weeks of December. The number of active confirmed cases in the state hit a peak of 85,406 on Dec. 21. As of Sunday, the state was reporting 81,331 active cases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, was among those warning that an additional surge is likely across the country because of holiday gatherings and the cold weather keeping people indoors. However, Fauci said recently that he sees a glimmer of hope as vaccination efforts begin to ramp up.
The number of new cases brought some better news with a decline to 50 for Greene County, down from the almost 100 recorded on Sunday, according to the state report. These 50 cases bring the number of people who have contracted the virus in the county to 5,861 since last March.
The Health Department reported 3,593 new cases statewide Monday.
None of the counties in Northeast Tennessee had a new case tally that reached 100 with the highest in Sullivan County at 73 cases. It is not clear whether the numbers from the state are reflecting the disruption in the testing schedules of health departments during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
On Monday, 827 people in Greene County had active cases of the virus. The state data indicates that 4,936 have inactive cases, in that they reached the 14-day point past a positive test or onset of symptoms and were not hospitalized at that point.
No additional hospitalizations were reported for the county in Monday’s state report. Since the pandemic began, 146 people locally have required hospitalization to treat the virus.
Ballad Health reached a new high mark for COVID-19 patient hospitalizations on Monday with 349. The previous high had been reached over the weekend at 339. An additional 13 people have been admitted to Ballad Health hospitals with virus symptoms awaiting tests, according to the daily scorecard from the health system.
There were 41 COVID-19 admissions in the 24 hours covered in the report with 36 COVID-19 patients discharged, the scorecard indicated. There were 58 designated beds available for COVID-19 patients.
There were 63 virus patients in intensive care units, with 41 of those on ventilators, according to the scorecard.
VACCINATIONS, TESTINGVaccinations began of individuals over the age of 75 on Saturday by the Greene County Health Department. However, a state update Monday indicates that those have stopped while the local Health Department awaits more doses of the vaccine.
Currently, there is no vaccine available for distribution in Greene County, according to an update from the state Department of Health. There are at least 37 other counties in the state where no vaccine is available, with five of those in Northeast Tennessee.
Individuals over the age of 75 can still register for the vaccination by calling the Health Department at 798-1749 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to receive an appointment as supplies become available.
The vaccination schedule has changed the Health Department’s COVID-19 testing schedule. Free tests are being administered by the Greene County Health Department 8:30-11:30 a.m. Monday-Friday at the former Greene Valley Developmental Center site on East Andrew Johnson Highway. No appointment is necessary.
At the Greene Valley testing site, self-testing kits will be offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to adults with results available online. Testing will be available for those under age 18, and adults who are not able to register online may receive the standard nasal swab tests on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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.
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.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.