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With the increase locally of COVID-19 cases, Greene County’s mask mandate has been extended to Dec. 29 by local authorities.

Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison on Friday issued his fifth executive order during the pandemic, extending the mandate that infection control/facial coverings be worn in local businesses, industries, restaurants, retail stores, organizations or other venues.

With the “alarming increase” in new virus cases, both health care and business leaders have advised it would be prudent to keep the mask mandate in place as well as to continue to urge the public’s assistance in limiting the spread of the virus, Morrison stated in a release about the order.

“Your governmental and health care leaders realize and acknowledge the difficulty, aggravation and renumbered efforts we all have had to endure through the course of this pandemic,” he stated.

“Frequent hand hygiene, social distancing (six feet or more separation) and continued wear of infection control or other quality facial coverings where and when social distancing is not possible will help with suppression of the virus and keep our businesses, restaurants, schools and economy open,” he continued. “We ask for these continued courtesies and sacrifices in order to protect life and preserve our nearly maximized health care treatment assets.”

There were 29 new active cases of COVID-19 reported Friday in Greene County by the Tennessee Department of Health, and one new death attributed to the virus.

The active case total Friday stood at 371. There have been a total of 55 deaths in Greene County, according to the Department of Health.

COVID-19 cases in Greene County totaled 1,927, an increase of 51 from Thursday.

Inactive/recovered cases in Greene County totaled 1,501, an increase of 21 from Thursday. Individuals are counted as having inactive/recovered cases 14 days after they first had symptoms or received a positive test result, if asymptomatic.

Greene County had the second-highest number of new active COVID-19 cases in Northeast Tennessee. The Department of Health reported that Washington County had 745 such cases on Friday, up 37 from Thursday.

Active case figures for other surrounding counties include 231 in Cocke, up four; 10 in Hancock, up two; 221 in Hamblen, the same as Thursday; 870 in Sullivan, up 27 cases; and 119 in Unicoi, down three active cases.

There were 1,211 active cases of the virus reported in Knox County, down seven from the day before.

Statewide, the Department of Health reported 256,880 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, an increase of 2,660. Deaths in Tennessee total 3,341, an increase of 78 from Thursday.

There have been about 3.65 million Tennesseans tested for the virus as of Friday, an increase of 24,149 people from Thursday.

The statewide positive test rate was 10.58 percent. The positive test rate in the 21-county area served by Ballad Health that includes Greene County is 15 percent, according to the health care system’s Friday scorecard.

There have been 23,767 positive COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the Ballad Health network since March 1. The figure includes an increase of 425 cases from Thursday.

There had been 41 COVID-19 deaths in the Ballad Health system in the seven days ending on Friday.

There were 195 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Ballad Health facilities on Friday, the highest total yet for the health care system. There were 15 designated COVID-19 beds available.

Ballad Health listed 36 patients in hospital intensive care units due to the virus, with 17 on ventilators.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed nearly 9 million reported COVID-19 cases since March. There were 228,100 deaths from the virus listed Friday, an increase of 1,055 from Thursday.

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.

Tests for the virus are being administered at the Greene County Health Department from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary. Those seeking to be tested are asked to use the Church Street entrance to the Health Department.

Free self-swab tests are now available at the CVS Pharmacy, 506 Asheville Highway, for those who meet CDC 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.

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