Hamilton County, Chattanooga COVID-19 task force holds first meeting

Mayor Jim Coppinger, left, and Mayor Andy Berke chat before a press conference at the McDaniel Building on Friday, March 13, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn. / Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter

The new local COVID-19 Task Force focused on communication and determining the area's most needed resources during its first meeting Tuesday.

The task force is a joint effort between Chattanooga and Hamilton County and is comprised of leading medical and health care professionals, including representatives of the area's largest health care systems. Rae Young Bond, CEO of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society, is leading the group.

"Ultimately the hospitals, physicians and local governments are working toward one goal and that's to persevere community health during this [pandemic]," Bond said in a media briefing that followed the meeting. "Today was establishing the process, opening the lines of communication."

The group decided to establish smaller working groups to look at issues such as if there's a need for alternative sites of care, community testing and proving support to the nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, Bond said. However, those groups are still being determined.

Securing adequate personal protective equipment, testing supplies and the reagents - or ingredients needed to analyze a specimen for COVID-19 - are a primary focus for the task force as the entire country vies for the same scarce resources.

"The whole nation is facing the same crisis simultaneously," Bond said. "It is extremely important that we work to protect the health care providers. They are all working literally around the clock to try and prepare our community to respond to this pending crisis."

The Task Force's next meeting will be Tuesday, April 7, and meeting notes will be provided to the public at cha.city/covid.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger announced the formation of the team Monday to help coordinate the city and county's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Berke said at the time that the goal is to provide updates to the community about vulnerable populations, how medical facilities are preparing and other virus-related information.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.