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With nine dead from the novel coronavirus in Hamilton County, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department is pleading with the public to prevent community spread.

In the county's first virtual press conference on Friday, Tammy Burke, a spokeswoman for the department, said that the county had confirmed three new deaths and five new cases of the virus since Thursday.

Burke also said that of the 68 confirmed cases, 20 were linked to another known case-- indicating community spread of the virus for the remaining cases. 

"It doesn't sound flashy, but the two most important things our community can do to limit the spread of the virus is to limit your contact with others and wash your hands frequently," Burke said. "If you go to the grocery store and touch coronavirus, you are not going to be infected with that unless you touch your eyes, your nose or your mouth."

Burke said that the county completed its first 24 drive-thru community screenings ahead of schedule on Friday, which will be tested in the county's new lab. She also said the county could screen as many as 36 community members daily next week, in addition to hospital backlogs being tested in the lab. 

"I know that other communities have tested more people than we have in HamCo," Burke said. "We're very satisfied that we are now able to provide better testing for our community."

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.

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