This story was updated Tuesday, April 14, 2020, at 6:13 p.m. with more information.
Hamilton County health officials reported two new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and one new death, bringing the county's total number of cases due to the global pandemic to 109 and deaths to 12 residents.
The latest death was an adult over 40 with underlying health conditions, Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes said during a video news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Barnes announced a new COVID-19 testing site at Clinica Medicos, in cooperation with the county, in an effort to provide testing services to citizens without a primary care provider, health insurance or personal vehicle. Interested people can call the clinic at 423-760-4000 to set up an appointment.
"The clinic is open to the community, and you don't need to speak Spanish in order to receive services there," Barnes said. "They're open seven days a week, and most people will be able to be seen that same day."
Dr. Kelly Rodney Arnold, medical director at Clinica Medicos, said in an email that providers saw an opportunity to serve alongside the county to address health disparities and barriers to COVID-19 care, including finances, transportation, interpretation, documentation and trust. Providers are also helping local health officials better understand the impact of the coronavirus and prevent its spread among underserved populations in the county.
"There are many gaps to fill requiring many willing hands, and we want to be a part of the solution — it's our nature to flex around the needs of the patient," Arnold said. "COVID-19 does not discriminate, and therefore, neither should we regarding who has access to appropriate testing, and even more importantly, who has access to a helping, healing hand."
Arnold said the clinic has the capacity to serve hundreds of patients per week as long as it can maintain its current level of protection for patients and staff.
Barnes acknowledged the devastation caused by Sunday's late-night severe weather, thanking the first responders and community members who have helped with rescue efforts and noting the concern about the potential for the local COVID-19 outbreak to worsen.
Dr. Paul Hendricks, Hamilton County health officer, said the tornado striking during the pandemic creates an unwelcome opportunity for the coronavirus to spread.
"It's human nature to rush in and help our affected friends and neighbors," he said. "While it's a very basic human act of compassion and love, it's also exactly what the COVID-19 virus will take advantage of."
Hendricks said those with symptoms should not participate in recovery efforts, and everyone should wear facial coverings if possible.
The county reopened its COVID-19 drive-thru testing site on Bonnyshire Drive and collected more than 60 samples for testing Tuesday after rescheduling Monday's appointments to keep people off the streets during storm cleanup, Barnes said. She also said the county is currently in "good" shape with testing supplies.
Contact Elizabeth Fite at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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