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Every week, the Times Free Press will publish five essential things to know about the coronavirus pandemic in the Chattanooga region. For more updated case count numbers and other data related to Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, visit timesfreepress.com/virus.

Five things to know about COVID-19 in the Chattanooga region for the week ending Nov. 20.

1. Hamilton County Schools changes in-person learning schedule as cases surge: For high schoolers, three days per week will consist of virtual learning under return to 'Phase 2' of reopening plan.

Why it matters: After moving to in-person learning five days a week in August, Hamilton County Schools will move to a hybrid model for older students after the Thanksgiving break. Students in 8th grade and below will remain on campus five days a week from Monday, Nov. 30, through Dec. 4. Meanwhile, students in 9th grade and up will transition to a "phase 2" learning schedule on Nov. 30 until at least Dec. 17. The change comes as active cases in the county surpassed 2,000 this week.

Read more about how local schools are changing their plans.

2. Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger extends mask mandate: The mandate will last through Jan. 15.

Why it matters: Coppinger said earlier this week that the mask mandate was among the hardest decisions he has made as county mayor. While he has received some pushback for the move, others want further restrictions on businesses as cases surge in Hamilton County. Further restrictions are unlikely.

Read more about what Coppinger said about extending the mask order.

3. Whitfield County faces the worst outbreak of coronavirus in Georgia: An infectious disease director said there is "spread across the whole community" and the virus is not concentrated in a small number of pockets.

Why it matters: What happens in the counties surrounding Hamilton County affect Chattanooga, and the spread of the virus in North Georgia is the worst in the entire state. Local county commissioners have ignored the pleas of local doctors to implement a mask mandate. This week, a fellow county commissioner died from COVID-19.

Read more about the outbreak in Whitfield County and the commissioner who died from the virus.

4. White House Task Force urges Tennessee to restrict restaurant capacity: The task force recommends a 25% capacity limit but there is little indication the measures will be followed

Why it matters: Restaurants are a growing concern for spread of the virus. Yet, Gov. Bill Lee has opted to not restrict capacity levels at restaurants or implement a statewide mask mandate. Local business owners fear they would not be able to follow capacity limits without assistance from the government, which is unlikely due to an ongoing stalemate in Washington D.C.

Read more about what the White House is advising for Tennessee's COVID-19 response.

5. Chattanooga clinic focuses on COVID-19 long-haul cases: Local physician works with patients who struggle to overcome lingering symptoms

Why it matters: Researchers are struggling to understand why some people bounce back quickly from an infection and others take weeks, and sometimes months, to recover from symptoms. Pulmonary specialist Dr. Mike Czarnecki has adapted his clinic on Highway 153 to treat these patients and possibly connect them to trials with leading medical institutions in the country. And his clinic is filling up fast as more residents become sick with the virus.

Read more about the clinic and what we are learning about long-haul cases.

What are your experiences with the coronavirus? Are you or someone you love affected by it? What questions do you have? We would like to hear from you, so please contact efite@timesfreepress.com or wmassey@timesfreepress.com.

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