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 Oct. 30.
1. Hamilton County leaders urge people to change holiday plans: The virus is circulating too widely to celebrate as usual, they said.
Why it matters: The county has added at least 100 cases every day this week in the most recent surge of COVID-19 cases. Local leaders, including Hamilton County Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes, said people are experiencing coronavirus fatigue and putting themselves at risk by gathering in small groups. People are also moving inside as temperatures drop, increasing the chances of spread. With this increased risk, health experts are asking Chattanooga-area residents to adjust their Halloween and Thanksgiving plans.
Read more about why your holiday celebration should look different this year.
2. Tennessee hospitals hardest hit with COVID-19 patients from areas without a mask mandate: A Vanderbilt University study released this week came as hospitalizations surged in Tennessee.
Why it matters: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has so far declined to implement a statewide mask mandate, instead leaving it up to county mayors. The study from Vanderbilt found that while hospitals across the state reported increasing patients, those in counties without a mask requirement were experiencing the biggest spike. Several Tennessee hospitals were forced to either scale back or stop elective surgeries this week as a result of the surge, including Ballad Health's hospitals in Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City.
Read more about what the Vanderbilt study showed us about COVID-19 in Tennessee.
3. Grundy County faces a pandemic spike as COVID-19 spreads in rural communities: The area faces unique challenges with the virus now circulating there.
Why it matters: Rural communities began seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases in the past two months as cases were then flattening in Tennessee's urban areas. In Grundy County, an area with some of the worst health outcomes in the state, residents are not under a mask mandate and many still have jobs commuting outside the county.
4. East Ridge officers and firefighters test positive for COVID-19 after Oct. 18 manhunt: The mandatory quarantine is stretching the department thin for staffing.
Why it matters: The shooting of an East Ridge police officer earlier this month led to an overnight manhunt along the Tennessee-Georgia border. The search ended in the suspect being fatally shot and, in the days since, seven East Ridge police officers and four firefighters tested positive for the coronavirus. Other agencies that responded — including Chattanooga police, the Georgia State Patrol and Catoosa and Walker county sheriff's offices — said that none of their officers have tested positive in connection with the manhunt.
Read more about the outbreak among local first responders.
5. Gov. Lee emerges from precautionary COVID-19 quarantine: "I could pose a risk to those around me if I didn't quarantine for 14 days," Lee said.
Why it matters: The governor was exposed to the virus through a member of his security team earlier this month. On Wednesday, he addressed the media to talk about his quarantine. He also was asked about the choices of Vice President Mike Pence, who according to news accounts has continued to make campaign and other appearances after several aides tested positive for COVID-19.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Contact Wyatt Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.