Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Dr. Mark Anderson, an infectious disease specialist at CHI Memorial, speaks during a press conference at the Hamilton County Health Department's Golley Auditorium on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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

Five things to know about COVID-19 in the Chattanooga region for the week ending Jan 15.

1. Hamilton County won't immediately expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to people 65 and older: Volunteer State not alone in supply chain frustrations.

Why it matters: Officials from the state and county health departments said their organizations will not immediately expand COVID-19 vaccinations to include people age 65 and older, despite a Tuesday announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking them to do so. Officials said there are simply not enough doses in Tennessee to expand the eligible pool. Anger and confusion about the rollout and what is taking so long is not unique to Tennessee, as many states are left with few supplies.

Read more about why the state or county won't expand eligibility and what might be holding things up.


2. Northwest Georgians frustrated with COVID-19 vaccine rollout: Also, Whitfield County repeals its limited mask mandate.

Why it matters: Residents of Northwest Georgia are flustered as they try to make appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine. "Basically, I got the answering machine that whole time," one resident said. At the same time, the Whitfield County Commission repealed the mask requirement at county buildings. There is not a countywide mandate.

Read more about the vaccine rollout in Georgia and why local politicians ended the mask requirement.


3. Whitfield County COVID-19 spike matches Stanford study of the Trump rally effect: Cases in the county are exceeding the research model prediction of an expected bump.

Why it matters: The study concluded there have been at least 30,000 coronavirus infections and 700 deaths as a result of 18 campaign rallies that Trump held four months studied. Stanford estimates Whitfield County would see about 1,378 new cases per 100,000 residents over the next two months. This week, Whitfield County reported 1,426 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, surpassing even the research paper's expected increase in cases.

Read more about the study and the effect of Trump rallies on local COVID-19 case loads.


4. Hamilton County mask mandate extended through March: "We know the mask has helped us to coexist in many ways," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said.

Why it matters: Hamilton County will be under a mask mandate through the end of March, the latest extension from Coppinger. During a Wednesday news conference, the county mayor said wearing masks has kept him from having to implement business closures or other regulations.

Read more about the mask mandate announcement.


5. Chattanooga economy improving but many low-skill workers remain left behind by pandemic: Over 60% of the jobs lost this spring returned over the next six months.

Why it matters: While most jobs are expected to eventually return to the economy, employment in some types of jobs is not likely to fully recover, especially in many low-skill, service jobs at brick-and-mortar retail shops, restaurants and other sectors reshaped by the pandemic.

Read more about how the pandemic is affecting the local economy.

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