Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Nurse Missy Ledford opens a coronavirus test kit at a COVID-19 testing site put on by CEMPA and La Paz on Thursday, July 30, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Some context for COVID-19 deaths

Just before 4 p.m. Friday, the U.S. had logged 253,458 deaths from COVID-19.

Just from COVID-19.

To put this in perspective, imagine every resident — man, woman and child — dead, vanished, in the city or town limits of Chattanooga, Red Bank, East Ridge, Ridgeside, Collegedale, Soddy-Daisy, Walden, Signal Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

Here's another image: More than two-thirds of all residents in Hamilton County would be dead and gone.

Or try this for still more context.

Those 253,458 and counting novel coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are :

* 10 times the number deaths from car crashes (24,200) a year

* Six times the number American influenza deaths (42,200) in a year

* More than five times the number of suicides (45,400) in a year

* 108,000 more than the usual 142,000 stroke deaths each year

* Not quite half the number of either cancer deaths or heart disease deaths each year

And we still are not counting a full year of COVID-19 deaths in America until February rolls around.

Yes, that's sobering.

And its why we are so very thankful to Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and county health officials who last week extended our local mask mandate though Jan. 15.

Their action — and residents' careful and respectful adherence to that order — are things we can be thankful for during this Thanksgiving week.


National leadership — or not

As the country on Thursday mourned a quarter-million Americans lost to the virus, President Donald Trump did nothing to acknowledge the grim milestone or comfort those in grief. In fact, he has largely ignored the raging pandemic since he lost reelection nearly three weeks ago.

Actually, that's not quite correct. He and his administration have done something. They have continued to refuse any transition aid — even coronavirus related transition aid — to President-elect Joe Biden and his team, which includes a stellar new Biden/Harris COVID-19 task force and advisory board.

It's not as though COVID-19 is something Trump could forget. An average of 1,209 Americans have been reported dead every day the past week.

The White House did manage to pull together Trump's COVID Task Force for a meeting. It was led by Vice President Mike Pence, and it was the first time in months that the group had met to address the public.

That's interesting don't you think? Especially since the latest task force written report warned of "aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country."

That same task force is now urging Tennessee to restrict restaurant capacity to 25%.

Yet Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican who has opted to follow Trump's lead, has decided to restrict capacity levels or implement a statewide mask mandate.


Other Tennesseans aren't quiet

There are some Tennessee politicians — one retired and another on the way to retirement in January — who are not siding with Trump on his COVID stonewalling.

Sen. Lamar Alexander has called on Trump to provide 'all transition' aid to Biden

And former Sen. Bob Corker on Friday blasted Trump, and "the reckless actions by him and his legal team."

Alexander said that President Donald Trump's administration should begin providing President-elect Joe Biden's team with access to materials to "ensure a smooth transition."

Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, Alexander said "that especially should be true, for example, on vaccine distribution. If there is any chance whatsoever that Joe Biden will be the next president, and it looks like he has a very good chance, the Trump Administration should provide the Biden team with all transition materials, resources and meetings necessary to ensure a smooth transition so that both sides are ready on day one," he said in a statement.

"Any chance whatsoever " Like maybe Biden's 6 million more votes than what Trump received?

Corker weighed in more sharply, tweeting:

"While the president has the right to legitimate legal challenges, responsible citizens cannot let the reckless actions by him and his legal team stand. Republicans have an obligation when the subject is of such importance to challenge demagoguery and patently false statements."


It's up to us

Meanwhile, it's up to all of us to do what we can to stay safe.

A variety of COVID-19 testing sites throughout Tennessee will hold extended hours Monday in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday — a holiday that Americans have been urged not to celebrate with people outside of their households.

The 35 participating county health departments will be open for free testing from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time on Nov. 23 and Nov. 30, according to Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health.

In Southeast Tennessee, the participating counties are Bradley County, Franklin County, McMinn County and Rhea County health departments. The state hopes to return all test results within 48 hours, Piercey said.

Hamilton County will not be a participating county as it has been offering testing seven days a week since April. Hamilton's testing location, at the Alstom site on Riverfront Parkway, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. most days. The site will be closed on Nov. 26 and 27 and will reopen on Nov. 28.