Health official: Some local coronavirus cases may be from community spread, not travel

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A health official says some local COVID-19 cases may be due to community spread of the virus instead of travel outside the area.

Dr. David Kirschke with the Northeast Regional Health Office said Wednesday that for the first time, some COVID-19 coronavirus cases in Northeast Tennessee cannot be traced directly to travel outside of the area, which suggests there may be “community spread” of the virus.

“Once there’s community spread, there’s really potential for coronavirus to increase exponentially,” Kirschke said.

“If we don’t want that to happen in our area, we have to take all the social distancing measures seriously,” he added.

Earlier Wednesday, local health officials warned that social distancing is important now more than ever.

“We are at a tipping point,” said Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine. “We’ve now started to see cases emerge, and initially many of the cases, almost all of those cases, were from people who had traveled and come back. And now we are at high-risk of community-based spread.”

Kirschke said three confirmed cases in the northeast district — which includes Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Unicoi, and Washington counties — have not been connected to outside travel.

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