‘Weigh the risk everytime you go out’: Sullivan Co. Mayor holds news briefing to discuss COVID-19 and holiday season

Local Coronavirus Coverage

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable held a news briefing Wednesday morning alongside health officials and other local leaders.

In Mayor Venable’s opening remarks, he specifically addressed senior citizens.

“I would like to open with a message to our seniors. If you follow reports you will find that people over 50 are more susceptible to extremely serious complications and death. During this holiday season I encourage and urge our senior citizens, which I am one of, to keep your contacts to close and immediate families. Don’t be out, weigh the risk every time you go out. We don’t have a stay at home order but if I were going to do that I would tell our senior citizens to stay as close around home as they can,” Venable said.

The message came as the Tennessee Department of Health reported 820 active cases in Sullivan County on Wednesday.

“So we’re here to sound the alarm,” said Dr. Stephen May of the Sullivan County Health Department.

In wake of high community spread, Dr. May said households should not mix as the holidays approach.

“Where we are now is very concerning. We’re at a 23.9% positivity rate this morning. At that rate we can anticipate doubling our numbers within four to six weeks.”

Bristol, Tennessee Mayor Mahlon Luttrell addressed what the younger population should do to protect those more vulnerable.

“It’s so important that we’re making sure we are social distancing, and it’s even more important that we’re really staying home as much as we can,” he said.

Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull is concerned over essential workers contracting the virus.

“Police, we’ve got fire, we’ve got people that operate the sewer and the water plants, clean water. We need them to be at work,” said Shull.

Bluff City Mayor Irene Wells said mask wearing and distancing can help hospitals from being overrun.

“Before the virus existed, the hospitals were full. So now the hospitals and the workers have to deal with the virus also,” Wells said.

Dr. May said most importantly, if you’re ill, you need to immediately isolate and get tested.

“This is not about politics, this is not about any other issue but having compassion,” he said.

Dr. May said schools aren’t a main cause of community spread at this point. He believes it’s after-school activities and people gathering in the evenings that is causing cases to rise. The county is also seeing some clusters in nursing homes.

Officials reminded everyone these precautions won’t need to be taken forever. Mayor Venable touched on vaccine distribution following state officials saying Tuesday the first round of vaccines will come mid-December.

Venable expects Ballad Health, the Sullivan County, and Northeast Regional health departments will all be involved in distribution.

“There is a logistical distribution system that is already in place from the manufacturer all the way through delivering it to the first responders and hospital personnel, and then the general public,” he said.

Sullivan County’s mask mandate is set to expire November 30th. Venable said they’ll consider extending it until the end of the year. He told News Channel 11 he will recommend the county does so.

You can watch the entire news briefing on our WJHL Facebook page below.

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