Tri-Cities residents react to COVID-19 community spread in Northeast Tennessee

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Health officials Wednesday announced the first positive cases of COVID-19 that were declared unrelated to travel, which indicates signs of community spread. These officials have since the conception of the coronavirus pandemic declared that community spread was imminent.

Dr. David Kirschke, Director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Department told News Channel 11 Wednesday afternoon that positive cases of COVID-19 related to community spread are the reason for the rigorous testing and public health alerts.

“Overall, now there’s 15 cases in the region as you said, we’ve said that we expect numbers to go up,” Kirschke said.

Of those 15 cases Dr. Kirschke said that seven of those cases were associated with travel outside the Tri-Cities region and five were contact-to-contact from people who traveled, but the remaining three cases are different.

“But really the new thing is three of them, as we investigate, we’re not finding any, you know, known contact or travel outside our area so those cases are more an indication that there could be community spread going on in Northeast Tennessee,” he said.

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However in Sullivan County, officials say they haven’t seen cases of community spread just yet.

“Cases that we’ve identified thus far in Sullivan County, now I don’t know about the Tri-Cities, but in Sullivan County have been travel-related,” Medical Director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department Dr. Stephen May told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.

A Tri-Cities resident told News Channel 11 how he’s coping with the reality of COVID-19 and community spread.

“I’m just out for a couple of hours and I’ll be getting back home soon and I’m not planning any big trips out of state or trying to do anything to I think seriously impact my vulnerability,” Librarian Joe Penza said.

Alex Ackermann explained how he is teaching his kids to think about the coronavirus and how to prevent community spread while maintaining a healthy routine.

“We do talk with them, try to let them know what’s going on in a way they understand, that you know, we wash our hands, we keep our distance, but we’re not going to be secluded indoors just because of this,” Ackermann said.

Though some parts of our region have not seen community spread yet, Dr Kirschke had some suggestions:

“You know if people aren’t doing it already, it’s time to tighten up on all those public health recommendations we’ve been given,” he said.

For more coverage on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, click here.

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