Ballad Health: More than half of new COVID-19 cases ‘related to travel’

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- As the Fourth of July holiday quickly approaches, officials at Ballad Health issued a release urging caution when it comes to travel, especially to “popular vacation spots.”

In a release issued by Ballad Health Monday officials said in part, “More than half of the new COVID-19 cases at Ballad Health have been related to travel, and popular vacation spots such as Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Florida are reporting enormous spikes in COVID-19 cases.”

Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine said in that release, “If you choose to travel, I implore you to do so safely. Research where you are going to assess the COVID-19 risk, wear your mask and avoid large groups of people. And when you return, monitor yourself for symptoms for at least 14 days, and do everything possible to limit your exposure to others, especially high-risk individuals.”

The cautionary warning comes as popular tourist destinations like Myrtle Beach, Orlando, and Sevierville have all seen swelling coronavirus case numbers in recent days.

“We certainly can’t make a recommendation for no one to travel. What we do encourage people to do is research, know where they’re going, know the risk and take appropriate precautions,” said Jamie Swift, Ballad’s corporate director of infection prevention.

Swift said Ballad is seeing four to five cases on average come in per day now – an upward trend compared to the past month.

“Florida, South Carolina, both those states are seeing rapid increases. Sevierville is seeing a pretty rapid increase right now.”

A chart from Ballad Health shows COVID-19 case counts increasing on average in mid-June
after collecting lower case numbers in May

If you go through with your summer travel plans, Dr. Stephen May with the Sullivan County Health Department says mask-wearing and social distancing is crucial. He advised people to be extra cautious upon returning from trips.

“Assume that [you’re] infected. At least for the 14 days that you could be potentially incubating,” said Dr. May.

Swift also urged people to wear masks as the region is at a critical point in cases.

“If everyone’s wearing a mask, we’re protecting each other,” she said. “We really want to get the message out. Let’s stop this before we get much higher.”

Anyone who is experiencing symptoms and believes they might have been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to call Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523.

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