Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes on Tuesday said a new spike in COVID-19 cases is caused by county residents "letting their guard down."
She said the “curve” had been flattened momentarily, but now the county is starting to see a rise in cases. For instance, on Sept. 12, Hamilton County was averaging 59 cases a day. On the week ending on Oct. 24, this rate has risen to 103 cases a day.
"Our new cases today are 110. This is a continuing a trend of 100 or more cases a day for over a week now,” Ms. Barnes said. “We are seeing cases across our community. I would say the largest drivers of our increase is the lack of appropriate mask wearing, a lack of social distancing, small gatherings without precautions, family spread, continuing to leave home while ill or awaiting a test result, pandemic fatigue, cooler weather, shorter days, and more time spent indoors.”
She said the only way to stop the rise of the virus is for every person in the community to adhere to precautions. She said the county has arrived at a “critical juncture, and must pivot to safer practices in our community.”
“Wear a mask, and wear it at all times when you are in contact with individuals outside of your immediate home,” Ms. Barnes said. “Many of our cases are epi-linked with no masks worn. As families are beginning to make their holiday plans, we want them to take into account this is a year unlike any year any of us have ever experienced.”
Ms. Barnes noted Halloween is only a few days away, and implored families to abide by the COVID-19 guidelines, which includes wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings, and social distancing.
“Consider other kinds of activities this year, such as a scavenger hunt-style trick or treat around the house with just your household members,” Ms. Barnes said. “Watch a scary movie in the backyard, or have a pumpkin carving contest in your backyard.”
“This is a hard reality, but the virus is circulating at too high numbers for us to have our usual types of Thanksgiving celebrations,” Ms. Barnes said of next month’s largest holiday. She advised for only immediate family to gather together, and to try to spread out as much as possible when together.
“I especially want to urge older citizens and those with underlying health conditions to attend Thanksgiving virtually this year. Case investigations show positive cases have numerous contacts, and spread the virus to their family.”
Ms. Barnes said the Alstom plant still has free testing, and said if people follow guidelines, the number of COVID cases and deaths can be heavily lessened. She also said anyone over the age of 18 can receive a free flu shot at Stony Point Baptist Church from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger echoed Ms. Barnes' sentiments, and asked the public to wear a mask in order to prevent a spread of COVID-19.
“We’ve been able to open up the economy, to have people go to restaurants and retail, and most importantly have our young people go back into our schools,” the county mayor said. “A lot of that is due to the recommendations made by the CDC and the health department.”
“This is something that we need to respect, but not something we need to fear. You need to take every precaution to avoid any contact with the virus,” continued County Mayor Coppinger.
He said around the country, a trend is beginning to emerge. COVID-19 is beginning to spread because of small gatherings, often brought on by groups staying indoors because of the colder weather.
“Don’t let your guard down with your own family. If you have a large family into your house, be cautious. You don’t know where they may have been or if they’re asymptomatic,” County Mayor Coppinger said. “We’re seeing an uptick around the country and the state. We can coexist with this virus, but only if we take the steps necessary.
“Masks are our best protection, and there is scientific evidence for this. It makes even more of a difference if I am wearing a mask and you are wearing a mask and we are socially distanced.”
He said therapeutic drugs are going to hit the market eventually, as will a vaccine. But the county mayor said at the moment, the only action people can do to prevent COVID-19 is to wear a mask and social distance.