Hamilton County Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes said Friday that Hamilton County has added 75 new coronavirus cases, with the number of cumulative cases being 3,255. She said there are 2,096 recovered cases, and 1,122 active COVID patients in the community. She reported another COVID death to the total.
The 37th death was a White non-Hispanic male between 61-70 years with underlying medical conditions.
Those in the hospital with the virus went down from 71 to 66, but those in ICU rose from 17 to 19.
“Our sympathies go out to the family of the deceased, and we wish a speedy recovery to all our active cases,” said Ms. Barnes. “The increase in cases is a stark reminder that this disease is still very much present in our community and that wearing a mask, as mandated by the Health Directive, practicing social distancing, and getting tested has never been more important than now.”
“We need to apply every public health measure available to stop this virus,” said the health department administrator. “One of the prime tools for this is masks. Today is the first day of the mask directive. Nobody enjoys wearing a mask, but we are asking everyone who can wear a mask to wear one in order to save lives.”
She said the county has received a shipment of free masks from the state. These masks are washable rather than disposable. She said around 3,600 people have been tested through drive through sites in the last seven days.
Ms. Barnes also said the health department is looking to hire more people to help with the county’s COVID-19 response team. She said they are looking for nurses, epidemiologist, clerical staff, interpreters, maintenance specialists, and health information specialists.
“Our goal with these positions is to also be able to restore some of our more traditional public health services that we’ve had to reduce to focus on the pandemic,” said Ms. Barnes.
Dr. Paul Hendricks said the new mask initiative, which will require masks to be worn in businesses and in most public places, goes into effect today. He said that this initiative will hopefully stop the spread of COVID-19 in high-risk situations.
“We don’t expect everyone with a medical exemption to go to their doctor for a note, or for businesses to ask for medical records or ask about your private information,” said Dr. Hendricks. “We’ll be relying on the basic honesty of our citizens to report any known exemptions if asked to wear a mask.”
He said he hoped businesses will treat people not wearing masks in the same way they treat people who are smoking or being unruly - by asking that person to leave the premises. He said the county is focusing on educating people on the dangerous nature of the virus.
Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy recently said his department will not enforce the mandate. He said he wants to focus on educating or teaching the public.
The Health Department urges everyone who thinks they have been exposed to COVID-19 or exhibits any COVID-19 symptoms to be tested as soon as possible. Early detection allows Health Department interventions to stop the spread of the disease.
Free Health Department testing is available this Saturday and Sunday at the East Lake Academy at 34th St. and Dodds Ave. from 7 a.m.-11 a.m. and at the Olivet Baptist Church at 740 M.L.K. Blvd. on Saturday 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and Sunday noon-3 p.m. No symptoms, physician referral needed, and clients can walk or drive up. The Health Department’s complete testing calendar can be viewed here.
Beginning Monday free Health Department testing will resume at Brainerd High School with extended hours from 7AM-2PM, thanks to support from the Tennessee National Guard medical staff. Testing at this site will last through Sunday, July 19th. Consult the Health Department’s testing webpage for times.
Free masks are available at the Health Department’s main campus at 921 E. 3rd St., Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Individual masks may be picked up from the self-dispensing containers in the circle drive behind the Health Department, but bulk requests should be coordinated through the hotline at 423-209-8383.
The Health Department is hiring various positions to help with the COVID-19 response:
· Nurses (RNs and LPNs) to do testing, contact tracing, and monitoring.
· Clerical staff to work at testing sites and assist with hotline/phone calls.
· Interpreters to assist with language barriers and contact monitoring.
· Maintenance technicians for testing sites.
· Epidemiologist to conduct disease surveillance.
· Information specialists for contact tracing, case investigations, and data entry and management.
Interested persons can visit the Hamilton County Government’s Open Jobs website for the application process.
The best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 continues to be:
· Wear a mask according to the mandate – exceptions can be found in Health Directive No. 1.
· Social distance 6 feet (2 meters) or more from others outside your household.
· Avoid organizing or attending gatherings of people.
· Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer often.
· Stay home if you are sick. If you are sick and your symptoms worsen, seek medical attention immediately, but call before going to a healthcare provider’s office.
· Get tested to know your status.
For more information from the Health Department, visit the following resources:
· COVID-19 hotline: (423) 209-8383
· English Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HamiltonTNHealthDept/
· Spanish Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Departamento-de-Salud-del-Condado-de-Hamilton-110496877323992/
· Press Briefings: https://www.youtube.com/user/HamiltonCountyTN
· YouTube English: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCkF8VUBQFLiJoxh8Sk10mA
· YouTube Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwHuLpBFuLOf6hDTOCFbfyQ
· COVID-19 Testing Calendar: http://health.hamiltontn.org/AllServices/Coronavirus(COVID-19)/HealthDepartmentAffiliatedFREETestingSitesinHamiltonCounty.aspx
· Website: http://health.hamiltontn.org/
· Twitter: https://twitter.com/HamiltonHealth