State health department confirms two cases of COVID-19 variant in Tennessee

Tennessee is now one of 24 states across the U.S. to see confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 UK variant of Covid-19. (File Photo)

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — Move over COVID-19 here comes. B.1.1.7. also known as the U.K. variant.

On Monday, Tennessee Department of Health officials confirmed that the new COVID-19 variant named B.1.1.7 had made its way four hours northeast of Lynchburg to Blountville located near the Tennessee, Virginia line. Two cases were confirmed and both individuals were being quarantined. Virginia official also confirmed on case of B.1.1.7 in their state. After emerging from the U.K. in September, the first U.S. case happened in December. As of this week, the CDC reports that there are now 195 total cases reported in the U.S. across 24 states.

B.1.1.7 isn’t the first time the Novel Coronavirus has mutated and it won’t be the last. Virus mutation happen when infected cells change or delete one of its amino acids and the process is completely normal. Health officials have also identified variants from Europe, South America (variant P.1), and African (variant B.1.351) inside the U.S. In response, President Joe Biden reinstated temporary travel restrictions to those countries early this week. He also signed an executive order requiring masks for any person crossing a state line via bus, plane or train.

Health officials describe this new variant to be more contagious than the virus currently circulating across the United States. It’s now the prevalent strand in the U.K. and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast earlier this month that B.1.1.7 will become the dominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in the country by March. 

Even if this new variant doesn’t prove to be more deadly in Tennessee, the real concern would be that rapid transmission might threaten to overwhelm already strained local healthcare systems and thus, lead indirectly, to more deaths.

Because most mutations don’t alter the virus’s basic biology or how the human immune system responds to it, scientist anticipate that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will work on new Coronavirus variants but they say they are monitoring the situation closely. Regardless, Tennessee health officials say they want to get as many Tennesseans vaccinated as quickly as possible and ask the general public to double down on public health precautions like social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible.

For more information about the B.1.1.7 variant and it’s spread across Tennessee, visit the Tennessee Department of Health website by clicking here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated community newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

State updates Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan

Moore County currently sits in risk-based phases 1a1 and 1a2 of the state’s vaccination plan. We are also currently vaccinating Moore County citizens aged 75 and older. (State Graphic)

STATE NEWS — Nothing stays static in any effort that involves local, regional, state, and federal officials and the effort to vaccinate Tennesseans against the COVID-19 virus is no exception. The Tennessee Department of Health announced changes to their COVID-19 Vaccination Plan last Friday. Currently, the state remains in risk-based phases 1a1 and 1a2, which includes health care workers, first responders, residents and staff of long term care facilities, and funeral personnel. Tennessee continues to only offer vaccinations to those 75 and older on a age-based criteria.

Here are a summary of the changes they announced on January 22:

1 | Parents of high-risk kids have been moved up. People living with medically fragile children have be added to Phase 1c of the state’s plan. State officials anticipate moving into Phase 1c in March or April. This group also includes persons ages 16 and older with high-risk comorbidities.

2 | Correctional officers and jailers have been added to risk based phase 1a1, meaning that all local Metro Moore County Jail staff can move to the front of the line. “These Tennesseans work in settings and roles that require frequent direct public exposure through close contact in confined spaces, placing them at high risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19,” according the the state’s press prelease. Residents inside correctional facilities remain in risk-based phase 3 and won’t be vaccinated until late summer or fall, according to the state’s plan.

3 | Moore County citizens aged 70 and older will be next. The state anticipates moving into the age-based criteria of those 70 and older toward the end of January or February. Currently, only Moore County citizens aged 75 and older can get of the Moore County waiting list for available vaccine.

4 | Vaccination now happen by appointment only. On January 11, the state moved to an appointment only vaccination system after the initial public vaccination dates were a bit of a debacle. {To read our full coverage of those issues, click here.} Moore County residents can now get on a vaccination waiting list online if you are age 75 or older or in phase 1a1 or 1a2. If you pre-register online and Moore County is not currently vaccinating your group, you’re preregistration will be kicked out. To get on the Moore County COVID-19 Waiting List, click here. If you need help determining if you are in one of the current phases, you can call the Moore County Health Department at 931-759-4251 or the state health department at 866-442-5301.

5 | State introduces a new COVID-19 dashboard. Last week, the state department of health introduced the Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination dashboard and it gets updated regularly with the total number of Tennesseans receiving vaccination. The latest update reports that 486,197 citizen in total have received vaccine including 110,759 vaccinated since January 17. Statewide, 5.79 percent of Tennessee 6.8 million citizens have received at least one dose of the vaccine. To view the new state dashboard, click here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Moore County doubles its number of new COVID cases this week

COVID 19 continues to spike across the United States and the state of Tennessee. But what do those number mean in a small, rural town like Lynchburg? Each Monday, The Lynchburg Times drills down and examines the global pandemic from a hyper local perspective to help Moore County make informed decisions. Here are five pieces of information, we think you should know from the last seven days:

In the last seven day (November 8-14), Moore County has gained 30 new, active COVID-19 cases and now has a 26.3% positivity rate, per the TN Department of Health. (Graphic Provided)

Moore County doubled its new case count this week. Moore County gained 30 new, active COVID-19 cases in the past seven days. Last Sunday, the state department of health reported 303 total cases and on Saturday that number is 329. That’s double the number of new cases from the previous week. From November 1-7, Moore County only gained just 13 new cases. According to the state, Moore County’s positivity as of Saturday was 26.3 percent. According to the World Health Organization, an positivity rate above five percent suggests that virus is spreading freely within a given community.

Every other southern middle Tennessee county also doubled their case count. Bedford County increased 229 cases last week (up from 104 the previous week). Coffee County went from 114 new cases to 181 new cases. Franklin County jumped 179 new cases (up from 76 the previous week) and Lincoln got 178 new case last week as compared to 86 the week before.

ICU bed capacity is just 11 percent in the state. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, 36 percent (or 530 beds) of the state’s isolated COVID beds are available and 11 percent (or 219 beds) of the state’s ICU beds are available for incoming COVID-19 patients. This week’s hospital capacity reports also states that 72 percent of the state’s supply of ventilators (or 2,576 ventilators) are available. To read the complete report, click here.

Moore County Junior Pro basketball seasons is a go. Despite the fact that both Director of Schools Chad Moorehead and several school board members expressed concerns the Metro School Board voted unanimously to move forward with Junior Pro Basketball at the LES Gym this winter. The measure closely follows the rules established for both Moore County High School an Middle School games and follows all TSSAA guidelines. The board gave Director Moorehead broad authority to pull the plug on those season “at his discretion” should it become necessary.

Mayor Lewis says she will not issue a mask mandate. Governor Bill Lee continues to refuse to issue a state wide mask mandate, instead pushing off the the issue onto county-level officials and local mayors. At the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday, Mayor Lewis told the group that while she supports mask wearing, she did not feel as if the majority of Moore County citizens would support such a measure. Sheriff Hatfield has also previously stated that a local mask mandate would be next to impossible to enforce. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Moore gains 21 new COVID cases this week

As shown on this TN Department of Health graphic, Moore County has experienced a total of 286 COVID-19 cases including 21 new cases this week.

As of this afternoon’s Tennessee Department of Health’s 2 p.m. numbers, Moore County confirmed 21 new, active COVID-19 cases this week. That’s down from 29 new cases last week. Our last reported positivity rate was 26.4 percent.

Coffee County continues to be a regional hotspot with 161 new cases this week. They has 163 new cases last week. Bedford County added 124 – an increase of 25 over the previous week. Franklin County and Lincoln County both reported fewer cases this week than last week.

Here’s are the other top three things you should know this week:

1 | Tennessee #9 state with most COVID cases. This week, a White House Coronavirus Taskforce report showed that Tennessee is among the top 10 states with the most new COVID cases. This week the state gained 15,401 new cases and there are currently 26,478 active cases, according to this afternoon’s TN Department of Health numbers. Governor Lee continues to resist issuing a state-wide mask mandate and instead leaves that decision up to local elected officials.

2 | More cases coming from counties without mask mandates. A Vanderbilt study released this week, states that Tennessee hospitals are seeing an increased number of patients from areas without a mask mandate. “We’ve seen a statewide increase in hospitalizations since early October, indicating that masking alone is not sufficient to curb further spread of the virus,” John Graves, associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said in a news release. “But it’s very clear that areas where masking requirements have remained in place have seen much lower growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

3| State hosts free COVID testing in rural counties. The numbers clearly show that COVID cases are surging in rural areas. As such, the state will hold six free COVID 19 testing events in rural counties this weekend. The two in middle Tennessee are planned for Smith County and Wilson County.

To view the new COVID-19 Dashboard created by the TN Department of Health, click here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}