COVID-19 cases hit a low mark

Devonna Esslinger, right, gives LeAnne Jenkins her COVID-19 vaccination at the Loudon County Health Department.

For the first time in about a year, Loudon County’s active COVID-19 cases are hovering in single digits.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there were nine active cases Thursday. Numbers were not updated again by News-Herald presstime.

There were 39 active cases on this date a year ago. The highest total active cases reached 581 in December.

Teresa Harrill, Loudon County Health Department director, estimated the cases are likely lowest since April 2020. Numbers in numerous counties have hit single digits statewide, with some at zero.

“I think definitely the vaccinations (have helped),” Harrill said. “I think as more people get vaccinated and feel comfortable having their bubble, so to speak, their families vaccinated. I think since things have opened back up I think people have become comfortable and that hopefully that we’re continuing just the measures that we were drilled in our head as far as hand washing, social distancing and all that stuff.

“My concern is the new variant, the Delta virus that they’ve been talking about, from what I understand there have been cases in that — I don’t know about any in Loudon County — but in Tennessee,” she added.

The Department of Health confirmed 27 confirmed cases of the Delta variant in Tennessee.

“If they’re vaccinated it does, from what we understand, it does protect,” Harrill said. “There have been cases where people have actually been vaccinated and then — it’s not a high number — but have gotten COVID. The good news on that part is if they’re vaccinated the case is not going to be as severe, so that’s a positive.”

Loudon County’s vaccination rate still ranks No. 1 in the state. As of Thursday, Harrill said the number of shots given hit 52,543. She credits the retirement community for getting vaccinations early.

“Our testing has gone totally down,” Harrill said. “I mean we probably on Tuesday and Thursday for the week, if we test 10 that’s a big number. We’re not testing very much and, I’ll be honest, our vaccines have gone (down). We only did six vaccines yesterday. But the good news is for Loudon we have 52% that’s had at least one vaccine and with at least two doses it’s 48%.”

Vaccinations have moved back to the health department after several months at Loudon Municipal Park.

“We are totally back at the health department and we are seeing patients,” Harrill said. “We actually we were just talking a minute ago we had an 8-day-old baby yesterday in for WIC. We’re gradually getting people back into the building, back to doing family planning, immunizations. We never stopped doing vital records, I mean birth certificates, death certificates, all that. We hadn’t skipped a beat.”

Although the department previously held community vaccination events, Harrill said none are planned.

Two such events took place in May and June at The Venue at Lenoir City as part of a partnership between the health department, county Rotary clubs and Summit Medical Group. Monty Ross, Lenoir City Rotary Club member, said 60 people were vaccinated.

“It’s still a success because the more people that we can reach the better,” Ross said. “It’s that many more people you are protecting, and I see that as a success.”

There are no plans for another event.

“I would want to feel a little more secure about numbers coming in,” Ross said. “I’m thinking that it might pick up as time passes and cases start happening again. … I was hoping for younger people. It went to 12 and up and I was hoping that grandchildren of the people who had gotten vaccinated — I was hoping that there would be more younger people because I really want kids to be able to stay in school. They need that. They need to be in the classroom and safe. There were some, there were a few teenagers and that was good, but I wish there would have been (more).”

Vaccinations are available 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday at the health department. Testing takes place at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

“We just encourage people to continue with the social distancing,” Harrill said. “… Hopefully, to be honest, we hope that that will show a difference this coming flu season, too, because last year we had very few flu cases so hopefully we’ll continue to trend if people are washing hands and all that good stuff.”

For more information, call the department at 865-458-4662.