Loudon County Commission will discuss Tuesday sending a letter to Gov. Bill Lee in opposition of the Knox County Board of Health considering, before removing from the agenda, to expand its reach into surrounding communities for COVID-19 regulation.
A special called meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Loudon County Courthouse Annex. Commissioners initially scheduled the meeting to discuss Loudon County Courthouse restoration phase two. The Knox County board met Dec. 16.
According to a resolution, members would have requested an executive order from Lee to allow the six metropolitan health departments to “initiate public health orders for the surrounding public health region in which they reside in an attempt to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19, hospitalizations associated with COVID-19 and deaths attributed to COVID-19 infection.”
“Of course it all went away, they pulled it off and that sort of stuff, but we’re not too positive that we shouldn’t go ahead and take some kind of preemptive action just to make our position very clear to the governor and to Knox County, because that board of health is still in operation,” Van Shaver, county commissioner, said.
“They may decide again next week to try something else again, so we just want to send a really strong message to the Knox County Board of Health and the governor that we have no interest whatsoever having their involvement in our local operations.
“... It’s off the scale,” he added. “It’s unprecedented that one county would try to come in and dictate to another county how they would do business, especially when it comes to the health and safety and welfare of our citizens. We will never accept Knox County’s involvement in our operations. We don’t need them telling us what to do.”
Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw, Loudon County mayor, believes a resolution could at least be sent to Lee and state legislators.
“I don’t know that it’ll come back up again,” Bradshaw said. “I think the gentleman that had initially proposed it withdrew it pretty quick, a lot of pressure, but we want to make sure that the governor’s office and our legislature know exactly where we stand with it. ... To me, to attempt to just absolutely stretch out into surrounding counties — I’ll worry about Loudon County. I didn’t see how in the world that was ever feasible. It certainly wasn’t going to be tolerated.”
Bradshaw said other county mayors have expressed opposition.
“When (Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs) told me I originally thought maybe I had read it wrong and then he sent me a copy of it and I talked to him on the phone that this is what (the board of health’s) going to try and accomplish,” Bradshaw said. “To me it just blew my mind. Just the nerve to think that this group of unelected officials could reach out into a surrounding county, particularly Loudon County, and tell us how to do our business was appalling. I’ve heard from numerous, numerous citizens on as well, small business owners, and it just wasn’t going to be tolerated.”
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, as of Monday there were 815 active COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths in Loudon County. Knox County has 5,352 active cases and 246 deaths.
David Meers, county commissioner, believes any regulations should ultimately be up to a county and its mayor.
“I think they’ve got plenty of issues up there and we have plenty of issues down here,” Meers said. “We need to take care of our house and they can take care of theirs. ... I think that the governor would respect what the county mayor’s deciding and if we do feel it’s necessary we can have a discussion at it open in the commission and try to make a decision from there.”