Washington County Commissioners hear update on business re-openings, COVID-19 testing

Robert Houk • May 7, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy told county commissioners Wednesday that his novel coronavirus recovery task force has created a program to allow businesses to promote themselves as being “a safe place to dine, shop or get a haircut.”

Grandy said such businesses must be compliant with Gov. Bill Lee’s Tennessee Pledge, a phased plan for re-opening economic operations shuttered by the pandemic. He said that means local retailers and restaurants must meet the governor’s stringent public health and safety guidelines for dealing with COVID-19.

The mayor also told commissioners that Washington County has seen an increase in the number of building permits issued in 2020, with April setting a record. He said 16 permits for new home construction were issued during the month, with a combined value totaling more than $7.5 million.

Commissioners also heard from public health officials during their weekly COVID-19 update. Christen Minnick, the director of the Washington County Health Department, said her facility is continuing to test between 50 to 100 people daily for the coronavirus.

She also noted the health department has received a shipment of 7,200 face masks from a company in Cleveland that are available free to the public.

Dr. David Kirschke, the director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Department, told commissioners the area has seen “somewhat of a decrease recently” in positive cases of COVID-19. He said the region reported four new cases on Wednesday, with two coming from Washington County.

He said one of those cases was recorded in an assisted living center. Kirschke said health officials are now offering tests to all nursing home facilities.

“We are still seeing asymptomatic cases,” the doctor said. “That’s why we are reminding people that when they go back to these businesses — especially personal touch businesses —  they be careful.”

Kirschke said public health officials are working with East Tennessee State University and Ballad Health to collect data on how current business re-openings have possibly impacted the number of new COVID-19 cases being reported.

He said a “data dashboard” will be created to help tell government leaders if more restrictions should be put in place.



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