Officials warn to keep vigilant during holiday and COVID-19

Becky Campbell • May 23, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Veterans and their families have special permission from Johnson City to attend a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, but social distancing will still be observed.

The Johnson City American Legion received approval from City Manager Pete Peterson to hold the annual ceremony at 9 a.m. at the Memorial Center amphitheater.

Because of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, attendance will be limited to veterans and their spouses, and everyone will be required to wear a face mask. The ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. and will include the laying of a wreath at the base of the "Doughboy" statue and special recognition of all those who died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The event, originally called Decoration Day, began following the Civil War to pay respect to those who had died during that war and subsequent conflicts,” said Legion Commander Bryan Lauzon. “Renamed Memorial Day, by an act of Congress in 1971, the day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. Memorial Day is often confused with Veteran's Day; Memorial Day is to remember all the dead who served in our Nation's wars, Veteran's Day recognized all those who have served in the military and the Coast Guard.”

And while there are likely to be family and friends gathering on Monday for cookouts, health officials said it’s not time to let the guard down against the novel coronavirus.

“Really, social distancing is still in place,” said Dr. David Kirschke, with the Washington County Health Department. He noted that Gov. Bill Lee’s latest recommendations allow the gatherings of 10 or fewer to increase to 50 or fewer.

Kirschke said people should stay aware of the danger of COVID-19, because it hasn’t gone away

“Anyone that has any kind of high risk condition or over 65 needs to be careful about being around people, even family,” he said. “We’re in a pretty good place in Northeast Tennessee. If we want to keep it that way,” people should remain vigilant and aware of the dangers.

Another thing people should be aware of is aware of is extra patrols by police over the holiday weekend.

Johnson City Police Department will add additional officers to the streets for the holiday weekend. JCPD will be out this weekend, and all summer, saturating the roads looking for impaired or distracted driving and drivers not wearing their seat belts.

The “100 Days of Summer” runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and statistically shows an increase in traffic accidents, especially with teen drivers.

The goal of this increased presence and high visibility DUI enforcement is to keep impaired drivers off the road and encourage safe travel over this holiday weekend.

The JCPD’s DUI enforcement efforts have resulted in 23 DUI arrests over the past five Memorial Day holiday weekends. During that same time there were 28 injury accidents on Johnson City roadways, including one fatality.

Authorities say that before celebrating Memorial Day this year, make a choice between drinking OR driving. If you choose to drink, designate a sober, reliable driver to get you home safely. If you’re planning on driving, commit to not drinking, wear a seatbelt, and put your cellphone down.

The extra enforcement this weekend will be conducted through a partnership with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, which provides funding for the project.



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