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Five questions with Holston Medical Group physician Dr. Kevin Metzger

Raised in Richmond, Virginia, Kevin Metzger developed a love for sports medicine through playing sports as a child along with his brothers.

After graduating from medical school at Eastern Kentucky University of Pikeville, Metzger came to Johnson City and East Tennessee State University for his family medicine residency. Now a sports medicine physician with Holston Medical Group, Metzger finds joy in helping people return to the physical activities they love.Kevin Metzger briefly:

Favorite movie: “Remember The Titans”

Hobbies: “Spending time with my toddler and wife, watching sports (GO Pack GO! And UK basketball), any outdoor activity.”

Favorite local restaurant: Label or Watauga Brewing Company

Dogs or cats: “I’m a dog person but currently have a cat.”

Ultimate travel destination: Hawaii

Tell me about yourself:

I was home-schooled in Richmond, Virginia, along with my two younger brothers. We played multiple sports including football in high school, which fueled my career path. I continued my love for sports by pursuing a sports medicine degree at at Campbellsville University in Central Kentucky and attending Eastern Kentucky University of Pikeville for medical school. I went on to East Tennessee State University for my family medicine residency, where my family and I first fell in love with the Johnson City area. I then studied at the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville for my sports medicine fellowship.

How did you get into medicine?

I’ve always been interested in science and health. Initially, I was going to become a physical therapist but after shadowing team physicians during my undergrad I found my calling in medicine. I love caring for patients of all ages as a family medicine physician and getting them back to activities they enjoy through sports medicine.

What was it about sports medicine that drew you to that specialty?

Sports medicine focuses on getting patients back to the physical activities they love. Using ultrasound, I can diagnose and treat muscle, joint, and tendon injuries more accurately with injections that would otherwise be very challenging. I also get to work with athletes who are a very motivated and driven population. One of the best parts of my job is working on the sideline or court as a team physician.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Getting a patient back to the activity or sport they love. Whether I’m treating professional athletes or weekend warriors, the goal is the same, return to their preferred activity.

What has the last year been like dealing with COVID-19?

I have cried with those that have lost loved ones, celebrated patients’ virus recovery and hope for the day when life can return to pre-pandemic normal. Like many others, at the beginning of the pandemic my life changed drastically from focusing on sports coverage in my sports medicine fellowship to mostly telehealth and COVID-19 prevention. I had to distill all the research rapidly developing throughout the pandemic and pass on guidance to my athletes and general patients about prevention, treatment and then return to activity.

Like many physicians, I dealt with the unknowns of this new virus. Even with the uncertainty, I had to give prevention guidelines and return to play recommendations to my patients. Since I started at HMG in July, I have been testing and treating patients for COVID-19 in our Johnson City clinic (located at 215 E Watauga Ave.) Even after being vaccinated I always had the risk and fear of spreading the virus to my wife and young child. With appropriate PPE, I successfully avoided getting the virus and I thank God every day for that.

Now with more studies about this virus, the majority of the COVID-related care I provide is advice on outpatient treatment and vaccine information. With this, we continue to see patients in need of non-COVID care in a safe and effective way to ensure that Johnson City residents can continue to lean on us as their health partner for life.


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Northeast Tennessee reports 141 new COVID-19 cases; region's active cases reach 1,000 again

Northeast Tennessee counties reported 141 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, sending active cases back above the 1,000 mark for the first time in a month.

Active cases in the region have been steadily rising over the past week, growing by 27.5% since last week. As of Tuesday, Northeast Tennessee counties had 1,008 active infections, more than half of which are in Sullivan (391) and Washington (254) counties. Hawkins County (117) is the only other county in the region with more than 100 active cases.

The 141 new reported infections also brought the region’s seven-day average of new cases past 100 for the first time since Feb. 20. The new case rate has also seen steady growth as of late, increasing by 60% since hitting a six-month low point of 65.2 on March 8.

Northeast Tennessee reported its highest daily positivity rate since Feb. 3 as well, with its seven-day positivity rate of 10.82% the highest reported since Feb. 4.

The increases came as the B.1.1.7 variant, commonly known as the U.K. variant, has been discovered in the region, with at least one confirmed case in the seven counties under the Northeast Regional Health Office. The Sullivan County Regional Health Department has also seen “a number” of suspected variant cases. It’s likely there are more cases of the variant, which is more transmissible and deadlier, going undiagnosed in the region as surveillance is not robust.

Health experts have warned that the region is at a critical point if we want to avoid another surge in infections, though it “does not change the recommendations and the guidelines,” said Dr. Stephen May, medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department.

“Number one, we’ve got to be safe and we’ve still got to continue with our distancing and masking,” May continued. “The possibility for increased disease transmission is really there, and I think we may be seeing some of the effects of this relaxation on our safety measures.”

Made with Flourish

Sullivan County to open vaccinations to all adults

The Sullivan County Regional Health Department is opening COVID-19 vaccine appointments to people 16 and older, beginning on Wednesday, March 24. Those who are under 18 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Also, effective next week, appointment hours will be extended to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays. Call center hours will also be expanded from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To register for an appointment, call (423) 279-2777.

COVID-19: Interactive charts and graphs

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Ballad Health opening vaccine eligibility for all adults, hosting Saturday vaccination events

Ballad Health will open its Tennessee vaccine clinics to all adults beginning Wednesday, after Gov. Bill Lee’s Monday announcement that all adults in the state will be eligible no later than April 5.

“I am proud that we are able to work in conjunction with our local health departments and open up vaccine eligibility to the greater population so any adult who wants to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can do so,” Ballad Chief Operating Officer and Incident Commander Eric Deaton said in a press release. “We hope this will help us drive down cases in the region as more and more of our community reaches full immunity.”

The Ballad community vaccination centers are open to anyone 16 and older, not only Tennessee residents. The centers are in Elizabethton and Kingsport, and both will offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

To make an appointment for a vaccination, call Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523 (833-8-BALLAD).

“The positive rate and the number of COVID cases in our region have increased over the last two weeks,” Ballad Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift said in the release, “and Ballad Health’s inpatient COVID-19 census is nearing 100 after it was below 70 just two weeks ago. So now is the time to do this, now is the time to get your vaccine.”

Things to know about the centers

  • The Kingsport community vaccination center is at 2000 Brookside Drive and will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • The Elizabethton community vaccination center is at 1509 W. Elk Avenue and will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Both Ballad Health community vaccination centers in Tennessee will only offer the Pfizer vaccine, which is the only one currently approved for use by 16- and 17-year-olds.
  • Calling Nurse Connect to make an appointment is recommended, but people can also visit the health system’s main webpage at www.balladhealth.org and its COVID-19 page at www.balladhealth.org/COVID19.

Ballad also hosting Saturday vaccination event

The hospital system will also host a “Super Saturday” vaccination event at its community vaccination centers in Elizabethton, Kingsport, Abingdon and Norton on Saturday, March 27, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will also be a pop-up event in Greenville.

Appointments are not required and walk-ins are welcome but there will only be a limited number of available vaccines per site.

“As vaccine supply becomes more abundant, we’re taking steps to make the vaccine more available and accessible,” Swift said. “We have typically done vaccine appointments from Monday through Friday at our CVCs, but our Super Saturday event will allow us to better meet the needs of even more community members.”

The sites are located at:

  • Abingdon, Virginia, 611 Campus Drive, 400 vaccine doses available.
  • Elizabethton, Tennessee, 1509 W. Elk Ave., 400 vaccine doses available.
  • Greeneville, Tennessee, 438 E. Vann Road, Suite 100, 200 vaccine doses available.
  • Kingsport, Tennessee, 2205 Brookside Drive, 300 vaccine doses available.
  • Norton, Virginia, 100 15th St. NW, 200 vaccine doses available.

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Johnson City organizes tree giveaway in recognition of Arbor Day

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, an old proverb says, but the second best time is now.

In that spirit, Johnson City will hold a tree giveaway on April 3 at Metro-Kiwanis Park, 817 Guaranda Drive, in observance of Arbor Day. The event will begin at 9 a.m., and 2,000 tree seedlings will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Varieties will include lavender crepe myrtle, red maple, redbud, white dogwood, serviceberry and black gum/black Tupelo.

"It's to draw attention to the benefit of trees," said city forester Patrick Walding. "Especially in the urban setting, where if you don't plan for trees you won't have trees."

In a press release, the city said this Arbor Day will be the 21st consecutive year that Johnson City has been named a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Since 2010, the public works department has distributed 27,750 trees.

In order to maintain its Tree City USA designation, the city must have an Arbor Day observance, a tree ordinance, a tree board and meet the minimum funding requirement for tree maintenance and planting.

This year, the city has received help from BrightRidge and the companies Professional Tree Service and Bartlett Tree Experts to cover the cost of the trees.

The trees will be approximately two-to-three-feet tall, and organizers try to choose different varieties every year. The city didn't hold the event last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trees have clear environmental benefits, providing shade and habitats for animals, but Walding said studies have also shown that visitors will spend more time in well-landscaped areas, which means they'll hang out longer and spend more money at nearby businesses.

National Arbor Day is always celebrated on the last Friday in April, but many states observe Arbor Day on different dates throughout the year depending on their best tree planting times. Tennessee celebrates Arbor Day on the first Friday in March.

The giveaway in April will serve as another way to ensure trees are being planted in the community, Walding explained, allowing residents to reap the benefits as they grow.


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Spring fundraiser is underway at WETS-FM

It’s pledge time at WETS-FM.

The public radio station on the campus of East Tennessee State University kicked off its spring on-air fundraiser on Saturday, and will be collecting donations through Friday.

We asked Wayne Winkler, director of WETS, to provide a few details on this year’s fundraising efforts.

HOW MUCH DO YOU HOPE TO RAISE THIS SPRING?

Normally, I’d expect to raise about $100,000 during the spring campaign. But 2020 was such a tough year financially for so many people, it’s difficult to predict how well we’ll do. If we can raise $85,000, I’ll call this a successful fundraiser.

WHAT ARE THE NEEDS THAT WETS CAN EXPECT TO FACE THIS YEAR?

We’re currently paying slightly more than $200,000 for NPR programming, and I expect to see an increase in programming costs of 3.5% to 5%. However, it’s the unexpected things that can really mess up the plans.

We didn’t expect a pandemic, for example.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF FUNDRAISING DURING A PANDEMIC?

One challenge is that we can’t use volunteers to answer telephones as we usually do. Instead, we’ve got staff members spread out over the building, answering calls while we remain socially distanced from each other. It’s not easy, but we’re handling it.

A bigger challenge is the financial demands faced by our listeners. Some families have lost incomes, some businesses have closed or are barely getting by.

There is a great deal of competition for the donation dollars that remain in the community. But I hope our listeners will recognize the value of our service and make a contribution — even if it’s a smaller contribution than usual.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE LOCAL SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC RADIO?

Local support is the bedrock of public radio. The national system, including National Public Radio, is funded primarily through the fees paid by local stations. These local stations generate the money to pay those fees through the support of listeners.

There is a belief among some listeners that public radio is funded by government, or by institutions, but the truth is that more than half the annual budget of WETS is provided by the contributions of listeners. It’s that listeners support that make possible the outstanding news coverage WETS provides through NPR and the BBC.

HOW CAN LISTENERS HELP?

Call us between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. through Friday, and make a generous contribution to WETS. The number is 888-895-9387 (WETS). Listeners can contribute online anytime at www.wets.org.


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