Tennessee reported 780 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the second consecutive day the state reported fewer than 1,000 new cases, and the first time that’s occurred since September of last year.

It’s been 141 days since Tennessee last reported back-to-back days under 1,000 new infections, and more than five months since it reported three straight days under that mark. The state’s average number of new infections over the past seven days, meanwhile, has dropped to 1,416 per day, the lowest rate since Oct. 4. That average hasn’t fallen below 1,000 since June.

Northeast Tennessee reported a net increase of 102 infections on Wednesday, with Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington Counties each adding more than 10 new cases. Active cases saw an overall decline of five, though three counties (Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington) reported an increase in active cases.

Ballad hospitalizations remain stable, and the infection rate among school age children has shown an improvement as well. These are good signs, but we are far from out of the woods with the virus.

As the vaccine becomes more readily available, and people become more aware of its benefits, we should see these numbers continue to go down - so please, do your part by wearing a mask and socially distancing, and take the vaccine when it comes your turn. The only way to defeat this thing is to follow guidelines and the advice of experts.

After closing most of its facilities in December as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged in the region, Johnson City is getting ready to reopen.

Commissioners heard updates on the city’s plans during a meeting Thursday, and Parks and Recreation Director James Ellis told commissioners the Memorial Park Community Center, the Langston Centre and the Carver Recreation Center will open on a reduced schedule starting April 12. People can call the facilities to reserve time beginning April 5.

Safety precautions will be in place at all facilities, and the city is also developing plans for its outdoor pool, splash pads, summer tennis program, camp program and outdoor concert series.

Athletic events will resume on weekends in March, and the city will also start taking reservations for its picnic pavilions, including the Pavilion at Founders Park, on March 1 with rentals beginning on April 1. As of now, the Blue Plum Festival will be delayed - not cancelled, just delayed.

There won’t be any schools closed next year in the Carter County School System.

The Board of Education voted unanimously during its monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon to take no action on suggestions made in a cost analysis that suggested closing smaller schools in the county.

To bring the budget down over the next three years, the study suggested beginning the 2021-22 fiscal year by closing Little Milligan and Keenburg Elementary schools, and in the second year, closing Unaka Elementary School and moving Cloudland High School students to Hampton.

Lastly, auditions have been scheduled for “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals” on Saturday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sunday, Feb. 28 from 1-2 p.m.

The play tells the story of events that took place at Sycamore Shoals during the 18th century, including the Watauga Association, the Transylvania Purchase, the Siege of Fort Watauga, and the Gathering of Overmountain Men.

The performances are scheduled for the month of June this year.

If you want to perform in this year’s presentation of Tennessee’s Official Outdoor Drama, the auditions will take place in the Visitors Center at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park, on that weekend. If you can’t make the auditions on either Feb. 27 or Feb. 28, you can email liberty.director.1776@gmail.com. You can find the link to register for auditions on our website. For information, call the park at 543-5808.