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Mayor’s Saturday coronavirus update

The HD has given me the advice to reopen the old courthouse. But as a continued precaution, those offices will remain closed until Wednesday. Please remember that even though the offices will soon be open, most of the services they provide can be done through the mail, phone calls or email.

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Courthouse closed

A statement from Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals:

Scott County now has its first confirmed case of COVID-19, otherwise known as the CoronaVirus. The Health Department has already initiated the Contact History Investigation to determine the immediate risk population. From the conversations I’ve already had with the HD, the family with the confirmed case has been in self-quarantine all week. Therefore, the number of people in contact should be minimal. As a precaution, I have shut down operations/services in the Old Courthouse until the investigation determines the extent of contact. I will continue to update the citizens as news evolves.

Be smart. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands regularly. And do what you can to assist the high-risk population (the elderly and those with chronic illnesses) to keep them safe. And please do not start panic purchasing of essentials.

And on top of everything else, remain calm.

And God Bless this County.

Featured images

These are the images that are featured throughout the ScottCounty.com as background images. Have a photo you’d like to share? You can email it to benwgarrett@gmail.com. Ideally, photos will be at least 2,000 pixels wide. Photos are: 1.) The Museum of Scott County, on the campus of Scott High School, which is America’s first and only museum to be designed, built and curated by students | Ben Garrett; 2.) The Oneida & Western Railroad Bridge — or simply the O&W Bridge — was built in the late 1800s and moved to Oneida in 1917 as the railroad was being built | Sarah Dunlap; 3.) The sun sets at East Rim Overlook in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area; 4.) A fresh-fallen snow at East Rim Overlook in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area | Ben Garrett; 5.) The sun perfectly captures the colors of autumn foliage in the Cumberland Mountains above Brimstone | Ben Garrett; 6.) The O&W Bridge was recently restored through a partnership by Scott County Government, the Industrial Development Board of Scott County, the Scott County Chamber of Commerce, the Scott County Road Department and the Tennessee Department of Tourism | Sarah Dunlap; 7.) The sun sets at East Rim Overlook in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.

Mayor’s update on coronavirus status in Scott County

**Update II: Courthouse to reopen Wednesday, March 25**
**Update: Scott County has confirmed its first case of coronavirus**

From Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals:

Unless you have been on vacation in the woods without any digital contact with the world, I am sure you are all aware of the COVID-19 Pandemic aka the Coronavirus. Below is the situation as best to my knowledge.

Over the past three to four weeks I have been given numerous updates through various means. i.e. Conference calls, emails and community meetings (with school directors, the Scott County Emergency Management Association, the SC Health Department and the Sheriff) . Today I was on yet another conference call with Governor Bill Lee to get the latest advice and recommendations on policy changes and recommendations that the State of Tennessee is giving all Mayors, County Executives and Municipal Mayors.  Before I get into that discussion, I would like to go over what is happening here at the local level.

All schools are closed including Scott County and Oneida Schools until at least April 1, 2020 per mandate of the Governor.

As of this writing, there are NO cases of the virus in Scott County. Of course, this can quickly change as more test kits become available.

The Scott County Health Department in conjunction with the State HD is prepared if an outbreak were to occur. 

Scott County Government is open for business as usual, but with procedural changes. These changes are in place to protect not only the staff, but the citizens that use county services. These changes include policies that promote social distancing by establishing separation of clients and staff. What this means is that we are asking citizens to call the office where they need to services ahead of time to receive direction on how the service can be provided by using the USPS, available online services for that office or using email to make requests. We are also making structural changes to keep the desired separation.

The Scott County Jail is operating in a manner to prevent the virus from entering the jail system. No inmates are leaving the facility that would normally be assisting road crews, litter crews, recycle crews or other work programs.

The Justice Center Court System is now operating under a very restrictive policy on trials and regular cases to prevent close proximity situations.

All of the buildings in the realm of Scott County Government are continuously being cleaned and sterilized.

The UT Ag Extension office is open, but with limited staffing.

The Public Defender’s Office is closed, but is continuously checking messages of clients calling 833-857-2014. 

Other office numbers to call before coming to the County Offices are …

Assessor of Property 423-663-2420

Circuit Court Clerk 423-663-2440

Clerk and Master 423-663-2627

County Clerk 423-663-2588

County Mayor 423-663-2000

Register of Deeds 423-663-2417

Trustee 423-663-2598

Veterans Service Officer 423-663-4289

Back to the Governor’s conference call… The Governor is making changes to assist individuals that have been laid off or let go due to the virus. Unemployment checks will now be expedited to assist families that may be experiencing financial strain due to job disruption. He is also extending unemployment benefits for those employees who suddenly find themselves out of work as businesses temporarily cease operations during the pandemic.

He is also expanding funds available through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This will be available within a week through DHS. It allows cash funds up to $1,000 for a family of 5 or more that has had a job loss as a result of COVID-19.

Governor Lee is also doing what he feels is necessary to keep child care facilities open during the pandemic by increasing emergency response and recovery grants by $10 million.

Governor Lee has made orders to increase the number of test kits and ventilators for healthcare facilities in Tennessee.

The one thing the Governor stressed was that the government alone cannot ‘fix’ this pandemic. He asks that communities come together and do what they can to protect the most vulnerable of the population. He feels that doing all we can do for the elderly by helping them with grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions… Just whatever it takes to keep the elderly from becoming exposed to this virus.

He stressed that restaurants, bars, salons, gyms, churches, etc…should make provisions to prevent crowds of 10 or more from gathering in their facilities. He mentioned that these provisions are voluntary at this point. 

In closing, the Governor asked for everyone to pray for the citizens of the great State of Tennessee.

Keep on washing those hands Scott County. Keep personal space at six feet minimum. Avoid large crowds. Assist your neighbors. Together we can beat this thing.

03/20 commission agenda

The March 2020 Scott County Board of County Commissioners meeting will be held Monday, March 16, 2020 at the Scott County Office Building, beginning at 6 p.m.

03/20 workshop agenda

The March workshop for Scott County Commission will be held Monday, March 2, at the Scott County Office Building, beginning at 5 p.m.

Mayor Tibbals named to governor’s health task force

Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals (second from right) greets Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee during Gov. Lee’s July 2019 stop by the Scott County Justice Center in Huntsville. Also pictured are, from left to right: Huntsville Mayor J. Dennis Jeffers, Oneida Mayor Jack E. Lay, and State Sen. Ken Yager. (Photo: Sarah Dunlap)

HUNTSVILLE — Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals is among 15 people from across the state named to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s Health Care Modernization Task Force, it was announced last week.

Finance & Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter announced the appointments on October 8, saying that the task force will host public discussions with a goal of providing options for consideration to address the state’s major health care issues.

McWhorter will co-chair the task force with Bill Carpenter, former chairman and CEO of LifePoint Health, a Brentwood company that operates  several hospitals throughout the state.

Also on the task force are eight lawmakers, including Ferrell Haile, Bo Watson, Paul Bailey, Raumesh Akbari, Pat Marsh, Robin Smith, Ron Travis and John DeBerry Jr.

Lee said the idea is to improve health care in the Volunteer State.

“Working together, with patients, providers and payers, we can establish Tennessee as a world-class health care market for our people,” the governor said. 

Specifically, the task force will focus on improving the lives of Tennesseans who lack access to quality health care.

“Based on discussions with Tennesseans, the largest health care issue across the state is access — and that takes many forms, from a lack of health care providers to lack of transportation,” McWhorter said. “Our hope is that Tennesseans will come together around the task force to discuss potential solutions to immediate problems as well as long-term issues.”

In addition to McWhorter, Carpenter and the group of lawmakers on the task force, the remaining 15 members are something of a who’s who in Tennessee’s health care industry. Tibbals stands out because he is the only county or municipal elected official on the task force.

Other members include Dr. Mike Carrigan of Premier Medical Group, Dr. James Bailey of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center; Dr. Brian DeBusk of Lincoln Memorial University; Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College; Melanie Keller, CEO of Meritan Inc.; Mary Kiger, executive director of the Tennessee Charitable Care Network; Kathie Krause, chief nursing officer at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital; Shantelle Leatherwood, CEO of Christ Community Health Services; Alan Levine, president and CEO of Ballad Health; family physician Dr. Jim King; Kim Parker of Pathways Behavioral Health Services; Dr. Michael Ugwueke, president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; Dr. Andrea Willis, chief medical officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee; and Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health.

While Tibbals is alone on the task force in his status as an elected county official without direct ties to the health care industry, he has insight on the struggles of rural hospitals after overseeing negotiations between Scott County and potential suitors to operate the community’s hospital after St. Mary’s exited its contract with the county during Tibbals’ first term as mayor. Ultimately, the county sold the hospital to Pioneer Health Services of Magee, Miss. That company later declared bankruptcy, and the local hospital was sold to Florida-based diagnostics firm Rennova Health, which has since purchased the hospitals in Jamestown and Jellico.

Tibbals has also been vocal about the health care concerns of rural Tennessee, including at the governor’s Rural Summit earlier this year. His sister, Tracey Stansberry, of Tennessee Plateau Oncology, penned a recent op-ed in The Tennessean newspaper, imploring the state to take action to help save rural hospitals.

As a county mayor in one of the state’s most rural counties, and also one where access to health care is an issue, Tibbals will likely be well positioned to provide feedback on the governor’s proposals for rural health care using first-hand experience that his colleagues on the task force aren’t able to provide.