Hamilton County COVID Task Force Discusses Rise In Rural Infections

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – As new coronavirus cases surge across the country, many rural communities – places that were largely spared during the early months of the pandemic – are now seeing an unprecedented spike in infections and hospitalizations.

The pandemic’s grip on rural communities is particularly alarming due to their reliance on small hospitals, which have been seen as ill-equipped to handle a surge of patients.

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The climb in new infections started around early September, reaching what are now record levels in Southeast Tennessee communities.

On Thursday, the Hamilton County Health Department reported 78 hospitalizations – with only 19 coming coming from Hamilton County residents.

When discussing the possibility of putting a hold on elective surgeries during the most recent Coronavirus Task Force meeting, Executive Director of Hamilton County Medical Society Rae Bond says that the county hopes that hospitals will stay open due to health concerns.

“We want the hospitals to be able to continue to stay open for elective surgeries and procedures. Because there are health risks if we have to close down because the hospitals are overwhelmed with Covid. And as we enter flu season it’s even more important to do all of these things,” says Rae Bond.

Memorial Hospital released a statement, saying,

“CHI Memorial has its surge plan in place and is well-prepared to manage the daily change in our overall patient population while keeping our patients and staff safe. We urge our local and surrounding communities to mask up, stay six feet away from others, and wash hands frequently. Together, we can stem the spread of this illness,” says Memorial Hospital.

As cases climb, Mayor Andy Berke has also put out new calls for a statewide mask mandate.

Here are Tuesday’s state Covid-19 figures:

County        per 100,000     new cases   total cases

Grundy       101.44                3                578

McMinn       48.28                 14              1673

Marion        42.48                 11              794

Rhea          40.34                 6                1130

Bledsoe      40.23                 0                1026

Meigs         36.07                 1                330

Polk           32.62                 10              527

Hamilton    31.84                 133            12,202

Bradley      30.21                 22              3641