Mayor Coppinger states that “There is no logic or science or anything that says if you stop that occupation or if you don’t allow people to do ‘X’, then it (the coronavirus) will go away.” Contact Tracing continues despite previous media reports. Becky Barnes warns of long-term health consequences for those who recover from the virus.
Hamilton County, TN – During the Hamilton County Commission Recessed and Agenda Meeting yesterday morning, much of the last half of the meeting revolved around COVID-19.
In a standout statement regarding the spread of the Coronavirus, Mayor Jim Coppinger voiced that there are individuals who say that people should be stopped from going to particular places but said, “There is no logic or science or anything that says if you stop that occupation or if you don’t allow people to do ‘X’, then it will go away.”
Coppinger also stated that contact tracing is still possible within school systems and clarified that the statement made by the health department did not say the contract tracing would be eliminated but, instead “limited”.
District 4 Commission Warren Mackey initially opened the Covid conversation.
“I read that Hamilton County will cease contract tracing and that numbers are at record highs…and that yesterday there were more deaths as opposed to any other day…what is the Health Department going to do about it? If we are at record highs, why are they not getting even more aggressive in trying to save people’s lives?”
Coppinger pointed out that care must be taken when analyzing the numbers and that the reported data lags behind the current situation.
“With this pandemic, we’re in territory we’ve never been in before….It’s overwhelmed the system. There is a point in time you don’t contract trace anymore because there’s too many people out there and, frankly, we’ve been at that number for a pretty good while,” Coppinger said.
The Hamilton County Health Department Administrator, Becky Barnes, stated that the Health Department does not have the capacity to call on all close contacts and that they are asking individuals who test positive for the virus or who are experiencing symptoms to call those individuals themselves.
“We’re still doing contract tracing with the school system, that’s our priority now,” Barnes said.
Coppinger stated that there is not any particular occupation or profession that is a center for the virus. “It is across the board, whether you’re going to the grocery store, Lowe’s, Home Depot, restaurants, whatever.”
“We went for the mask mandate for one reason, because we wanted to keep the economy open but we knew that intervention wasn’t 100 percent.”
Coppinger stated that the masks along with social distancing could minimize the spread of the virus but acknowledged that even with the mandate, numbers are higher than they’ve ever been. But said, “who knows what they would be like” if these tactics had not been employed.
The Mayor stated that the spread of the virus in continuing mostly due to people not following the guidelines. “Who knows how low they (the numbers) would be if we didn’t get calls where people are not participating with the masks?”
Coppinger stated that he receives many calls and emails that people want more enforcement of the mandates but stated that early on, “Law Enforcement made the decision not to enforce it.”
“There needs to be more enforcement, there’s no doubt about that, but we don’t want it to be punitive. That’s the catch 22. How do you enforce this?”
Coppinger expressed that mask wearing was politicized very early on but said, “There’s nothing political about this in Hamilton County…there have been no decisions made based on anybody’s politics, it’s based on what we think is best for the community, based on what the CDC says.”
Many people no longer trust the CDC, Coppinger stated, and acknowledged that they made mistakes on the front end but corrected them as they got more information.
District 3 Commissioner Greg Martin asked Barnes about the recovery rate stating that all that is generally heard or reported is the number of cases and the mortality rate.
“I think a lot of people are afraid…sometimes there’s a narrative out there that brings a lot of fear…I’m not so sure I’m all on the fear bandwagon,” said Martin.
In response to Martin, Barnes reported that the mortality rate in Hamilton County is at one percent.
Although not expressed by Barnes, this means the recovery rate is currently at 99 percent.
Barnes warned that the numbers themselves are misleading because “there are people who have long-term consequences due to the illness.”
Coppinger echoed Barnes warning stating that many who may be unable to have the quality of life they had prior to contracting the virus.
Barnes states that COVID-19 vaccines should be readily available to the general public by May or June but warned that could change due to unforeseen circumstances.