Don’t be alarmed if you see the Tennessee National Guard at the Lincoln County Health Department this week, said Mayor Bill Newman in one of a continuing series of press conferences held to keep residents informed in response to ongoing spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“On Tuesday [March 24], every health department in Tennessee will be receiving help from the Guard,” he said. “You’ll see three people from the National Guard on the parking lot to assist the staff there ... A medic and two non-medical staff will be there to help with any need.”
The health department here now has medical and testing supplies, he said, stressing that staff there will be qualifying people to be tested.
“The testing will be conducted on the department’s parking lot, and persons wishing to be tested will need to call first [931-433-3231]. This is not just a general testing of the public, and we do not want to waste any of our medical resources, but we want to be able to test those people who need to be tested.”
As of Sunday afternoon, there had been no confirmed cases of the virus in Lincoln County; however, a case has been confirmed in neighboring Franklin County, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. The question is not if the virus appears locally but when, and as officials continue to stress, of paramount concern is slowing the spread of the disease so that local resources can adequately respond.
Symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, Newman said, adding, “Just having those symptoms does not mean you’ve got it.”
The mayor reminded residents of the importance of stopping the spread of the germs, asking that they avoid close contact. If you do cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue or cough into your elbow. Discard tissues after each cough, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands. Clean and disinfect the objects you regularly touch or those surfaces in your office, home, or business with which people come into contact. Thoroughly washing your hands is also important. And if you are sick, he said, please stay home.
“If you feel like you’re sick, no matter what you feel like caused it, call your doctor’s office first,” he said. “Then if you do not have a doctor, call the Health Department – that number is 931-433-3231. And then the hotline number for COVID-19 for information and for them to actually triage you over the phone – that number is 877-857-2945 ... If they think you need to be tested, you will be required to voluntarily self-quarantine.”
As of Thursday of last week, entry into the Lincoln County Courthouse is restricted to the eastern entrance, said the mayor, noting that while the courthouse remains open, officials are asking that only essential business be conducted there, and if you have business to do, that you call first.
Most business comes in regard to the county clerk’s office, he said, asking that people call that office at 931-433-2454 or conduct business online by visiting the county’s website at www.lincolncountytngov.com – “Most business can be conducted online,” he said.
Too, through Executive Order No. 15, Gov. Bill Lee extended the deadline for obtaining registration renewals that expire in March or April of 2020. The new deadline for obtaining those renewals is June 15, 2020.
Friday, the governor also signed Executive Order 16, an order ensuring that governing bodies continue to function “openly and transparently” during the COVID-19 emergency while also protecting the health and safety of citizens and officials.
Basically, the order notes that the governor is authorized to suspend laws and rules regarding how business is conducted in an emergency and allows governing bodies to meet and conduct its essential business by electronic means. Those meetings should still be open and be conducted live if possible. But if live public access is not possible, a clear audio or video recording be made available to the public no less than two days after the meeting.
This would be extended to meetings of the Lincoln County Commission, County Budget Committee and other local governing bodies, as well as the Fayetteville Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Newman said.
Last week’s scheduled meeting of the Lincoln County Commission was postponed pending the governor’s order or other legislative action on the matter, and as of Friday, a new date and means of holding the meeting had not been announced.
Grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants
“There are plenty of supplies for our grocery stores in the pipeline,” said the county mayor. “The problem is the hoarding that’s going on. If people would just stop buying more than what they actually need for their normal usage, we would be okay.”
Newman highlighted each of the local pharmacies, saying that most offer curbside service with pre-payment by credit or debit card. If a resident has difficulty, though, the mayor’s office as well as local churches have a network of volunteers who can assist.
Carter’s Drug Store, 931-433-1511, offers delivery inside the city and curbside pickup if orders are prepaid. The pharmacy is maintaining its regular hours, he said, adding that his office can provide a volunteer for delivery out in the county.
CVS (931-433-7110) offers free one- to two-day delivery via the U.S. Postal Service.
The Walmart pharmacy (931-433-0011) is maintaining its regular hours with the exception of closing at 8:30 p.m., he said, adding that between 6 and 7 a.m. on Tuesdays, senior citizens can shop. The pharmacy also offers curbside service but prefers that you come into the store.
Walgreens’ pharmacy (931-433-5569) is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. That store will provide delivery of prescriptions via FedEx to any point within the county.
At the time of Thursday’s press conference, Newman reported that local restaurants are open, with most providing curbside service. Each of the fast-food restaurants are providing drive-through service.
All in-person court proceedings have been suspended through March 31, said Chancellor J.B. Cox, last week, explaining that the decision comes in response with an order from the state Supreme Court.
The chancellor, along with Judge M. Wyatt Burk and Judge Forest A. Durard, have consulted with the Administrative Office of the Courts, and all local and state courts will remain open with in-person court proceedings being suspended. The decision is subject to several exceptions relating to a person’s constitutional rights, especially those of criminal defendants, civil and criminal trials that were actively in progress on March 13, and most abuse cases.
Later in the week, the Lincoln County Circuit Court Clerk’s office issued a statement that it remains open to the public; however, persons are asked to follow guidelines it has set forth in order to reduce in-person contact with staff. The office handles matters related to circuit criminal, circuit civil, general sessions civil, general sessions criminal, and juvenile cases. To reach the clerk’s office, call 931-433-2334.
If you desire to file a new lawsuit or a pleading related to an existing lawsuit, you are asked to call the office. You will be routed to the appropriate person. You may also wish to fax-file your pleading – those may be faxed to 931-438-1577. The office is also temporarily allowing filings by email.
Payment of costs and fines, as well as other court-related costs, may be done on the county’s website at www.lincolncountytngov.com or by phone at 1-866-658-0845. You may also pay “in-person” with cash, cashier’s check or money order; however, the online payment options are encouraged.
The veteran service transportation provided through SCTDD from the Washington Street location is operating as normally for the doctor visits to Murfreesboro, said the county mayor, adding, though, that the service is not providing deliveries and to the Nashville location.
“If you are a veteran and you cannot get to the Murfreesboro or Nashville location, the Veterans’ Administration will be paying for your care with a local physician,” said the mayor.
Editor’s Note: Other aspects of the local press conferences are covered in individual articles, which have also been published on The Times’ website at www.elkvalleytimes.com.