Health Dept. to change COVID-19 testing site

Dewain E. Peek/OCN screen shot

Overton County Executive Ben Danner urges everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered.

By Dewain E. Peek,

OCN Editor

Overton County Health Department will soon change the location of the drive-thru COVID-19 testing site.

In a press conference held Friday, Jan. 8, Health Department Nursing Supervisor Megan Reeder said, “We are still going to currently offer testing every business day, but starting Tuesday, January the 19th, we’re going to move locations out to Overton County Fairgrounds.”

Testing will be from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Reeder said the change of location will enable the Health Department to also give out the vaccine, which is currently being distributed in phases.

“Vaccines are in extremely limited supply,” she said, “and demand for these vaccines is great. But we are pleased to see the overwhelming interest in the vaccine, so that’s a good thing that Tennesseans are showing up to get these vaccines.”

As of last week, the Health Department had given a total of 604 doses in the county.

“We have been doing the vaccines at the Health Department in a drive-thru setting,” Reeder said. “That’s what’s safest for the individuals and safest for us. Obviously, we couldn’t handle that volume of people inside the building and we obviously want to social distance.”

With the inoculations being given in phases, those eligible will need to get their names on the list.

“If you are in one of the eligible categories, you can call the Health Department at 823-6260 and have your name added to the list,” Reeder said. “We are working that list fervently as we get vaccine in.”

She assured that once on the list, a person will not lose his or her spot. The Health Department will keep trying to contact the person on the list to let them know they can come in for the vaccination.

She noted that the Health Department’s telephone lines have been extremely busy, but that their phones are working, so just keep trying to get through.

Reeder said the vaccine is not a live vaccine, so it cannot give anyone COVID-19.

“You will not test positive for COVID from the vaccine,” she said.

But someone can still have the coronavirus after having taken the first round of the vaccine.

“The vaccine is not going to give you the illness, but there is cases that people, you know, the vaccine’s not had time to work, they still catch the disease and can still test positive,” Reeder said.

In such a case, she urged to still get the second dose, just after the 10-day isolation has passed and symptoms have gone.

She also cautioned that those on steroid therapy should wait until two weeks after that is over because steroids suppress the immune system.

Reeder explained that the vaccine Overton County Health Department is giving is from Moderna, which has the second dose being given 28 days after the first.

She said side effects, include low grade temperature, some with full blown temperature of 102 or 103, nausea, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, and vomiting.

“The most common reaction people have is just that their arm is sore,” Reeder said. “Now, it’s more sore than with most vaccines you get, but it doesn’t last very long.”

Some have had some swelling at the injection site.

“That’s actually your body building the immune response,” Reeder said. “That’s a direct response. That’s actually a good thing. That means the vaccine’s working, so don’t let that scare you.”

She said that could last a week or so.

Then she warned, “If you’ve ever had a severe anaphylactic reaction to an injection before, we want to make sure that you talk to your doctor about that and make sure and let us know, disclose that information to us so we know to watch you a little more carefully, and depending on what you had your reaction to, whether you need to get this vaccine or don’t get this vaccine.”

Those with severe allergies should consult their doctor before taking the vaccine.

“Over the last seven days, our average percent positivity rate has been 22.1%,” Reeder said.

She said Overton County Health Department is averaging 23.5 positive cases daily.

As of Monday, Jan. 11, Overton County had 296 active positive cases, and had COVID-19-related 42 deaths.

Overton County Executive Ben Danner, who recently had a bout with COVID-19, urged everyone to get the vaccine when it is offered.

“We’re in January and this is still going,” he said. “It’s worse right now than it’s ever been.”

He reminded everyone that originally in March 2020 two weeks of shutdown was thought to be able to put it under control.

“I hope this year’s better than last year, but it’s started off rougher than last year did,” Executive Danner said.

Looking at the numbers of 604 having been vaccinated of a population of approximately 22,000, he said the county has a ways to go.

“I think every person in this county needs the vaccine,” Executive Danner said, “but the ones of our population that’s older needs this first, so everybody please be patient.

“When it gets my time to take it, I’m definitely going to take the vaccine, and I’d like to ask everybody in this county to take it.

“I’ve had COVID. About three or four weeks ago, I had it. I’m still recovering from it. I’m lucky. We’ve had 41 people in this county that wasn’t so lucky.

“We’ve got people in the hospital now. We’ve got people that are not doing good with it now.”

He said his mother is 79 and he did not want her to get it, so he stayed in quarantine.

“If only five or six thousand people in this whole county get the vaccine, it’s still going to be going,” Executive Danner said. “We need everybody to take the vaccine and wear a mask. That’s the best we can do.”

He also expressed frustration that many are not taking the coronavirus seriously.

“If you feel sick, please, do not go around other people,” Executive Danner said.

Livingston Mayor Curtis Hayes also urged following the guidelines, such as wearing a face covering, especially in large crowds.

“Stay away from large crowds,” Mayor Hayes said.

The city is still operating at half-staff for the time being.

“We’re still working half-staff with city employees, still being able to provide the services. So please be patient with us if your leaves or your brush is not picked up as quickly as it has been normally.”

He said the water plant has had an employee with COVID-19.

“Had we been working as normal, we might’ve had to shut the water plant down,” Mayor Hayes said. “The same way with the waste water plant operations. We had one test COVID there.”

And City Hall is still closed to foot traffic, though the drive-thru is still operating and business can be conducted by telephone.

Mayor Hayes also urged taking the vaccine when available.

“I am going to take the vaccine,” he said.

He also pointed to the gravity of the situation.

“Unfortunately, we’ve lost a lot of good people in this county due to COVID-19,” Mayor Hayes said.

Overton County Director of Schools Mark Winningham gave an update on the school systems efforts during the pandemic.

“We continue to monitor our numbers on a daily basis to try to make the best decisions that we can by school or by district as to whether we are going to proceed in-person or by virtual,” Director Winningham said. “Right now, we’re going to proceed in-person. But again, we’re monitoring those numbers on a daily basis.”

He said he understands that, especially for the lower grades, parents have to make arrangements for child care if school is all on remote learning.

Livingston Regional Hospital CEO Tim McGill, attending via Zoom, gave an update from the hospital and said that 104 had been vaccinated at LRH.

“This includes two-thirds of our front-line staff,” McGill said.

Overall, McGill expects 330 hospital personnel to be vaccinated.

He said the hospital has capacity for 21 COVID-19 patients, with 5 in ICU and 16 others for isolation.

McGill also stressed the need for those 75 and older to get the vaccine.

Scott Stevens of Overton County Health and Rehab Center, also attending via Zoom, explained that employees are still being tested twice a week.

“We’ve been 28 days, no cases, no positives, and I just hope that that continues and it continues out in the community as well,” Stevens said.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to residents and staff, according to Stevens.

He said phone visits are still being conducted and arrangements may be made by calling 823-6403.

In closing the press conference, Mayor Hayes said the next COVID-19 update will be held at noon Friday, Feb. 5.