By Dewain E. Peek,
Observance of September as Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month was noted during a COVID-19 update press conference held at Livingston City Hall on Friday, Sept. 11.
Mike Anderson, Upper Cumberland Regional Director for Suicide Prevention Network, presented a proclamation that was signed by Livingston Mayor Curtis Hayes and Overton County Executive Ben Danner.
“We lose more Tennesseans every year to suicide than we do in car crashes,” Anderson said.
He went on to add, “It shocked me to see that the Upper Cumberland had the highest suicide rate in all of of Tennessee.”
Anne Stamps from Dale Hollow Mental Health also spoke about suicide prevention.
Giving an update on the current numbers at that time, Andy Langford, director of Overton County Health Department, said, “Over the last 14 days, Overton County has averaged approximately 11 new cases a day.”
He said that 14 days before that it was about 12 cases a day.
Langford said the disease will continue to spread, but that people can mitigate the chances of contracting it by taking precautions such as limiting the amount of time around other people.
“We knew this was going to happen,” Langford said of the rise in Overton County cases over the last month.
He explained that viruses will spread throughout the population before they diminish.
With flu season coming on also, Langford advised, “I believe it is more important this year to get a flu shot than ever before. There is no vaccine for the COVID virus at this current time. We hope to have that down the road, that will be there. Right now, you can and we recommend that you get a flu shot, everyone, because no matter what, the more protection you can provide your body, the better it can handle any colds, viruses, etcetera that may be out there in the fall and winter.
“All preventative measures are important.”
He then turned the lectern over to Overton County Health Department Nursing Supervisor Megan Reeder, who informed that positive cases still have to isolate a minimum of 10 days, but now with 24 hours of that being completely symptom free.
Non-household contact is still 14 days quarantine from last exposure.
She said that household exposure is an additional 14 days after the positive member of the household is clear of symptoms because the time begins at the last point of contact with symptoms. She recommended trying to cease direct contact within the household if possible to lessen the number of days in isolation for the non-positive family member.
Livingston Regional Hospital CEO Tim McGill attended the via Zoom and said the trend in COVID-19 patients at the hospital had gone downward over the past week.
McGill said that eye protection – goggles or face shields – has now been added to PPE for employees who may be in contact with COVID-19 patients.
Director of Schools Mark Winningham gave an update saying, “We’ve had a really smooth start to the school year with many, many challenges, and that’s a result of hard work by our administrative staff, our teachers, our staff, our students, and our parents at home. We really appreciate that very much.”
He said schools have been learning from the challenges presented by remote learning and that some changes are being made.
“We are going to have teachers dedicated to just virtual in K through 6; 7 and 8 we’re waiting to, hopefully, find a person that we can put in that slot to do that,” Director Winningham said. “And then the high school will continue on the path that they’ve been through the school year for the current time.”
Along with those changes, parents are again being given the option to send students back to school in-person. That option will be open until Wednesday, Sept. 16.
“We’re doing this to try and improve or service to students at school and the ones at home as well,” Director Winningham said.
He said changes would continue to be made as necessary.
“Hopefully, it won’t be long until we’ll all be back in school,” Director Winningham said, “when everything will be back to normal.”
Overton County Executive Ben Danner pointed out that despite the state referring to Overton County as a “hot spot”, positive cases have decreased over the past few weeks.
“We’ve got 90 active now and about three weeks ago we had 190,” Executive Danner said.
He noted that his office has Overton County masks to give away for free. They were purchased by the ambulance service using COVID-19 monies, according to Executive Danner.
“So, if you don’t have a mask, come by the office and get your Overton County mask,” Executive Danner said.
Other speakers at the press conference included Scott Stevens from Overton County Care and Rehab Center, and Livingston-Overton County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shannon Cantrell.