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County records fifth COVID-19 case

Bell County was one of the last in the state to report a positive case of COVID-19, with its first being reported in a May 16 Facebook post on the county health department’s page. The county now has five official cases as of Thursday morning.

“As of (Tuesday) around 3 or 4 p.m., there had been about 1,200 tested in Bell County,” said Bell County Public Health Director Teresa Hunter. “Each testing location sends us demographics and then results from that testing, and there is also a statewide reporting system that is used that we pull information from.”

Hunter said she is not certain how many testing facilities are in the county. She said First Care in Middlesboro and Pineville Medical Center are each doing drive-thru testing, and there are also some private doctors doing testing in their offices, as well as hospitals that are testing.

Although there are five official cases in Bell County, Hunter said there was another case involving a Bell County resident, but since that case was diagnosed and treated in another county, it did not count toward Bell County’s total.

“There was one that was a legal resident of this county, however they were out of county for visitation and were diagnosed and quarantined in that county, so we were originally told it would be counted for Bell. Since the diagnosis, quarantining and everything was happening in another county, it became that county’s case,” she said.

Hunter elects to not provide any information about the age or gender of those diagnosed because of medical privacy laws.

“I know that the governor does what he does, but I’m going to follow along with my guidance as a public health director,” she added.

When asked if she thought people were continuing to take the proper safety measures, Hunter said she is not certain all Bell County residents are taking the proper precautions such as wearing masks.

“I don’t think there are as many as probably need to be. It is very important that we do that. Obviously it can’t be mandated. It is also extremely important to continue washing your hands,” she said. “I can’t say that enough.That is the number one way to prevent the spread of communicable disease, is to wash your hands. Hand sanitizer does not replace hand washing, but it is a good alternative. So wash your hands, keep your hands away from your face, wear a mask when you are out in the public. That would be a recommendation; obviously that is not a directive.”

As businesses and restaurants reopen and school activities such as high school sports and other events in communities make their way toward normal, Hunter said her office has been in contact with many groups about their plans.

“I think every school, every entity has been contacting the health department, working with us, sending us those plans so we can see those. Obviously I can’t predict or foresee the future. I think our numbers are showing higher than what they were, but yet we are testing more than what we were in the state,” she said, adding that she was not referring to Bell County’s testing. “Time will tell. I don’t think it’s over by any means, and I know people are tired. They are tired of being asked to do these things, but I do feel like if people don’t take it seriously, yes, there will be further spread.”

If you have questions about COVID-19, the state hotline can be reached by calling 800-722-5725 or you can visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus on the internet. Information can also be found on the Bell County Health Department’s Facebook page.