County mayor: We’ll make it through this

Friday, March 20, 2020

None of us could have expected a few months ago that the spring of 2020 would result in such broad disruptions to our normal lives. The COVID-19 outbreak has affected everyone from school children to the elderly, with potential impact on our economy as well as our health.

As your county mayor, I want to tell you a little about what’s going on locally to respond to this situation and how it could affect you.

First and foremost, I want to urge you to take COVID-19 seriously. It’s not a hoax, and the preventive measures which are being taken are not overreactions. This is a real disease which has had a devastating impact in other countries. As of Friday, we haven’t yet had an official diagnosis of COVID-19 in Bedford County, but that’s likely to happen soon – and the measures that have been taken over the past two weeks are intended to slow the spread of the disease and minimize its impact. Every life is precious, and while many healthy people can survive COVID-19, it can also be fatal, especially in people whose immune systems are weakened by age, youth, or some other medical condition.

Serious measures

If the disease spreads in an uncontrolled manner, there could be so many people sick at once that it would overwhelm the health care system. The preventative measures that have been adopted are meant to make sure the disease remains under control. 

When this crisis has passed, if all works as designed, some people may say “Well, that wasn’t such a big deal.” If people say that, it will mean that our preventative measures worked the way they were supposed to.

COVID-19 testing is now being made available statewide. Next week, the state will use National Guard troops to help provide security and access control at local health department offices, including the one here in Shelbyville.

Here in Bedford County, we organized a COVID-19 task force, chaired by Bedford County Emergency Management Agency Director Scott Johnson, which has six working groups:

Health

Public Safety

Business

Faith-Based

Education

Executive Government

These groups have already met and examined what needs to be done to try to limit the spread of the disease.

Right now, Bedford County government remains open to serve you, but in a way that restricts face-to-face contact. People are using the telephone and online services to do much of their county business, and there are many things that can be accomplished, easily and conveniently, through those methods. You can renew your driver’s license tags online, for example. 

For transactions that absolutely must be handled in person, appointments are required, and the transactions are being handled in a way that minimizes the chance for the virus to be passed from person to person.

Worship continues

Bedford County churches are finding ways to continue to minister while suspending in-person gatherings. Many church services are available online or on the radio. Churches, and individual members, are urged to keep in close contact with their neighbors, so that needs can be met and spirits can be lifted even in a time of crisis.

State and federal governments are continuing to review the best ways to respond to the crisis, and our county government is following those developments closely. Earlier in the week, Gov. Bill Lee held a statewide teleconference with county mayors, and city and town mayors were invited to join their county mayors to hear the governor’s presentation. I was joined in my office by other mayors from throughout the county.

It’s important to stay informed, and to use legitimate, trusted sources of information. Social media rumors and pass-alongs may not be accurate. Don’t believe everything you read, and don’t pass along everything you read. Tennessee Department of Health has a website at https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html with links to information about the outbreak, including statistics and a county-by-county breakdown of numbers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page about the virus is https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html. 

Keep aware

Please follow our Bedford County Government Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bedfordcountytngov/, or Twitter account, https://twitter.com/BedfordTn, for the latest local updates.

Please comply with social distancing recommendations. Stay home as much as possible and avoid any groups of 10 or more people. Wash your hands often, and cough into your elbow. If you have symptoms, such as mild to severe respiratory illness with fever cough, and difficulty breathing, call your health care provider for guidance. Do not visit a medical facility until you’re instructed to do so.

COVID-19 is serious, but with some patience, empathy and common sense, Bedford County will make it through this outbreak. Tennessee is known as “The Volunteer State” because a crisis brings out the best in us, and that applies to this crisis as much as it has to any other in our history.

• Chad Graham is mayor of Bedford County and a former director of Bedford County Emergency Medical Services.