KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said Thursday she’s encouraged by the recent trend of the rate of recovery exceeding new cases of COVID-19.
“I think now is the time to redouble our efforts, as schools reopen, as UT students are back in the classroom. We need to just stay the course,” she said.
Kincannon praised the efforts of the Knox County Board of Health, and County Health Director, Dr. Martha Buchanan.
“I’m pleased they’re following the science, and trying to take the politics out of these and just make sure we’re doing what’s right for our community,” she said. While Kincannon doesn’t serve on the board, she has expressed her opinion on issues throughout the pandemic. “It’s my job to advocate what’s best for our public health, what’s best for our education, what’s best for our families, even if I don’t have direct oversight over the health department.”
The mayor expressed support on the recent move to implement a 10 p.m. curfew for Knox County bars, which was extended this week.
“We have 30,000 additional people out and about in our city. I want to make sure they’re safe,” she said. “If UT goes well, if Knox County Schools can open safely, that’s good for our whole community.”
The city also allocated $1.1 million for COVID-19 housing assistance, aimed at keeping people in their homes. “It’s working, but the needs are significant, and growing,” she said. The pandemic, she explained, has worsened existing economic hardships, by revealing the “the hardships and inequalities in our community,” she said. “We’re doing our best to address those needs in the short term, and also advocating for long-term changes at the state and federal level.”
Those longterm changes, in her view, should include medicaid expansion and more investment in education. “One of the reasons people are having a hardship is healthcare issues, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” On education, she added, will enable people to “earn more money,” and ultimately, “afford more housing.”
In addition to the city COVID-19 housing fund, the city is working with community partners to allocate federal CARES Act money to help people avoid eviction, stay in their homes, or pay their utility bills.
“We have some additional funds coming through the federal government that we’re also going to apply in this same exact way, to help people bridge that gap until they can get maybe new jobs, or trained to try a new career or just adjust to the hardships that Covid has placed on us,” she said.
Following the announcement Neyland Stadium will not be at capacity this fall, Knox County and the city are sure to take a financial hit. Financial shortfall estimates for UT’s athletic program, alone, range between $30-40 million.
“When 100,000 people come to Knoxville to come to UT football games, it’s a huge positive benefit for our economy. There’s no doubt about it. But, all the economists and public health experts say, the number one way to help our economy recover from the pandemic, is to address the pandemic and get the virus under control, then our economy can be stronger.” Kincannon, a season ticket holder for nearly 20 years, said she’s like the rest of the community and wants to move forward in a safe way.