Knox County Board of Health ‘concerned,’ stresses need for more to get vaccination

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County’s Advisory Board of Health met on Wednesday night as concerns are growing with increased COVID-19 cases in East Tennessee and Knox County.

“I’m concerned about the trends that we’re seeing, an increase in cases and probable cases. I’m concerned that our vaccination rate has, even though it’s tweaked up a little bit maybe, it’s really plateaued,” Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said.

While Buchanan said she doesn’t foresee any more mandated closures, businesses closing isn’t necessarily out of the picture. It is important to remember the group’s authority has been scaled back to just an advisory role. No policy changes or mandates could come from the meeting.

“I’m concerned though that we will still see more economic challenges, more folks not able to work because they or their family members are sick. So closures and challenges won’t be due to any mandates, they’ll be due to disease,” said Buchanan.

The meeting was called last week as COVID-19 case counts were rising.

The board did want to send a clear message from the experts that COVID-19 is still here, and they say the vaccine is the way to fight it.

“We need more people to get vaccinated and that is the way we’re going to be able to not have to do other things to reduce illness. Vaccine is our way out of this current wave,” Buchanan said.

The meeting also came on the heels of a CDC announcement, updating some of its guidelines on wearing a mask indoors. Buchanan pointed out how board members were following them.

“We are observing that and we recommend businesses look at that and make that decision for themselves,” Buchanan said.

Even though there was no public forum Wednesday night, there was an audience.

“I felt like they completely overstepped their authority and what they should have done. So I was just here to see what they were going to say and what they were talking about doing,” Debi Stafford said.

And with the board now being a solely advisory group, there were questions about who gets the final policy-making authority. Is it Buchanan or Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs?

Buchanan said she’s looking to get a legal opinion from the law department next week.

This is a developing story. Download the WATE 6 News app for updates sent to your phone.

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