by Rachel Petty

On Wednesday morning, Smith County Insider sat down with Dr. Roger Duke and Smith County Mayor Jeff Mason to discuss what is being done in Smith County in the face of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Dr. Duke, District 6 County Commissioner and member of the Smith County COVID-19 Task Force, says the key is for the public not to panic and to seek out sound information from reliable sources.

Dr. Duke and Mayor Mason’s primary suggestion is for people to listen to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is the most reliable source for COVID-19 information, and their guidelines should be followed as closely as possible. 

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends cleaning your hands often, avoiding close contact with others, staying home if you are sick, covering your coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily.

You can also find reliable information on the Tennessee Department of Health website, which is updated daily at 2:00 p.m. 

This interactive map from Johns Hopkins University is a great way to track the spread of the coronavirus worldwide.

As of midday Wednesday, no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Smith County, but local officials are closely monitoring the situation.

Both Riverview Regional Medical Center and the Smith County Health Department have COVID-19 testing capabilities, but tests are only being administered under specific CDC guidelines. According to the CDC, you should call your healthcare provider if you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or you are a resident in a community where there is ongoing spread of COVID-19 and develop symptoms of COVID-19. 

Locally, Smith County Schools are closed at least through April 3, and the Smith County Senior Citizens Center, the Smith County Fitness Center, and Smith County Public Libraries are closed until further notice. Citizens with reservations at the Smith County Ag Center are being strongly encouraged to reschedule, and the majority of local meetings and events are being postponed.

Last week, local officials formed a Smith County COVID-19 Task Force, which brings together approximately 30 individuals from various sectors across the county for the sake of clear coordination and communication to the public.

The task force includes county and city mayors, hospital personnel, public health officials, school health officials, Smith County EMS, nursing home and home health representatives, local law enforcement, firefighters, religious leaders, and members of the Smith County Chamber of Commerce.

One major goal of the Smith County COVID-19 task force is to replace panic with preparedness and to replace fear with facts by providing easily accessible information at the local level. 

Dr. Duke and Mayor Mason are expected to begin providing frequent updates via Facebook Live in the coming days and weeks. Follow Smith County, TN Mayor Jeff Mason on Facebook for more information.

It’s important for people to remember that information about this subject is constantly changing as experts study and learn more about the novel coronavirus.

“This is not going to last forever,” Dr. Duke assured.

In the meantime, it is increasingly important to take proper precautions. Limit your exposure, practice social distancing and good hygiene, and stay informed using reliable sources.

“This is going to pass,” Mayor Mason added. “Don’t live in fear; don’t live in panic.”

Stay tuned to Smith County Insider, the CDC website, and the TN Department of Health as new information continues to become available. 

For more information about COVID-19, check out this video by Smith County Insider reporter J.R. Smith!