The first 10 days of January saw 11 Blount Countians die of COVID-19, Tennessee Department of Health data shows.

Additionally, 1,151 people in the county have tested positive for the virus since Jan. 1.

Blount had the 12th-largest number — 114 — of new reported cases in Tennessee on Jan. 10, health department data showed.

Blount Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Harold Naramore said that last week, Blount County had the second-highest positivity rate in the state at 38.8%.

“This tells us that we have a lot of COVID cases in Blount County and that we can continue to expect to see increases in hospitalizations,” he emailed. “And as more people require hospitalization, it also increases the chance that deaths also may increase.”

Hospital data showed that as of 9 a.m. Jan. 11, Blount Memorial had 31 COVID-19 inpatients. Seven of those inpatients were in the intensive care unit, leaving the hospital with nine available ICU beds.

“At Blount Memorial, we’re here for our community, and we’re not going anywhere — even if it gets really bad as we expect it might,” Naramore emailed. “We’re continuing to fight, and we’re continuing to put the health needs of our community before anything else. But, we also need you to fight with us. Please do the little things so that we can get control over this virus. We can’t do it alone.”

Naramore encourages the community not to let up on preventive measures as COVID-19 vaccines become more available in the county.

Just shy of 4% of Blount County had received the first dose of a vaccine by Jan. 7, the state health department’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows.

“I continue to share with our doctors and our employees at Blount Memorial, that vaccine or not, we must continue to be diligent about wearing our masks, washing our hands, staying 6’ apart from each other and avoiding large gatherings, especially with those outside of our immediate households,” Naramore said.

The vaccine, which is available at the Blount County Health Department by appointment to those aged 75 and older or in Phase 1a2 of the state health department’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, does give Naramore hope that an end to the pandemic is possible, he said.

“We’ve all made a tremendous amount of sacrifice throughout 2020, and we are hopeful that 2021 will be very different,” he said. “The virus will still be around, but the hope is that it won’t be as serious or as deadly once we get enough people vaccinated.”

If you fall into Phase 1a2 or are 75 or older, visit signupgenius.com/go/blount-priority-list or call {span}865-549-5343 to make a vaccination appointment. Phase 1a2 includes health care workers and funeral and mortuary service workers. {/span}

Follow @_shelbyharris on Twitter for more from county government reporter Shelby Harris.

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