Blount County’s positive COVID-19 cases nearly doubled in 17 days between June 15 and July 2, rising from 106 cases to 205 — a byproduct of the economy reopening and more residents on the go.

On July 1, Blount had 15 more cases than on June 30, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. The next day, TDH reported 17 new cases in Blount.

The county currently sits at 74 active cases. Three people have died and 127 have recovered from the virus.

Blount County Health Department Director Robert Schmidt said the increase in cases is not surprising considering that state data lags behind real-time numbers.

“With the recent opening of the economy, individuals traveling more and individuals traveling over the recent Memorial Day holiday, the (health) department expected the number of positives to increase,” Schmidt said, adding that as the number of positives increase, more individuals are requesting to be tested.

Calling it a “point-in-time test” — meaning a person could test negative today and contract the virus tomorrow — Schmidt said there’s no true way to know how many cases are active in the county.

Even so, the state-reported data is alarming to some, given that Blount has more confirmed coronavirus cases than 65 Tennessee counties.

Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell commented said “personal responsibility is vital in the containment of COVID-19.”

Mitchell said as case numbers rise, the mayor’s office is monitoring those numbers as well as the county’s hospital capacity.

Blount Memorial Hospital currently has four COVID-19 inpatients, BMH Public Relations Manager Jennie Bounds said. Altogether, the hospital has cared for 22 patients with the virus, including the four currently hospitalized.

Additionally, 14 Blount Memorial employees have tested positive for the virus — three of whom have not yet recovered and are quarantining, Bounds said.

“We really need our community’s help in trying to stop the spread of the virus in Blount County, “ BMH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Harold Naramore said.

He added that taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is particularly important because it could protect people with life-threatening health concerns other than the coronavirus.

“We know that many of our neighbors in Blount County have put off seeking health care that they really need based on fear of this virus and the effects it could have if they were to be exposed,” Naramore said. “As a community, we can not continue to let this happen.”

Naramore encouraged Blount Countians to wear masks, wash their hands and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“Most importantly, if you feel sick, stay home,” he said. “Call your primary care provider if you have a fever and/or any of the symptoms that may indicate illness.”

On June 15, Blount Memorial opened a CareToday Curbside option at East Tennessee Medical Group, 266 Joule St. in Alcoa, where people who have respiratory-like symptoms can be evaluated and potentially tested for COVID-19 while remaining in their cars.

“It’s another way of continuing to stay focused on our goal of being prepared, not panicked,” Naramore said about the curbside clinic.

The health department also is offering free COVID-19 testing Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to noon at 301 McGhee St. in Maryville.

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

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