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COVID-19 numbers continue to tumble in region

By Richard Rourk

Numbers continue to spike downward in COVID-19 cases across the country.

Ballad’s Daily Scorecard showed 103 COVID-19 positive patients were in Ballad facilities on Monday, Feb. 8. In the 21-county region served by Ballad, 22 of those patients were in the ICU and 15 patients were on ventilators. 

The positivity rate was 15.2 percent, down from the previous week’s 17 percent positivity rate. 

There were 100 COVID-19 related deaths over the past seven days in the 21-county region. 

Since March 1, 2020, Ballad has seen 83,717 COVID-19 positive patients hospitalized and the 21-county region has experienced 1,706 deaths.

Ballad Health has compiled video tributes for those who lost their battle with COVID-19. The public can view the videos on Ballad Health’s Facebook page.

Ballad Health has also teamed up with Dolly Parton on a commercial that premiered during Super Bowl LV to honor those fighting in the frontlines against COVID-19. That spot can also be seen on Ballad Health’s Facebook page.

For more information or to keep up to date with Ballad Health please visit

Ballad also announced a unique partnership to receive blood from donors as well as life-saving plasma to help in the fight against COVID-19.

A special two-day event will soon save lives in the Appalachian Highlands – and give community members a sneak peek at one of the Bristol area’s most exciting upcoming developments.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Blood Drive, a joint effort of Marsh Regional Blood Center, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the Bristol Herald Courier, will be held Feb. 11-12, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. The event will be hosted on the site of the future Hard Rock Casino & Hotel at the former Bristol Mall.

Each donor will receive a snack and a special-edition event T-shirt. Donors will undergo a screening and eligibility check inside the old Sears building, while the actual donation will take place in one of Marsh Regional’s mobile donation units.

“Marsh Regional can do its work – saving local lives through blood, platelets and plasma – because of tremendous support from the community members who step up to give, as well as the local organizations and businesses that step up to support us,” said Steffanie Sukel, director of Marsh Regional. “Teaming up with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Bristol Herald Courier to host this blood drive is an excellent opportunity for everyone in the Appalachian Highlands to lift their neighbors, protect their communities and help save lives close to home.”

To help ensure physical distancing and infection prevention, Marsh Regional strongly encourages donors to make an appointment to give. Interested donors can call 423-652-0014 or visit to make an appointment. Walk-ins will be accommodated as available, and all eligible blood donors in the Appalachian Highlands are invited to attend.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Marsh Regional Blood Center and the Bristol Herald Courier in sponsoring this important event,” said Andy Poarch, speaking on behalf of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol project. “Offering the Bristol Mall, the future home of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol, as a location for the blood drive allows us to work with our partners in meeting a critical local need. This event demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the community, so Bristol and the region will continue to be a wonderful place to live and work. We applaud the dedication and generosity of the many volunteers and donors to make this blood drive a success.”

Marsh Regional, like many blood centers across the nation, is struggling to meet the needs of its patients in light of COVID-19, which has led to canceled blood drives and lower donor participation.

“There is no greater calling than to help save someone’s life. While the need for blood is year-round, modern medicine, especially during a pandemic, depends on blood donations,” said James Maxwell, publisher of the Bristol Herald Courier. “Many patients in hospitals depend on these donations to get the care they so dearly need. I encourage you to join members of the Bristol community in donating blood at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Bristol, Virginia, on Feb. 11 and 12. Your donation can save a life.”

Marsh Regional continues to take appropriate actions to reduce donors’ potential exposure to COVID-19, and donors will receive directions on arrival to maintain proper distancing and infection prevention measures. COVID-19 does not pose any known risk to blood donors during the donation process or from attending blood drives, and blood donation centers always take steps to prevent team members and donors who are not feeling well or who have a fever from reaching the donor area.

Additionally, donors are required to wear a cloth face covering, such as a homemade mask, bandana or buff, at all times in collection centers or on mobile units. If donors do not bring their face covering, Marsh Regional will provide one.

As many as three lives can be saved each time someone donates blood – and donations to Marsh Regional stay local to help people in the Appalachian Highlands. Marsh Regional supplies blood to 28 regional medical facilities, all regional cancer centers and five air rescue bases in Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky.

In addition to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino drive, Marsh Regional will host blood drives across the Appalachian Highlands throughout February and March.

“It costs nothing, except time, to take any action that could save someone’s life,” Sukel said. “As every blood, platelet or plasma donor can attest, the hour a donor spends to make their gift can have a positive impact for decades.”

In addition to blood donations, Marsh Regional is seeking people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate convalescent plasma, which can contain antibodies that fight off active COVID-19 infections. The plasma shows promise as a treatment option for people with severe COVID-19 to boost their body’s ability to fight the virus. It might also help people who are moderately ill from developing critical symptoms and experiencing major and life-threatening complications. Recovered COVID-19 patients who are interested in donating convalescent plasma should call 423-408-7500 to learn more.

To give blood, donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds or more and be in good health. People with a cold, sore throat, fever, flu or fever blisters or who are taking antibiotics may not donate. Donors should eat a balanced meal before giving blood.

 Those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine are advised to wait at least 48 hours before making a blood, platelet or plasma donation.

Additionally, Marsh Regional has updated its donor eligibility guidelines to reflect new federal Food and Drug Administration standards. Donation deferrals have been modified for individuals who were previously unable to give due to time spent in certain European countries or on military bases in Europe. Potential donors should call 423-408-7500 to be pre-screened for eligibility.

In addition to the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel blood drive and upcoming mobile blood drives, donors are welcome at Marsh Regional’s collection centers: 111 W. Stone Drive, Suite 300, Kingsport; 2428 Knob Creek Road, Johnson City; and 1996 W. State St., Bristol.

An appointment is required before giving blood at any blood center – donors should call 423-408-7500, 423-652-0014 or 423-282-7090 or visit Marsh Regional Blood Center for more information about appointments or to schedule a blood drive at a local business, church, school or community organization. Same-day blood donation appointments are frequently available.


One aspect of health that has been often overlooked during the pandemic is mental health.

Even with vaccines, experts have yet to describe what the new normal will look like and that has caused concern.

Health officials have discovered new strains and variants. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article published on Feb. 7 and written by Daniela Hernandez and Drew Hinshaw, COVID-19 could be here to stay. 

“Going through the five phases of grief, we need to come to the acceptance phase that our lives are not going to be the same,” former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thomas Frieden told The Wall Street Journal. “I don’t think the world has really absorbed the fact that these are long-term changes.”

A release from, gives updates and tools for those coping with COVID-19 mental health related issues. 

According to, mental health is a major concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been a challenging time for many, and both the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services recognize the burden that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on residents.

The Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line is available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day for anyone going through a mental health crisis. Trained crisis counselors are available to listen, provide support and guidance, and work to connect people with appropriate community support. Call 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471).


As of Monday, Feb 8, Unicoi County had 25 active cases of COVID-19. According to the Tennessee Department of Health’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard, there have been 43 COVID-19-related deaths in Unicoi County.

In Northeast Tennessee, as of Feb.8, Washington County has 283 active positive cases of COVID-19 with 225 related deaths. Sullivan County has 453 active cases and 256 reported deaths. Greene County has 197active cases and 136 deaths. Hawkins County has 245 active cases and 88 deaths. Carter County has 157 active cases and 139 deaths, while Johnson County is reporting 56 active cases of COVID-19 and 37 deaths.

There have been 629,838 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 8,536 deaths as a result of the virus in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. 

According to the CDC, as of Monday, the United States has had 26,852,809 positive cases and 462,037 deaths due to COVID-19 since Jan. 21, 2020.