Coronavirus (COVID-19) has penetrated the borders of McMinn County with the first case in the county confirmed on Friday afternoon.

In response, McMinn County Mayor John Gentry declared a state of emergency on Friday to help ensure the health and safety of the public.

“This designation provides authority to waive certain financial policies and procedures relative to emergency response to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the public,” said Gentry in a news release.

State law grants county mayors the authority to declare a state of emergency for a period of seven days. At the end of each period, they may reassess and declare an emergency for successive seven-day terms.

The patient in McMinn County is resting at home under quarantine. Measures have been put in place to monitor and ensure the patient’s safety, as well as the safety of all citizens in McMinn County. The Tennessee Department of Health is in contact with the patient and is tracing their recent movements to determine anyone with whom they have been in close contact.

Under the state of emergency, the following policies for McMinn County government are effective immediately:

• McMinn County Courthouse and Annex — Entrances to both facilities are restricted to emergencies only with status to be determined by the officeholder only after being contacted by telephone or other electronic means.

• County parks — Bicentennial Park and Eureka Trail remain open for individual outdoor exercise. Use is restricted to no more than 10 individuals on the playground at one time. No team games are allowed at Bicentennial Park until further notice.

• All courts remain under the Tennessee Supreme Court order suspending in-person court proceedings. Emergency court hearings are permitted under directions of the courts. Everyone must call the circuit court clerk to check status of their case.

Gentry reminded McMinn Countians to continue to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from others. Those who are most at risk are over 60 years of age or those with preexisting health conditions.

“This new virus must be taken very seriously,” said Gentry in the news release. “No gathering of 10 or more should take place at this time. It is crucial that citizens continue to regularly wash their hands and I ask everyone to check on elderly relatives and neighbors to ensure they have food and supplies.

“The speed at which we get through this is really determined by us,” added Gentry in an interview with The DPA on Friday. “This is a team sport right now in how we have to attack this and we’ve all got to be on the same team. It’s a little bit of a social contract that everybody has to sign individually with their conscience.”

In the news release, Gentry expressed confidence that McMinn County will do its part to minimize the effects of coronavirus.

“We knew it was very likely that cases of COVID-19 would occur in our community at some point,” he said. “Our faith remains in the Lord and I have no doubt that our county, state and nation will emerge from this struggle stronger than we were before.”

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing these symptoms who have recently traveled to COVID-19 affected areas or have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 should call their healthcare provider before they go to that facility.

Community leaders are meeting regularly to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tennessee Department of Health remains the lead agency in the response. The COVID-19 Public Information Number is 877-857-2945 and is available from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Additional information regarding coronavirus can be found at www.TN.gov and www.cdc.gov.

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