Monroe County Mayor Mitch Ingram urged caution with the Christmas holiday upcoming and also discussed the COVID-19 vaccine that has arrived in Tennessee.

“We will be receiving a vaccine in the county this month and that vaccine will first be available to our emergency workers and to our hospital,” he noted.

The Tennessee Department of Health announced on Monday that the first shipment of the vaccine has arrived in the state.

The distribution plan for the vaccine will be tiered, starting with hospital and emergency personnel, then to the general public.

“The projection right now is for the general public to have access to the vaccine sometime in the spring,” Ingram stated. “The vaccine has a 14 day shelf life and it does require a 22 day booster shot ... I’ve been spending a lot of my time getting ready for the vaccine distribution and there is a lot going on, especially with the vaccine.”

He expects to see another increase in the amount of positive cases as the county transitions through the holiday season.

“It may be after the first of the year before we start to see the virus level off because we are seeing evidence, not only in Monroe but in every county, that after any holiday or time off there is an uptick in positive cases,” Ingram said. “We have seen the results from the gatherings at Thanksgiving and with Christmas and New Year’s approaching we expect to see that as well.”

He praised the school system for its efforts to contain the virus.

“Through their tremendous efforts we have seen that the cases are not being spread throughout the schools but rather through the family members outside of the school,” he noted. “I know they are facing a challenge with teachers, substitute teachers, bus drivers and others along those lines but the youth age group is doing very well.”

He noted the popular belief was the virus would spread more once schools had started back, but believes that has not been the case.

“Unfortunately, as far as the virus in general is concerned, we are up to 48 deaths caused by the virus,” Ingram stated. “It is under 1% but one death is definitely too many for us to lose anyone.”

The county is currently testing around 130 people a day for the virus and Ingram said that the news of Tennessee being chosen as a pilot state for the vaccine is a good thing.

“We are excited because we have been selected as one of four states in the nation to be selected as a pilot program for the distribution of the vaccine,” Ingram expressed. “We have been working with the governor on how we are going to do this, so it is pretty intense.”

The CDC has also lowered the isolation period from a 14-day quarantine to a 10-day quarantine for those who have been exposed to a person with COVID-19, but haven’t tested positive themselves.

Ingram would like to wish everyone a safe holiday season.

“As we go into the holiday season be careful of our most vulnerable family members and make sure that we do the right things with personal hygiene,” Ingram said. “I encourage everyone to be safe and have a happy holiday with their family.”

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