NEWPORT—As the COVID-19 pandemic grows, Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger, on Wednesday, March 19, activated Task Force C-19, bringing together public health officials, local elected officials, heads of departments, representatives from the Tennessee Department of Health, Newport Medical Center, and First Response, and first responders to continue monitoring the situation and develop plans of action.

Ottinger announced the activation of the task force during Friday’s news conference, after confirming she had been notified earlier in the day of Cocke County’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus.

Also speaking was Newport Mayor Roland Dykes, III, who asked citizens to “please take this seriously. We now have to go to the next level. Parents—please urge your children not to congregate and to practice social distancing. We stand ready to do whatever needs to be done.”

Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes and Newport Chief of Police Maurice Shults urged citizens to “adhere to common sense.”

“Let’s do this as a community,” said Shults.

“We can overcome this situation,” Fontes stated. “Citizens need to be accountable. It’s a time for selflessness and self-control. Follow the CDC guidelines. We will get through this without panic.”

Cocke County Emergency Management Director John Esway will head the Task Force.

“The task force will have five sub-committees,” Esway explained Friday. “They are medical, response, education, social services, and economic impact. We may add to this list.”

Esway said that they will meet and discuss the issues facing the city and county and will brief the county mayor each Friday morning, starting March 27.

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