NEWPORT—Cocke County’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed Friday morning.
During a press conference early Friday afternoon, Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger made the announcement.
Reading from a prepared statement, Ottinger said, “Today Cocke County joins 17 Tennessee counties in reporting a confirmed case of the COVID-19 strand of Coronavirus.
“The identity of this person is kept confidential by the Tennessee Department of Health and local health practitioners, even from me. I can say the Tennessee Department of Health practices strict monitoring of every confirmed case in Tennessee and they will ensure the confirmed citizens is following all the guidelines for quarantine.
“While the travel, associations, and social interactions of this citizen are investigated by local health officials, we encourage every Cocke County citizen and visitor to our area to follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control.
“I am not surprised by this information, and your elected officials, agency directors, and department heads from both County and City governments have been working this issue since its inception.
“On Wednesday, March 4, 2020, I directed the Cocke County Emergency Management Director to establish a working group in response to growing concerns over the COVID-19 virus. The working group was formed as a small collection of public health experts in possession of the most up-to-date information, as well as members of local government and first response. Members include myself, Mayor Roland Dykes, and representatives of the Tennessee Department of Health, Newport Medical Center, Cocke County School System, and First Response.
“The purpose of this working group was to open the lines of communication among cooperating state and local governments and agencies and identify the critical decision makers at every level.
“On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, after consulting Federal and State Leadership, as well as our local agencies and the county Basic Emergency Operations Plan, I activated Task Force C-19.
“This County/City Task Force has already begun working together and will continue [to] develop a common operating picture through mitigation, preparedness, and recovery.”
Because of HIPAA guidelines, Ottinger was unable to identify the local person’s sex, age, or place of residence. “I don’t even know myself,” she said.