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Roundup: Knox Re-Opening Plan to Get Second Look; Plasma Shows Promise

Blount Memorial Hospital

Knox County phased re-open to get second look this week

Knox County’s three-phase plan to re-open businesses and social activity is slated for review this week, as county mayor Glenn Jacobs pushes for an accelerated timetable.

Jacobs piggybacked on Gov. Bill Lee’s recent decision to do away with capacity limits for retail and restaurants. Jacobs issued a press released Friday that said in part, “If Governor Lee and the State Health Department believe it is safe to further loosen restrictions on certain businesses in 89 counties, I see no reason why Knox County can’t follow suit.”

The statement said the county’s joint re-opening task force would meet this week and present an update on Thursday.

Prior to Jacobs’ press release, Health Department Director Martha Buchanan consistently urged patience with the county’s three-phase business and social re-opening plan, which went into effect less than three weeks ago. She has also acknowledged the plan would probably be revisited as new data come in.

Buchanan is slated to field questions from the press at a Health Department briefing Monday at 12:30 p.m.

Plasma infusion appears to have helped Blount County COVID patient

An infusion of antibodies from a COVID survivor may have helped a Blount County woman whose own case was so severe that she came close to being put on a ventilator.

Tonya Jones was released from Blount Memorial Hospital Saturday, ten days after she was admitted when her COVID-19 case worsened. A few days later, she was moved to the hospital’s ICU and placed on a high flow of oxygen simply to maintain the blood oxygen levels necessary to sustain life.

The treatment was not easy or quick, the hospital said. The plasma had to be requested from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Once it arrived, Jones received the plasma for eight days. But her doctors noted a quick improvement. Within two days, Jones’ lung X-rays showed marked improvement. By day four she was moved to a regular room. Her need for pure oxygen dwindled, and by day seven she was alert and talkative.

The plasma treatment is being studied all over the nation under the guidance of the Mayo Clinic. People whose immune systems fought the novel coronavirus are left with unique antibodies in their bloodstream. Those antibodies are being harvested to see whether introducing them into patients with severe COVID-19 will aid them in battling the virus. Blount Memorial, UT Medical Center and Covenant Health are among the Tennessee hospitals participating in the antibody treatment study.

Even before she went to the hospital, Jones said tangling with COVID-19 was no ordinary sickness.

“It was miserable,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemies.”

Case cluster at Loudon County mushroom farm

Fifty-seven workers at Monterey Mushrooms’ Loudon County farm have tested positive for COVID-19, according to county mayor Buddy Bradshaw. About 300 workers were tested.

Bradshaw says most of the cases are asymptomatic. The infected workers have been notified and given instructions on how to care for themselves while they are dealing with the illness. They are in quarantine, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Monterey Mushrooms grows and packages mushrooms that are sent to restaurants and grocery stores across the U.S. The plant will stay open, and will work with public health officials to develop and implement a response plan.

Bradshaw says COVID-19 can’t be contracted from the mushrooms themselves, but “I would probably wash my hands after removing them from the package.”