During January the Buffalo River Review will take a look back at 2020 and recap some of the top stories of the previous twelve months. This week: April through June.
The first issue of April carried a now oft-repeated message from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on the COVID-19 pandemic: don’t be afraid, but be aware, and take every possible precaution to protect yourself and others. Governor Lee predicted the pandemic was far from over, saying, “We’re in this for the long term.”
“Save the Children” responded to local pandemic needs by sending school supplies and items for babies and families to Perry County; the products were distributed by program staff and volunteers.
Perry County Health Department became an official coronavirus test site in April, offering the service from 8:00 to 4:30 daily, five days a week.
MLEC announced a $593,166 broadband accessibility grant to extend ML Connect internet to unserved areas of southern Perry County.
As part of COVID-19 relief, the state announced grants to help local communities cover expenses during tough economic times during the pandemic: Perry County was awarded $983,559, the City of Lobelville was to receive $49,597, and the Town of Linden, $50,722.
In a virtual town hall, Representative Kirk Haston urged callers in the 72nd District which he represents in the state legislature, to remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19: “The curve is flattening, but we must keep our discipline and not get back to regular daily life yet.”
All Things Common Ministries and Second Harvest Food Bank held the first pandemic-related food distribution in Perry County. The event has been repeated multiple times since then, and well-attended by local families.
A Unacast tool for tracking mobility gave the state an F for its citizens’ efforts to stay in place and mitigate the spread of the virus, but Perry County received a much better grade, B-, one of only three counties in Tennessee with the high score.
Perry County Senior Centers announced in April that both locations would close because of the pandemic.
A Sunday afternoon storm on Sunday, May 3, ripped away tin roofs, downed trees, and damages property, leaving some 1,500 Perry County residences without power, along with 8,400 in the MLEC service area. The event was followed Monday by another round of storms that caused power outages for even more.
Only 37.3% of Perry County households had self-responded to the U.S. Census by the beginning of May, well below both the Tennessee and national rate.
Hopeful that it might soon be safe to gather, the Blooming Arts Festival announced a June date for the postponed happening which was delayed in March. A decision was later made to cancel the festival entirely for 2020.
In a school year marked by disruption and virtual learning, PCHS planned an outdoor commencement for the class of 2020 so that graduates and their families could practice social distancing. The graduation was held May 21.
Taylor Hardin was named valedictorian of the 2020 class, and Jase Horner, salutatorian. Caleb Ary, Tatum Hudson, and Brexton Tatum rounded out the top five in academics.
As the pandemic raged, Governor Lee extended the state of emergency in Tennessee from the original expiration date of May 18 to June 30. That was executive order 37; we’re now at order number 70 related to the pandemic.
The pandemic was affecting the number of emergency calls in the county. The Review reported that from mid-March to mid-May, emergency medical calls dropped 45% from the first three months of 2020, and law enforcement calls dropped 25% for the two comparable periods.
The Tennessee Board of Parole was split on the release of convicted murderer Chad Swatzell who killed Perry County resident in 1988, and ordered another hearing. His next appearance before the board was set for today, January 13.
Perry County had the seventh highest unemployment rate in Tennessee at 23.3%. Statewide the rate was 14.7%. Sevier County had the highest: 29.5%. The figures reported in June were for the month of April.
Perry County Youth Centers began a summer food program for local families, providing weekend meals for pick-up every Friday in June and most of July .
The Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation announced that first through third graders would receive two free books delivered to their homes in each of the three summer months: June, July, and August.
During the first week of June, donated Korean and Vietnam War veterans bricks were laid at the memorial on the courthouse lawn. The Review reported that 551 local veterans were registered with the Veterans Administration.
TVA and MLEC announced a $6,000 COVID-19 relief grant to Perry County Schools food service.
Perry County Mayor John Carroll confirmed that Bates Rubber LLC would be closing. Facebook posts by employees of the company said the closure would occur in six to eight months. The plant is owned by Park Ohio.
Perry County Nursing Home was forced in June by safety concerns to begin limited visitations under strict guidelines due to the pandemic.
Next week: July through September.