Civic and business leaders in Knox County in general support the Board of Health’s recent orders adding restrictions to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, though there is considerable resistance.
In the latest local Power Poll, 62 percent of respondents agreed with the board’s order issued last week mandating that bars and restaurants that serve alcohol close at 11 p.m. daily. About 31 percent disagreed, while 6.7 percent were unsure.
Support slipped a little when it came to the board’s decision to reduce the maximum number of people allowed at public gatherings from 50 to 25. Still, 58 percent supported the order, compared with 33 percent who did not and 9 percent who were unsure.
In a COVID-19 era, the flu Vaccine Remains Essential
By Dr. Andrea Willis
Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
Most conversations about a “vaccine” these days are understandably about when we can expect a safe, tested and proven way to combat COVID-19.
But there’s another virus to be concerned about — the flu. And this year’s vaccine is available now. It takes about two weeks to be fully effective, so getting a flu shot now will help protect you as influenza starts to spread in October.
As community leaders, I urge you to share the importance of getting a flu shot with others.
On average, the flu hospitalizes more than 200,000 Americans per year. Worse, it can result in deaths in the tens of thousands across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 1,600 Tennesseans died from influenza during the 2017-2018 season.
Pair that with a pandemic that shows few signs of slowing before flu season begins, and the gravity of the situation is clear. This year, the flu could actually be more dangerous than usual.
That may sound frightening, but let me explain why it’s true — and what we can do to help prevent it.
The Influenza/COVID-19 Connection
Our public health care infrastructure is going to be challenged. The past few months have seen the tragic results of a limited number of health care resources, such as not enough COVID-19 tests, overworked and exhausted front-line providers, and fewer adult hospital beds.
Like COVID-19, the flu is easily transmitted via droplets that result from sneezing, coughing or talking.
Adults age 65 and over, pregnant women, young children, and those with a history of asthma, heart disease and stroke, and diabetes are most susceptible to the flu.
Both the flu and COVID-19 can cause severe upper respiratory infections. Studies have shown a flu shot can reduce the likelihood of catching the flu by 40-60%.
Even if you aren’t at high-risk, getting vaccinated can help protect those who are.
Ironically, people staying at home as a safety precaution for COVID-19 may be afraid to visit the doctor.. Call ahead to hear about what safety precautions are in place in the office to protect you or consider drive through flu shot clinics that may exist in your area. We have to stay as safe as we can, and that means getting a flu shot – not avoiding one.
Remember: Vaccines are Safe
Even with this reality upon us, we don’t have to live in a state of panic. Vaccines have been proven safe and effective for decades. Consider diseases like polio, which was eradicated in the U.S. thanks to development of a commercial vaccine in 1961.
Measles rates dropped for many years after its vaccine was widely accepted beginning in 1963, though we’re now seeing a resurgence because some children aren’t vaccinated.
The flu vaccine is one step you can take to help protect yourself in this environment where both the flu and COVID-19 are present. Each can cause severe respiratory illness individually and it is possible to have a dual diagnosis. Even if the flu vaccine isn’t always exact, its safety has been tested and proven reliable. Most individuals who receive it either avoid contracting the virus or have a milder case if they do.
The benefits of the flu vaccine far outweigh the risks.
If you have health insurance, your flu shot is likely covered at no or very little cost. If you don’t have insurance, remember that most local health departments in Tennessee have free flu shots available while supplies last, in addition to offering flu shots at a reasonable cost.
So please, get your flu shot, and if you can, get it now. And encourage others to do so, as well. Getting ahead of the virus’ spread could prove crucial for the health of you and your loved ones.
Related resources from BlueCross:
One third of respondents said the Board of Health’s orders are too restrictive, while 20 percent said they have not been restrictive enough. A 47 percent plurality said the Board of Health has struck the right balance between the two extremes.
The results reflect the rifts among Knox County residents over the best way to address the pandemic. Unlike the majority of Power Poll respondents, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, who serves on the Board of Health, has opposed every public health order the panel has issued.
At Monday’s County Commission work session, unmasked opponents of COVID-19 restrictions loudly demanded the board be dissolved. Next Monday, commissioners will consider a proposal to strip much of the Board of Health’s authority.
Sponsored by Commissioners Justin Biggs and Kyle Ward, the resolution would restrict the county to follow the governor’s “Tennessee Pledge” guidelines, which do not include a mask mandate or early closing times for bars or restaurants. Under the proposal, the county also would refuse to cite, arrest or prosecute anyone for not complying with Board of Health orders.
This month’s poll also asked two questions not directly related to policy — one about eating out during the pandemic and another about recipients’ personal connections with people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they have eaten inside a restaurant (as opposed to carry-out or al fresco dining) five times or fewer during the past month, with 26.2 percent saying they haven’t darkened the door of a restaurant at all. On the other end of the spectrum, 20.1 percent said they have eaten inside a restaurant 10 or more times in the past month.
Nearly nine in 10 — 86.59 percent — said they know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, an indicator of how pervasive the novel coronavirus is in Knox County.
For this survey, 727 people were invited to participate and 164 returned responses. Here are the questions and results.