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Neighbors Helping Neighbors During COVID-19

March 27, 2020

Many of Blood Assurances’ partners are limiting their business to “essential activities” only. The FDA has defined blood drives as an essential community activity and Blood Assurance wants you to know it is perfectly safe to give blood at this time. As the U.S. Surgeon General stated in his address to the nation, “You can still go out and give blood…social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

One of Blood Assurance’s longtime partners, DeKalb Neighbors Helping Neighbors coordinated by Jimmy Poss, County Clerk on a regular basis has stepped up to the plate during the pandemic and hosted a blood drive every 8 weeks with Blood Assurance. Not only did repeat donors come out to support their local blood bank on Monday, March 23, but new donors gave the gift of life for the first time, such as husband and wife, Jimmy and Anita Puckett.

Blood Assurance and the hospitals in its community would greatly appreciate your support. Blood drives are vital to maintaining our healthcare system and the health of patients in your local hospitals.

Blood Assurance is taking additional steps to ensure the health of its donors and is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak nationally and in its service area. Please visit In addition to the special protocols already in place, Blood Assurance is encouraging donors to make appointments and use its quickscreen app to answer health history questions in advance. To do that donors can visit

Blood Assurance will also be giving away an Echo Dot every week to one randomly chosen donor and one 65” smart T.V. will also be given away at the end of March. All donors over the age of 18 are eligible to win.

Donating whole blood takes about 30 minutes and can impact 3 people in area hospitals. An appointment can be scheduled by phone or online. To schedule an appointment at a donor center or blood drive, please visit, call 800-962-0628 or text BAGIVE to 999777.

To be eligible to donate blood, you must be at least 17 years old (16 years old with parental consent), weigh 110 pounds or more and be in good health. Donors are asked to drink plenty of fluids — avoiding caffeine — and eat a meal that is rich in iron prior to donating.

About Blood Assurance
Blood Assurance is a nonprofit, full-service regional blood center serving health care facilities in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia. Founded in 1972 as a joint effort of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society, the Chattanooga Area Hospital Council and the Chattanooga Jaycees, the mission of Blood Assurance is to provide a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood components to every area patient in need.

COVID-19 Hits Homes for DeKalb Health Care Provider

March 27, 2020
By: Bill Conger

For DeKalb County nurse practitioner Gianna Owens, the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a personal toll. All of her mother’s family including aunts and cousins along with Owens’ longtime friends from childhood live in Italy, where the virus has left thousands dead.

“All of my family is in lockdown with the exception of one that is a health care worker and has been keeping me abreast of the humanitarian crisis that is occurring in the hospitals,” says Owens, who at one point lived in the hardest hit area of Italy.

“When the first cases appeared in Italy at the end of January, I knew that in a highly global society it would be almost impossible to contain,” says Owens, who has been a health care provider for 30 years. Prior to relocating to Tennessee, she worked as an infectious disease nurse at Cornell University and was the Assistant Director of a 90- bed HIV/AIDS facility.

“I started hearing my family tell me about people showing up at homes in hazmat suits to remove bodies. To be true, I don’t think they [my family] even appreciated in its entirety what was going on. They will tell you that the lock down took place too late when the surge of infections had reached a critical situation, sort of like we are seeing here in New York.”

Then, she says the unthinkable transpired when one of her dearest friends, Lee Hostettler, who had been vacationing in Italy, came back sick to Nashville.

“We tried every avenue to get her tested, but since she had not been to China, she was not considered [a high priority for] testing.”

“I was overwhelmed because all I could think about was the millions of European travelers who were unknowingly carrying the virus here and that nobody had even seen them as a high risk category. Obviously, the CDC guidelines changed March 11, but from late January into mid-March, we had individuals returning or visiting the US from COVID hotspots while China was still the only focus.”

“Lee was not able to get tested till recently. It had been a month out before she could get tested. We assume she cleared it if she did have it, and we praise God for that.”

Owens says she had been closely following the news about the new coronavirus since its outbreak in China.

“I knew it was going to spread because I had taken an epidemiology class at UT Chattanooga and learned a great deal about pandemics. I am still in contact and in daily conversation with my professor at UT, Jenny Holcombe, and we have been analyzing information together almost daily.”

Owens’ connections to Italy began when the Army sent her dad to Italy where he was later stationed at the American Embassy in Rome. He met her mother, whose dad was the Director of the Ministry of Defense, and the two got married. Later, Owens was born on a military base in Texas.

“My parents moved back to Europe when I was five. I lived and travelled extensively in Europe and Africa and returned to the US in my early 20’s. I moved to DeKalb County 13 years ago and have lived here ever since.”

On top of hearing about the horrific family news from overseas, the health care worker has made a sacrificial decision to say good-bye temporarily to her daughter, Maria Little, a clarinet player in the D.C.H.S. band.

“Maria’s dad and I have decided to move Maria full time to his house, so that I can be less of a risk to her and concentrate fully on my job as a nurse practitioner without worrying about possibly spreading the virus to her. I fully understand now what our service men and women go through.”

Fortunately, for Owens, the battle against this virus hasn’t picked up in DeKalb County, and she remains optimistic thanks to the precautious steps local leaders have taken.

“Our mayors, the commissioners and emergency task force have been working tirelessly to contain the spread of COVID-19 in DeKalb County. I think they have done an amazing job warning places of worship and businesses and getting the schools closed down. It’s hard. I know that this economically hurts all of us, but I also know they have made the best decision to spare lives, especially in our community with so many elderly and where we are somehow all [are in close] contact to each other.”

Meanwhile, Owens stays in touch with colleagues that work in Massachusetts and New York City where health care professionals are slaving away to keep people alive.

“We joke. We cry. We share our fears, and we lift each other up. I am trying to learn everything I can about this disease, so that I can share it with the community but also be of service as a provider should the need arise.”

Community Calendar Cancellations

March 27, 2020
By: Dwayne Page


The annual Cancer Survivors and Caregivers Reception Dinner  scheduled for April 16 at the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church Gym has been postponed until further notice.

Justin Potter Library has canceled the Older American’s Day Celebration that was scheduled for May 6th due to the Covid-19 virus. We have made this decision to make sure our most at risk citizens are kept safe. “We will decide later whether to reschedule this event for this year or wait until next May. We want to thank the businesses and individuals that already have door prizes or items for the goody bags. We ask them to please store them away for use when this event is rescheduled. Thank you for your understanding during this health crisis,” said Library Director Kathy Hendrixson

Smithville Mayor Josh Miller announced Monday that the Municipal Golf Course and Green Brook Park (except for the walking trail) are now closed to the public due to the threat of the COVID-19. “The City of Smithville as far as our government has stepped up. No one is currently allowed in our city buildings and we just made the call to close our golf course. That was a hard decision because it is an open air facility but the golf course is closed. The shelters, playground area, and restrooms are also closed at Green Brook Park but the walking trail will remain open. Again, we are trying to do all we can as a city but we know we can’t make people stay at home. My advice is that if you don’t have to go somewhere, don’t,” said Mayor Miller.

Effective Monday, March 23, the Upper Cumberland Development District office will be closed to the public until Apr. 3; at which time we will reassess the situation. Our staff will continue to assist clients primarily via phone and email. Essential services such as nutrition will continue. Individuals seeking assistance through programs and services offered by UCDD are encouraged to contact the office by calling (931) 432-4111.

Effective Monday, March 23, all UCHRA offices will be closed to the public until Apr. 3; at which time we will reassess the situation.  Staff will continue to assist clients primarily via phone and email. Individuals seeking assistance through the Low-Inome Home Energy Asssistance Program (LIHEAP) should contact their local office via phone. Transit services will continue to operate in order to provide individuals with transportation to and from medical appointments, the grocery store, and other needs. All scheduled commodities events during this time will continue as scheduled. For more information, please contact your local UCHRA office or call (931) 528-1127. To reach UCHRA Transit Services, call 1-833-UC TRIPS (828-7477) or visit

The DeKalb County Government continues to monitor developments and updates from federal and state public health officials related to the coronavirus. Beginning Friday March 20th, the DeKalb County Courthouse and the main entrance of the County Complex County Offices will be locked in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees are still reporting to work but residents who need to do business with them are urged to call first. Signage is posted on doors with phone number of each office for people to call. They will inform you how your business will be handled. The County Clerk’s drive thru window is open.

The DeKalb County Election Office is open to receive and issue candidate petitions.
However, candidates and potential candidates should call the office in advance to make arrangements for someone to give them access to the building. The election office phone number is 615-597-4146. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The qualifying deadline for the August election is NOON April 2.

The Mike Foster Multipurpose Center is closed through Saturday April 4th. This will include the exercise room. If you have rented a room, you can reschedule or request a refund.

DeKalb County Schools are closed through Friday, April 24 due to the coronavirus threat. All planned school related trips, extracurricular activities, and sporting events are also canceled during this time.

The DeKalb County Library System is closed until further notice, and as deemed appropriate by local, and federal health agencies. “Please know that closing the libraries was not an easy decision, but one that was made to ensure the wellbeing of the community and the library staff during this pandemic.We want to continue to serve the community as long as possible with the following services,” said Library Director Kathy Hendrixson: Wi-Fi will be available outside the buildings as usual. The Tennessee READS Digital Downloads is available at all times for audiobooks, ebooks and other online materials by going to the link on our website at You need an active library card for use. There are special options on the READS site for those they do not have library cards. The Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) is also available. You can renew and reserve materials by logging into your account on our website or calling the library at 615-597-4359 Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm. If you reserve an item we will call you and assign a time for curb side pickup during our revised hours at Justin Potter Library. All items can be returned in our outside book drops. Fines will be waived during the time the libraries are closed for this situation. Please check us out on Facebook for more information,” added Hendrixson.

County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss reminds patrons that all of its transactions in the County Clerk’s Office will be completed by the drive-thru service beginning today (Friday, March 20). As a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, we are offering online and drive-thru service for the safety of our customers and employees, based on recommendations from the CDC and the Tennessee Department of Health. We recommend utilizing online services available at whenever possible. While DeKalb County Clerk’s office is implementing the CDC’s recommended social distancing practices, we are still committed to serving you. Full staff will continue working normal business hours providing services for both businesses and citizens. In-person services are currently Not available. Please contact our office for assistance. Our phone number is 615-597-5177. We apologize for the inconvenience during this time. Office Hours are Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays 8:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.

The DeKalb Senior Center is closed to the public thru Friday April 3. If you need assistance, call 615-597-7575 and leave a message.

The Alexandria Senior Center will be closed March 23 to April 6.

Although Smithville residents will not experience an interruption of city services, they will have to do city hall business at the drive-through window through the end of the month. The Smithville City Hall building is closed to the public for in-person visits or any business transactions through March 31. This will apply to the city hall offices of the mayor, city administrator, public works, police, tax, or water and sewer department. City officials will still be working normal business hours but if you have a need you will have to call city hall at 615-597-4745 or the police department at 615-597-8210 or you may stop by the drive through window to speak to a city employee. Payments may also be made at the drive through window, by phone, at the city hall night depository, or online at

DeKalb County Circuit Court Clerk Susan Martin is asking that anyone having business with her office please call 615-597-5711 or conduct business online if possible. Customers can do certain business and make payments via the DeKalb County Circuit Court Clerk website by clicking the link below and following the prompts.

By order of Tennessee Supreme Court Ruling, In Person Court Proceedings have been temporarily suspended until March 31, 2020. Due to this order In—Person court proceedings and hearings scheduled for this timeframe that are not of an emergent or immediate nature will not be held until after March 31, 2020. If you have an attorney – you should contact your attorney to potentially reschedule your court date. This suspension applies to all DeKalb County Courts including General Sessions, Circuit, Chancery, Criminal, Child Support, DCS, Juvenile Court, and the City of Smithville Municipal Court. All persons summoned for the new Grand Jury and term of court March 30 are not to report that day but will need to call 615-597-5711 extension 6 for further jury information after 5 p.m. March 31.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office is restricting public access to the facility until further notice due to the threat of the coronavirus. “Our number one priority is to prevent possible exposure to staff as well as inmates therefore we have placed the sheriff’s office and jail on a soft lock down which means that the general public will not be able to enter the facility. The front door to the lobby will be locked. Anyone in need of an officer or services such as a warrant must press a button at the front door which will ring for a correctional officer who will meet you at the door to offer assistance,” said Sheriff Patrick Ray. For all non-emergency issues please call 615-597-4935. “Tuesday night church services and family visitations with inmates at the jail will be prohibited except for online visitations and the inmate roadside litter pickup program will be suspended until the threat subsides,” said Sheriff Ray. “Offenders brought into the jail will undergo established protocols during this time and rather than an in court appearance, video conferences will be arranged for defendants needing an immediate hearing before a judge for certain matters such as bond conditions, etc.,” he added.


*The Keltonburg Church of Christ has canceled services for Sunday, March 29

*The Keltonburg Missionary Baptist Church will cancel services for Sunday, March 29 and Wednesday, April 1

*Whorton Springs Baptist Church is suspending services until further notice. Sunday Services will be via “FaceBook” Sunday at 11am and by home delivery of DVD’s . Wednesday Night Bible Study will also be conducted on Facebook at 6pm.

*Keltonburg United Methodist Church has cancelled all services through April 5th.

*The New Union The Baptist Church in the Belk Community has cancelled all services for this week (March 22) and next week (March 29th).

*The Covenant Baptist Church has cancelled services for Sunday morning and night (March 29) and Wednesday night (April 1)

*New Hope The Baptist Church of White County is cancelling services for the next two weeks including the April 11 singing.

*Temple Independent Missionary Baptist Church is cancelling services until further notice

*Mount Pisgah Free Will Baptist Church is cancelling all services until April 5

*The Smithville Church of God has canceled all midweek services and Sunday services through March 29. They will be having a Facebook LIVE stream service available on Sundays at 11 a.m.

*The Smithville AG will not be holding any services or events at their physical location through April 4th.

*The Father-Daughter Dance to benefit Habitat for Humanity April 4th has been canceled. It will be rescheduled later in the year

*The Harlem Wizards fundraising basketball game to benefit the DeKalb Middle School Junior BETA Club set for April 9th has been cancelled.

*Chamber of Commerce Banquet April 30th has been canceled.

*WJLE Chamber Chat radio program April 1 has been canceled

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