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Knox Co Health Dept. director: masks likely to stick around through fall

Dr. Martha Buchanan told 10News that it will become easier to find vaccine shots once production ramps up.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The director of the Knox County Health Department said COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been expectedly bumpy, mask-wearing is likely to persist through the fall and regular COVID-19 vaccinations for adults may become commonplace. 

In a wide-ranging interview with 10News, Dr. Martha Buchanan also said she keeps a stack of handwritten notes from the community on a table in her office to add comfort on difficult days fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

"Thank yous and beside that, a stack of notes of things people weren’t happy about. And [the second stack] is much smaller," she said. "To keep it in perspective, to know that our community really does appreciate and support what we’re doing."

Buchanan said she was not surprised by the difficult vaccine rollout, pointing to a past history of hiccups and delays in annual flu shot distribution.

"I think it will eventually get less bumpy, I think it’s going to take adequate supply and I think that’s a ways off."

She said she understands the struggle many face finding scarce vaccine for themselves or family members across multiple counties and providers.

"Right now it seems like everyone is clamoring for vaccine," Buchanan said. "Once we get into younger populations, I would guess that demand will decrease and we will have to work harder to get people to take the vaccine."

She said on difficult days of the pandemic, particularly days where reported deaths hit new milestones, the thought of leaving the health department crossed her mind. 

"But I always come back to yes, I want to keep doing this. I love Knox County. I’m dedicated to doing the right thing for the community. I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time," she said. 

Buchanan also said she expects mask-wearing to persist into the fall, even as the number of people vaccinated continues to increase. 

"I think we’ll still be wearing masks for quite some time. I know people don’t want to hear that but I think that’s reality," she said. "I think we’ll still have COVID. We’ll continue to have COVID. I believe COVID will become one of those vaccines we all get as adults on a regular basis."

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