HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. — As COVID-19 cases appear to surge in Hamilton County and in most of the country, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger told Channel 3, a sister station with WBIR, that he decided last week to reconvene an 'advisory group' that he has relied on in the past during the pandemic.
The group is comprised of area doctors, infectious disease experts, and business leaders.
It includes Christy Gillenwater, CEO of Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, Supt. Dr. Bryan Johnson of Hamilton Co. Schools, Administrator Becky Barnes with the Hamilton County Health Department, and hospital representatives.
The group is not the same as the former Chattanooga-Hamilton County COVID-19 Taskforce, which was dissolved earlier this year.
Coppinger says that the group will meet in the future consistently to talk about what the group is seeing in the community as it relates to COVID-19.
Also, Coppinger says he will not consider reinstating a mask mandate or business lockdowns as we've seen in the past. He says that's because people have the tools they need to stay safe and for the economy's sake that can't happen.
"We knew this was going to be a marathon. We're still in the race," said Coppinger, noting the recent spike in cases due to the Delta variant. "We have more tools than we've ever had ... If you are not vaccinated, you need to stay distanced."
County employees are not required to be vaccinated.
Coppinger says the county is providing the resources needed through testing, vaccination availability, and education.
Wednesday's news conference was held by the Hamilton County Health Department to remind people of those resources and make sure they understand how serious the Delta variant is.
Coppinger says it's attacking young people and is far more contagious.
"From all the data we are seeing, there is concern that a third wave is coming," said Becky Barnes, a Hamilton County health administrator. "Vaccinations are the way to stopping any potential waves from coming. Vaccinations are our answer to stop this pandemic."