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'We need to think more about people in our community than ourselves' | Knox County Commissioner tours UTMC COVID-19 ward for eye-opening experience

It's an experience many will never witness firsthand, and Jay plans to use his experience to make a change.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay had the chance to take a look at the frontline fight of COVID-19. 

On Wednesday, he toured the COVID ward at UT Medical Center hoping to see the reality of what's happening to the community. 

It's an experience many will never witness firsthand, and Jay plans to use his experience to make a change.

He was able to walk through the emergency room, COVID acute care floor and COVID ICU.

"It was eye-opening to see people on ventilators. Eye-opening to see how empty it was in the sense of other people. There's no family or friends," said Jay. 

He said patients were widely diverse. Something that's commonly misunderstood. 

"It was people that were young, old, every race and ethnicity, every size. It was our neighborhood, it was everybody."

The most eye-opening experience came from just a glance. 

"When I looked into one of the rooms and I saw someone that looked just like me. Same age, it could have been me. It didn't fit any stereotype. That person may not go home to his family. That's what jarred me today a lot. I think that woke me up a lot," he said.

He hopes to take this experience and share it with others to paint a picture of the reality of COVID in our community. 

"I understand people are struggling, businesses are struggling, people are suffering in countless ways," said Jay. "I think we need to think more about people in our community than ourselves."

He said fighting it starts with supporting healthcare professionals and respecting what they're saying will keep us safe. 

"We are in the middle of a wildfire. There are a lot of people trying to micromanage the fire and the rest of everybody is sitting on the sidelines caught on the fire. We need to figure out how to unite the common vision," Jay said.

Those five core actions are wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing, staying home if sick and cleaning surfaces regularly.

Jay said UT medical procedures and precautions were followed to keep him and their staff safe. He did not directly interact with any patients. 

He posted more details about his visit on social media. 

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