MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee traveled to Haywood County on Friday to visit a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site. Spread of the virus is not limited to metro areas, and rural communities are seeing increased transmission.
“Part of the way you mitigate the spread of the virus is by knowing who has it. And the way you know who has it is by getting a test,” said Lee.
Officials in Brownsville, the county seat, said earlier this summer Haywood County was leading the state in the number of new COVID-19 cases per capita. Transmission is down now, but the county’s mayor said testing is critical in keeping the virus at bay, since a few cases unchecked in a rural area can easily get out of control.
“They’re wearing a mask to go to Walmart, and they weren’t wearing a mask to go to church. It has to be continuous and consistent across the board,” said William Rawls, Jr, Brownsville Mayor. “We can go from a cluster outbreak to a community outbreak really quickly. And it happened here."
Haywood is one of a dozen west Tennessee counties including Lauderdale, Dyer, Crockett, and Hardeman marked in the red zone under the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force Report. The red zone designation means there are more than 100 cases per 100,00 people, and positivity rates in those counties are above ten percent.
Shelby, Tipton, and Fayette counties are in the yellow zone.
“It continues to be very prevalent in rural west Tennessee. We have a significant amount of cases in rural Tennessee. That means a significant amount of hospitalizations and deaths,” Governor Lee told reporters on Friday.
Haywood County has no hospital. It closed in 2014, meaning residents must go to either Jackson or Memphis for serious medical care.
The Shelby County Health Department sent a strike team to Haywood County recently to offer guidance on ways to slow community spread of COVID-19.
The county’s mayor did not issue a mask mandate, but he said residents didn’t need one.
“What we’ve seen in Haywood County is we have tremendous participation just in recommendation,” said David Livington, Haywood County Mayor. “People in rural areas are taking this seriously.”
Friday’s testing event at 1113 E. Main Street in Brownsville was held by the Tennessee Department of Health. Another drive-thru testing event will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the same location but hosted by a healthcare provider in the area.