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How is COVID-19 affecting Rogersville businesses, and what can you do to help?

In light of numerous closures and social distancing measures implemented as a result of COVID-19, the Review reached out to several local businesses to find out how their day-to-day operations are being affected and what readers can do to help during this time.

Local Shops

Merle Norman

Kim McReynolds, owner of Merle Norman in Rogersville, told the Review that she has definitely noticed a slow-down in business.

“Business is slow, of course, because there is hardly anybody out anywhere,” she said. “It’s challenging because I drive from Erwin to Rogersville to work. I have a few customers a day, but it seems like only the people who are actually going to work right now who are wearing makeup. If you’re sitting at home and can’t go anywhere, you’re not going to wear it.”

She has considered altering her business hours but hasn’t made any official plans to do so. She also noted that the Merle Norman home office in Los Angeles, California has told small offices that “every city, town and state are different in regard to what you need to do.”

She also isn’t providing make-overs right now as a precaution.

Should she need to temporarily close the store, she would be providing mail orders for customers.

“I know that every business owner is suffering somehow,” she said. “But we’re all in this together.”

When asked how readers could help out small businesses during this difficult time, McReynolds said with a laugh, “just don’t give up on us!”

Mountain Star Mall

Both Glen and Kandy Hobbs noted that their business has seen a drop in customers recently but also explained that they have seen a decrease over the years.

“Downtown is dead, and it has been for a long time,” Kandy Hobbs told the Review. “We used to be a destination, and we are not anymore.”

As far as improving the situation, both of the Hobbs noted they would like to see an increased emphasis on tourism in the town.

At this point, the shop is maintaining its regular hours, though they are monitoring the situation.

Kandy also encouraged people to check out the line of pleasantly-scented hand sanitizers the store sells. She explained that it is FDA approved and fragranced with essential oils.

Both the Hobbs want to encourage Hawkins Countians to explore the little shops that we may simply pass by every day and support local businesses.

Jena’s Hair Salon Luckily, Jena Risner, owner of Jena’s Hair Salon in Rogersville, told the Review that her business has not really felt any negative effects of social distancing.

“It’s not really affected us yet, but I believe it probably will as things get worse and if cases come closer to here,” Risner said. “The girls are just as busy as ever, and I don’t think people around here are really that worried yet. Nobody has called and said ‘I’m not coming’ because they’re recommending people not to get out.”

They are taking some extra cleaning precautions, though.

“We’ve got a bottle of hand sanitizer sitting out, and we are going over surfaces with Clorox wipes,” she said. “We’re trying to be a little more aware of how germs are spread and trying to keep that from happening.”

At this point, the salon is operating on normal business hours, but Risner noted that this could change depending on the flow of customers or CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines.

Hale Spring Inn The Hale Springs Inn announced on Monday, March 23 that they will be suspending all operations from March 23 through April 5.

This measure applies to in-restaurant dining, take-out orders, bar services and rooms for overnight guests.

They plan to resume normal operations on April 6.

“We value your health and the health of our employees,” said Hale Springs Inn staff.

“The Hale Springs Inn was built in 1824, we’ve made it thru Cholera, The 3rd Plague, Yellow Fever, Spanish Flu, Russian Flu, HIV, Asian Flu, Hong Kong Flu, SARS, MERS, Swine Flu and Ebola, and we’ll make thru Covid-19 together,” the Inn announced on a more encouraging note. “All of our employees are local and are feeling the pain. We are a family both as a local business and as a community, and we stand with everyone as we overcome this adversity.”

Luella’s Gift Market Staff at Luella’s had also noticed a drop in customers before they made the decision on March 23 to temporarily close the store on March 23 and 24 with plans to re-open on Wednesday, March 25.

They are also planning a Facebook-only sale to give customers an opportunity to shop while maintaining social distancing. Items purchased through the online sale can be paid for with a credit or debit card. For pickup, customers can call ahead, and Luella’s staff will set the items on the back porch of the shop for you.

“Local, small businesses are taking a huge hit during Covid-19, so be sure and shop local,” the staff told the Review.

Stay tuned to their Facebook page to participate in the online sale.

Olde Towne Emporium

Kathy Petersen of Olde Towne Emporium has also noticed a decline in the number of shoppers entering her store this week.

“We have no sales, and yesterday (Thursday, March 19) we had two people,” she said. “On Saturdays, we usually have a lot of out-of-town people, and last Saturday we didn’t. We count on that a lot. We’re a specialty store with antiques, vintage and retro. There’s vintage clothing and furniture, so it’s all a specialty market.”

At this point, she plans to keep the store’s hours the same but will regularly monitor the situation.

Similar to all small businesses, Petersen noted that this lack of business will, of course, negatively affect their business year.

“We purchased the store, so I don’t have to pay rent,” she said. “Because of that, we’ll be okay. We will go in the hole maybe on utilities and insurance, but it’s not going to close us down.”

She also noted that they are going to extra lengths to keep everything clean.

“Everything in here is clean,” she said. “I am even keeping my cleaners right by my desk now, so we do more than normal now. I think it’s pretty safe to shop down here because there’s never large groups of people unless there’s an event downtown.”

She also encouraged readers to “try to keep some things normal” during this time.

“Stay interested in what you’re interested in,” she said. “For a couple of weeks, it’s going to be rough for everybody, but don’t just stop life.”

Olde Town Emporium just opened in downtown Rogersville around six months ago when the Petersen’s moved here from California. For those who might not be familiar with the store, Petersen encouraged anyone who might want to “take a walk through times past” to visit their store.

“We have everything from new, vintage and antique,” she said. “We have a section of frontier-style items, men’s suits from different time periods, Tommy Bahama surf items, ladies’ rockabilly dresses, 1920’s flapper dresses and steampunk. I try to find things that people normally can’t afford and make them affordable.”

Olde Towne Emporium is located at 212 East Main Street in Rogersville.

Local Restaurants O’ Henry’s

Though David Henry told the Review last week that things were operating “business-as-usual,” and he had no plans at the time to close the restaurant, the restaurant’s plans were changed when Governor Bill mandated on March 23 that food and drink establishments exclusively offer drive-thru, take out or delivery options.

“Well, the word came down that we can’t keep our dining room open, so we will be providing take out and curbside service from our Main Street entrance and Church Street entrance,” read their Facebook page on March 23. “With the Church Street entrance, you can drive up to our back door. We will temporarily change our hours from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for the next two weeks and we will also limit our vegetable menu. Our number is 423-272-0980. We hope you will continue your patronage with us! God Bless and hopefully we all make it through better than we were before!”

Red Dog on Main Though staff noted that they have been keeping a close eye on CDC regulations and regularly cleaning the restaurant, Red Dog on Main will be temporarily closed as of March 22 until further notice.

“For the well-being of our community and staff we are temporarily closing,” their Facebook page read. “During this stressful time, we all need to be patient and understanding with each other and remember and pray for our health care heroes. We are all in this together as one nation and world, and we will get through it together. We will certainly miss seeing your smiling faces for a while. You not only became our customers, but you also became our friends!”

Coffee at the Kyle

Coffee at the Kyle made the decision on March 23 to close until further notice, though the staff encouraged community members to come visit the shop once the “all clear” notice has been given.

“We’re trying to be a community supporter,” Stephanie Lord told the Review last Thursday.

In the days just before they decided to close the shop, Lord explained that they had even implemented curbside pickup and online orders, as they had seen a decline in customers coming inside.

Customers can order through an app (only available to Apple products), through Facebook or through the shop’s website, which is https://www.coffeeatthekyle.com/. The full menu is available on each of these platforms.

Lord explained that the decision to close was difficult.

“We’re in flux about what to do,” she said on Thursday. “We are trying to stay open and accommodate the people who really like coming here but not risk anybody’s health—including our employees.”

Once the “all clear” has been given, be sure and check out the shop’s handy, new ordering options.

Though Lord, too, noted that this situation will likely have a negative impact on the shop’s yearly budget, she remained optimistic.

“We have the best customers who always seem to support us, and I think they will understand if we are forced to shut down for a while,” she said. “There may be some money loss, but the impact won’t be detrimental to us. This is a community hit rather than just a hit to our business alone.”

The Review will also be regularly updating our Facebook page to keep you informed on local happenings. You can also check out the Rogersville Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page for real-time updates on local business closures and updated hours.

Want to let the public know about how COVID-19 is affecting your business? Give us a call at (423)-528-0659 or email allison.goley@therogersvillereview.

Catholic Church offers prayers for those affected by COVID-19

ROGERSVILLE — On Sunday, March 22, 2020, at 11 a.m., Father Bart Okere, Pastor of St. Henry Catholic Church, of Rogersville, and St. James the Apostle, of Sneedville, led a Eucharistic Procession with the Blessed Sacrament from St. Henry Church onto Hwy 70 N, in an intercessor to Our Lord Jesus Christ and Our Lady, Blessed Virgin Mary, stopping along the way at various locales to offer prayers for those stricken with the surge of Coronavirus, and for their speedy recovery. With most “in-person” church services cancelled throughout the city, county, and state, Father Bart offered the “open air” solace to families that have lost loved ones and for those battling with the infection. Prayers were also offered for eradication of the virus from the world.

Escorting Father Bart Okere were 4th Degree Knights of Columbus from St. Henry Church, Beverly Carmack, Michael Opiela (Faithful Navigator) and Bill Hewitt, (District Deputy) #20.

Intoxicated father uses four-year old daughter as human shield to avoid being "phazzed"

CHURCH HILL — A domestic incident in which a man allegedly used his four-year old daughter as a human shield to avoid being “phazzed” by a Hawkins Co. Deputy ended with the child being freed from the dangerous situation and the father charged with:

• Domestic assault;

• Disorderly conduct;

• Child endangerment; and,

• Retaliation for past action.

A report by Deputy Casey Carter stated that on Sunday, March 22, authorities were dispatched to a location on Lynch Road, in Church Hill, regarding a domestic incident involving an assault.

On scene, Deputy Carter made contact with the complainant who said that Michael McDuffie, 32, of Terrybrook Lane, Charlotte, NC, was inside, was highly intoxicated, and had become violent with her and her son.

The complainant stated that McDuffie has shoved her into the bedroom door and then began kicking the door to the room her son was in.

Carter found McDuffie in the living room, and stated that he “became belligerent towards me and began to walk toward me in an aggressive manner”.

“I told Mr. McDuffie to stop and to quiet down so I could figure out what was going on,” Deputy Carter’s report continues.

McDuffie, however, “refused to cooperate”, prompting the deputy to draw a “phazzer” and ordering the man to stop.

“Mr. McDuffie continued to be disorderly and he then grabbed his four-year old daughter and picked her up while my Phazzer was directed towards him, putting her in danger,” the report states. “I holstered my Phazzer and Mr. McDuffie continued to be disorderly and act aggressively while holding his daughter.”

Sometime later, McDuffie put the child down and was taken into custody, Carter said.

“While outside, Mr. McDuffie continued to scream and cuss at law enforcement and (the complainant),” the report goes on to say. “While Mr McDuffie was in the back of the patrol car he kicked the door and window multiple times and was told to stop multiple times.”

McDuffie also threatened to “kick officers”, Carter’s report notes.

“While being booked in, Mr. McDuffie threatened me multiple times and also threatened to find me and ‘pull the nine’,” the report concludes. “I interpreted that to mean pull a 9mm handgun on me when he finds me.”

A March 23 arraignment date was set for McDuffie in Hawkins Co. Sessions Court.

Photo by Jim Beller 

Peyton Derrick attempts to steal second against Cherokee April 2 last year.

Hawkins Co. Mayor's Office closed to public

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins Co. Mayor’s Office will be closed to the public beginning March 23, 2020, until further notice.

If assistance is needed, the public may call the Mayor’s Office at 423-272-7359.

Chamber's March membership breakfast cancelled

ROGERSVILLE — Due to escalating concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rogersville/Hawkins Co. Chamber of Commerce and First Community Bank have made the decision to cancel the Chamber’s General Membership Breakfast which was scheduled for Thursday, March 26.

“Safety is of the utmost importance, and with the way things are so rapidly developing, we feel limiting potential exposure is the safest course of action,” Executive Director Nancy Barker said. “I sincerely hope everyone stays safe and healthy through these trying times we are facing as a community and world. Hopefully we can reschedule the event in the near future.”

Ballad Health confirms additional COVID-19 cases

Ballad Health released the following statement on Sunday, March 22.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Ballad Health has confirmed new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Greene and Sullivan Counties.

Greene County:

  • Two new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Sunday, March 22 in Greene County. The health department has been notified and Ballad Health CEOC is working with the appropriate officials to notify anyone that may have been in close contact with the cases. One case was treated, in isolation, at a Ballad Health facility and has since been discharged home for self-isolation. The other case was dispositioned from the emergency department home.

Sullivan County:

  • An additional new case was confirmed in Sullivan County on Sunday, March 22. This case was a team member serving at one of our hospitals. Investigators have determined that the positive case is linked to personal travel, not hospital exposure and has also confirmed that this case did not have any contact with patients. Ballad Health CEOC is working with the appropriate officials to notify anyone that may have been in close contact with this case.

Ballad Health continues to take additional steps to protect its patients, team members and communities.

Visitation restriction Effective Saturday, March 21, Ballad Health restricted all visitation to its inpatient hospital units, long-term care facilities or behavioral health centers. In accordance with recommendations from federal and state authorities, the health system will also postpone certain non-emergent surgeries and procedures. Patients should consult with their physicians to determine if their surgery or procedure will be impacted.

Exceptions to the visitation restriction include Ballad Health’s labor and delivery units, which will allow one visitor per room. The neonatal intensive care unit at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, as well as rooms with pediatric patients, will allow two visitors, but they must be parents or guardians.

Affected long-term care facilities include:

  • Francis Marion Manor Health & Rehabilitation, Marion, Va.
  • Laughlin Healthcare Center, Greeneville, Tenn.
  • Madison House, Kingsport, Tenn.
  • Mountain View Regional Hospital, Norton, Va.
  • Wexford House, Kingsport, Tenn.

The behavioral health centers with these restrictions are:

  • 5-East at Bristol Regional Medical Center, Bristol, Tenn.
  • Clearview Behavioral Health, Lebanon, Va.
  • Dickenson Community Hospital’s Green Oak Behavioral Health Unit, Clintwood, Va.
  • Greeneville Community Hospital West’s senior care unit, Greeneville, Tenn.
  • Ridgeview Pavilion, Bristol, Tenn.
  • Sycamore Shoals Hospital’s New Leaf Senior Care, Elizabethton, Tenn.
  • Woodridge Hospital, Johnson City, Tenn.

Non-emergent procedural cases

Upon consultation with the local medical community, Ballad Health is implementing the guidance from federal and state authorities, which recommend hospitals postpone certain non-emergent procedural cases.

Based on the recommendations, Ballad Health will follow the COVID-19: Guidance for Triage of Non-Emergent Surgical Procedures published by the American College of Surgeons on March 17.

“We understand this might be disruptive, but we concur with the reasoning behind the recommendation and believe it is appropriate at this time,” said Clay Runnels, MD, executive vice president and chief physician executive for Ballad Health. “Our decision to postpone non-emergent cases will free up healthcare workers, medical supplies and ventilators, so we are fully prepared to care for any high-risk COVID-19 patients.”

Public precautions for COVID-19

Ballad Health leaders continue to urge the public to practice social distancing to impede the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing involves limiting contact with other individuals as much as possible by avoiding groups of 10 or more people and deliberately increasing the physical space between people by at least three to six feet.

“Social distancing is the single best weapon we have to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep local health care resources from becoming overwhelmed,” said Ballad Health Chief Executive Officer and President Alan Levine.

“This is serious. You can’t overreact to a virus nobody has immunity to – we have to take steps to prevent it. If we want to protect the people we love, we all must be serious about social distancing, hand washing and other preventive actions.”

Jamie Swift, infection prevention director at Ballad Health, said younger people need to especially follow the social distancing recommendations.

“This is not a virus that is just impacting the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions,” Swift said.

“As of Friday, more than half of the confirmed COVID-19 cases, around 55% of the 154 cases, were in people younger than 40 years old.”

If anyone experiences COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, please call Ballad Health’s Nurse Connect hotline at 833-822-5523 to be screened by a healthcare professional. The hotline is active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As always, anyone in an emergency situation should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department.

To learn more about COVID-19 and read updated information, please visit www.balladhealth.org/covid19.