Hawkins Mayor Jim Lee tests positive for COVID-19; several county offices closed for quarantine

County Mayor Jim Lee is pictured wearing a mask inside a recent committee meeting

COVID-19 cases numbers continue to rise throughout the nation, and Hawkins County is no exception.

Hawkins County Mayor Jim Lee announced on Monday, Dec. 21 that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

As a result, all employees within the county mayor’s office are on quarantine, and the entire office will be closed all week. The county Register of Deed’s office will also be closed all week, due to COVID-19 quarantines.

Both offices were already scheduled to be closed from Wednesday, Dec. 23 through Friday, Dec. 25 for the Christmas holiday.

Lee also took to Facebook to urge fellow Hawkins Countians to wear a face covering, socially distance and limit gatherings, per the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and Department of Health guidelines.

“I am making this statement to ask everyone to wear a mask when in public,” Lee said. “Do this for your family and your loved ones. This is a very dangerous disease. This is not the flu!”

He went on to note that he will continue to perform his mayoral duties remotely while in quarantine.

“As this virus rages, my positive test is a reminder that no one is immune from COVID, that following all precautions as I have done is not a guarantee, but it is what we know to be vital to stopping the spread of the disease,” he added. “So, I ask everyone to wear a mask, stay home as much as possible, socially distance yourself from those not in your household.”

Hawkins County EMA Director Jamie Miller echoed Lee’s sentiment and also encouraged the use of face masks.

“As our county is being hit hard with COVID-19 and our healthcare system is being overwhelmed, I continue to ask you to please wear a mask,” Miller said. “[The EMA office] is assisting the Tennessee Department of Health in getting vaccine distribution started in Hawkins County this week. As we move through the phases I will notify the public.”

This announcement came just two day after Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced a new 10-person public gathering restriction. Gov. Lee also asked businesses to allow employees to work from home for the next 30 days. If tele-work is not possible, he noted that “masks should be worn at work—plain and simple.”

Though within his Dec. 20 address Gov. Lee urged Tennesseans to wear a mask, he noted that he did not plan to implement a statewide mask mandate.

“Many think a statewide mandate would improve mask wearing, many think it would have the opposite effect,” Lee said. “This has been a heavily politicized issue. Please do not get caught up in that and don’t misunderstand my belief in local government on this issue. Masks work, and I want every Tennessean to wear one.”

Gov. Lee also announced on Dec. 19 that First Lady Maria Lee tested positive for COVID-19.

More information on Gov. Lee’s Dec. 20 address or the newly signed Executive Order No. 70, readers can visit tn.gov/governor.

Though neighboring counties such as Hamblen, Sullivan, Greene, Washington and Grainger County are currently under mask mandates that extend until the end of December, Hawkins County’s mask mandate expired on Oct. 1, and Mayor Lee announced at the time that he had opted not to renew it.

Hawkins County hit its all-time record high number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a day on Dec. 13 with 132 cases. It’s second largest one-day new case count took place on Dec. 20 with 94 new cases reported. As of Dec. 21, the county had 101 people hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 and had seen 48 deaths since the pandemic began.