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Health officials join Commission workshop to discuss mayoral appointment meeting

Carter County commissioners met with local health officials via ZOOM on Wednesday evening to discuss the upcoming mayoral appointment meeting set to be held in November.
Following the death of the late Mayor Rusty Barnett, Patty Woodby became the Interim Mayor for a period of 120 days after being elected Chair of the Commission. On Nov. 23, a meeting is set to be held for the appointment of mayor who will serve the rest of Barnett’s term.
Leading the workshop on Wednesday was Commissioner Robert Acuff. According to Acuff, the goal for the workshop was to consult with the Department of Health in Carter County as well as the Regional Medical Director in regard to the proposed open meeting. Acuff explained that several commissioners and members of the public approached him with their concern about meeting in public, particularly with the increases in cases.
Dr. David Kirschke, Medical Director of the Northeast Regional Health Office, and Caroline Hurt, Director of the Carter and Johnson County Health Departments, joined the meeting.
Hurt was the first to speak, discussing the increase in cases for the region over the past seven days. She revealed the area has a 15.2 positivity rate, when the goal is below 10 percent.
She also addressed the misconception that increases in cases correlate to increase in testing.
“We are not having increased cases because we are doing increased testing,” she said. “That is not true. We are seeing more cases with a fairly stable amount of testing.”
Hurt also revealed that the area is now in the red zone, being in the yellow prior.
She explained to the Commission that they must assess the meeting and go with what they believe is best.
Kirschke reiterated these claims about the choice ultimately being the Commissioners, but once the mention of a ZOOM meeting being a potential strategy arose, he did note that is the safest option. He was also supportive of a hybrid ZOOM meeting, consisting of those with access doing so from home and those who cannot join on their own meeting in groups similar to Commission meetings already held.
Discussions throughout the meeting, questions from commissioners focused in on what would be best for safety while still allowing the public to be as involved as possible as well. Concerns for technological issues, mandates, even broadcast options were among the topics mentioned. Chairman Travis Hill explained that when he originally set the date for the meeting on Nov. 23 in person at Hampton High School (with an open floor plan for social distancing) for 6 p.m., cases were not nearly as high, and he would be open to any changes and suggestions others might have.
Prior to the workshop, it was revealed that Gov. Lee had extended ZOOM as an alternate for meetings until Dec. 27, making it a potential option.
While no decisions were made or voted on, the meeting overall ended with various ideas being mentioned.
Acuff said he believes the governor’s decision will allow the public to have input, and also believes ZOOM may be a route, as well as an initial meeting with a recess to another date on the mayoral vote, which will allow constituents to contact their commissioner and register their opinions regarding candidates for the position.