Closing the Ranks: Sevierville Facing the Coronavirus Pandemic, March 2020

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‘Close the ranks’ means to stay united to protect each other, to defend each other.  My friend, Kathy Rohe, updated a graphic that captures the time in which we now find ourselves: the COVID-19 coronavirus. It is a challenging time for our town, our state, our country. Here are some pictures that show things going on in Sevierville during the last week of March 2020.

Individual Responses

It is probable that U.S. hospitals will run out of personal protection equipment, especially since the epidemic lasts for an extended period of time. People across the country have sprung into action to help their healthcare workers. Quickly, I noticed a friend in Sevierville who has done just that.

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Local artist, Andrea Wilson, jumped into action making hospital masks, calling friends to join in. Artists, neighbors, and others joined in or have contributed material. Andrea granted me permission to use her Facebook pictures to use in this story.

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I think that this was one of Andrea’s first masks that she posted on Facebook. The first finished products have been delivered to LeConte Medical Center and the local VA hospital with more on the way. We owe these local citizens, many who are artists and makers, for their efforts to provide personal protective equipment for our local healthcare workers who, in turn, may have to take care of us.

School System Responses 

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I remember when SCHS did not have a fence. The fence was installed after the tragedy at Columbine. Since then, I don’t think that I can remember a time when the front gate has been locked.

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Teachers have provided a packet for students to practice skills while schools are closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, schools offer food bags for pickup on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11-2 for children 18 years and under. Cafeteria workers and teachers arrive at 7:00 a.m. and work for several hours to make hundreds of sandwiches and pack lunch ‘to go’ lunch bags.  Next, they pack the milk and take it all outside for easy pick up. Families are given two lunches per child to reduce travel time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since this photo was taken, the governor of Tennessee has extended the school year several more weeks so I erased the first date from the collage photo above. Things are moving quickly so it is hard to keep up.

Local Business Responses 

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Tennessee Shine temporarily changed operations from ‘spirits’ to hand sanitizer. I don’t even know how that is possible, but they have done it! This is vital in helping to clean hands in the response to the pandemic that is threatening the country at this time. Photos taken from WATE- channel 6 in Knoxville.

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Old Forge Distillery, Sugarlands, Old Tennessee, and others have also joined in the effort to provide hand sanitizer for fighting the coronavirus. This is vital for everyone, but particularly first responders and health care workers. One cannot overstate the importance of clean hands at this time. Screenshots taken from Facebook pages.

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Sadly, some populations do not have access to clean water  to wash their hands. I have read articles about this danger for homeless populations. A recent article on the BBC.org also told of the peril to those in third world countries. The virus is making inroads in  Brazil and India at this time. With a population of 1.3 billion people, a large number of Indian citizens do not have access to clean water; in addition,  hand sanitizer is quite expensive so this is a frightening prospect. It proves that the efforts of  local distilleries will help us to stay healthy to prevent the COVID-19 virus.

Restaurant Adaptations

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I have always wanted to dine at Chapmans Restaurant after seeing the posts on their Facebook page. Last week, they posted the picture above and I was amazed! In record time, they had a ‘to-go’ window made in a side door. It was amazing to see the speed in which it was done and ready to serve food curbside/to-go because there is no dine in service allowed at this time. Where there is a will, there is a way!

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A few afternoons later, I called in an order of beef tips with broccoli and a side Greek salad. Very good! The young man who served it through the window was so nice too. I look forward to going back there again some day in the future.  I’ll take Smoky Mountain Foodie with me.

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Restaurants have moved quickly to make curb side and take out dining happen—and happen fast. I have been impressed with the speed and responses that I have seen on social media. Consequently, I have been trying to support several eating establishments every week using the drive-thru windows.

I have limited my trips around town this week so these are the few pictures that I have, plus screenshots from social media and the Mountain Press.

At the beginning of this story, I shared a meme by my high school friend, Kathy Rohe. She worked for years as a dresser for the Lion King show on Broadway in New York City. I will never forget the behind the scenes tour that she gave us after a show one night. Although she has moved and now an Associate Professor at Ball State University, I know that she worries about her old home, New York City. Prayers for them all.

Stay well

We will get through this together.

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Screenshot from Instagram @amplifierart.

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