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Anderson County

Are the growth rates in local coronavirus cases moderating?

After the steep increase in case rates that I observed the middle of last week (see my video on the city Facebook page), the growth in 7-day average coronavirus case rates in Anderson and Roane Counties seems to have leveled off. Do not think that a reduction in the growth rate justifies complacency — Harvard University public health experts say that a case rate over 25 means we should have a stay-at-home order!!

I want to hope that the moderation in case growth is real, and that it is happening because people have been taking this situation seriously and are wearing masks and avoiding close contact. I do hope the trend continues. Let’s keep it up, folks!


Roane & Anderson Counties zoom past Knox County in coronavirus incidence

CountyJuly 1July 13July 20July 27
7-day average of new cases per day per 100,000 population

The trends I described the other day looked worrisome enough, but now the rates of new cases per capita in Anderson and Roane Counties have exploded — and we have zoomed past Knox County.

Oak Ridge City Council sent a resolution to the Governor, passed by unanimous vote and signed by all Council members, requesting City government authority to mandate masks. No response yet….


Coronavirus is spreading too fast

The state of Tennessee data on coronavirus in our area paint a disturbing picture. The Oak Ridge area is now starting to see the same rates of infection (although fewer cases) as places with larger populations that have been labeled epidemic red zones. Until a few weeks ago the per capita rates of infection were low, but the situation is changing fast. With many stores and restaurants open under near-normal conditions, schools reopening next week, and no local mask mandate, the virus is likely to continue finding people to infect. There are many different ways to analyze disease data; the metrics I am presenting here are ones that are used to indicate the spread of infection.

As of July 1 (just a little more than three weeks ago) Anderson County had reported 26 new cases in 7 days. Numbers like that were worrisome to residents (the numbers were much larger than it had been earlier), but for those 7 days the county rate of new cases per day per 100,000 people was (according to my calculations from state data) just 4.8 — comfortably smaller than the 7-day average rate of 8.3 that neighboring Knox County was looking at that day, when the county health board voted to mandate wearing of masks in public settings to try to control further spread. On July 1, Roane County had a 7-day average case rate of only 2.9.

Since July 1, case rates have increased dramatically in Anderson and Roane Counties. Rates here are now starting to surpass Knox County:

7-day average cases per day per 100,000 population

CountyJuly 1July 13July 20July 23

The Knox County Health Department is rightly saying it is too early to tell how well the mask order is working, but I think that mask order might explain why case rates are not growing nearly as fast in Knox County as in Anderson and Roane.

The percentage of COVID-19 PCR tests that are returned positive (another measure of virus spread) has also been growing, so that local positivity rates now match those in Knox County. This table shows 7-day averages for the periods ending on the date shown:

CountyJuly 1July 13July 20July 23

Without effective measures (like near-universal wearing of masks) to minimize spread of infection, I expect that these numbers will continue to grow rapidly. At the moment, the City of Oak Ridge cannot do much to change the situation. The Tennessee governor has preempted cities from acting to address COVID-19 (cities normally have authority to regulate behavior detrimental to public health, but not for COVID-19), and both the governor and our county mayors have declined to mandate precautions. Unless we want to shut everything down again, or deal with an increasing burden of illness in our community, I guess we can only hope — and pray — that people, businesses, and institutions will adopt sensible measures to prevent disease transmission.

Please stay safe!


Special recycling event today (Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014)

Celebrate America Recycles Day — Sponsored by Keep Anderson County Beautiful

Saturday November 8, 2014

10 AM to 2 PM

95 Oak Ridge Turnpike in Oak Ridge (next to Willow Ridge Nursery)

Materials to be Collected for Recycling:
Computers and peripherals (processors (CPUs), optical drives (CDROM, CDRW, DVD, etc), network and communications hardware (modems, routers, hubs, etc), drives (hard drives, floppy), keyboards, laptops, mice, monitors, network hardware (servers), paper tape readers and punchers, plotters, printers, tape

Home Electronics:
No “white goods” (no refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, etc.)

We do accept TV’s (flat panel, plasma,LCD’s etc but NO TV cabinetry), microwaves, mixers, phones (corded, cordless, and cellular), entertainment goods (VCRs, DVD players, radios, speakers.
Please Note: $20 charge for CRT (wide) computer monitors & TVs (because of toxic screen phosphors and lead)

Personal documents for shredding (sponsored by ORNL Federal Credit Union)

Used rechargeable batteries (no alkaline or auto batteries)

Cell phones

Compact fluorescent bulbs (no long tubes)

Books (no textbooks, please!)



Another chance to get rid of hazardous household items

nicadbatteryPeople who have been waiting to safely dispose of hazardous household items have a second chance this year. Anderson County Solid Waste Management is holding a  Household Hazardous Waste Collection on Saturday, September 27, 2014, 9 am to 2 pm, at the Oak Ridge Public Works building at 100 Woodbury Lane (behind the K-Mart shopping center).

According to the announcement, Household Hazardous Waste is anything generated in the household that has a hazardous property. A material is hazardous if it is flammable, corrosive, toxic, or reactive with heat or contact with metals.

What’s accepted:





What not to bring:


Note: Items marked with asterisks(*) are accepted on a year-round basis at Anderson County’s Blockhouse Valley Road facility.

Don’t show up with commercial or agribusiness waste. However, Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators are eligible to participate by appointment. Contact Clean Harbors Environmental Services at 615-643-3180 with a waste inventory to request a price quote and schedule an appointment.

(865) 463-6845


Too busy to blog?

Whatever I’ve been up to lately, it’s clear I haven’t been doing much blogging. So what have I been up to? Here’s a partial list.

  • EQAB is about to finalize the first report on Oak Ridge’s progress in implementing the climate action plan and meeting the greenhouse gas reduction goals that City Council adopted in 2009 and 2010. The city and the community are on track to meet the first greenhouse gas goals that we adopted for 2015. That’s good news, but the goals for 2015 were modest ones — baby steps toward what needs to be done over the longer term.
  • I’ve been fretting about events surrounding the May 6 county primary election in Anderson County. The way things used to be, our local newspaper would publish profiles of the competing candidates in local elections — so voters could see a factual  report on who was running (at a minimum, the paper would provide basic facts like name, address, age, and occupation). Apparently those days are over — it looks like our local newspaper is no longer attempting to provide election guides. (I hope I’m wrong on that — but since early voting is almost over, a guide published now would be almost too late.) It used to be that the League of Women Voters would hold campaign forums where people could hear all of the candidates in an impartial setting, but this year one of the county’s political parties decided to schedule its own “forum” the same evening as the LWV’s forum. It used to be that local candidates tried to deliver positive messages about themselves, rather than publishing attacks at their opponents, but this year we’ve even received attack ads from candidates for judgeships. All in all, I think it’s harder than ever for voters to make good, informed decisions about the election.
  • And I joined a volunteer crew that pulled up garlic mustard in the greenbelt behind the Garden Apartments (now known as the Rolling Hills Apartments). Garlic mustard is an introduced plant from Europe that’s an invasive weed in this area — it threatens to out-compete our woodland spring wildflowers. It’s not common around this areas, but there’s a population behind the Garden Apartments, in an area that has a pretty amazing collection of spring wildflowers. After several years of volunteer effort, we just might manage to eradicate this weed.

Spring cleaning

Litter picker-uppers earlier this springPlenty of spring cleaning is going on in the community (and I  need to do some at my house, too).

Melton Lake Cleanup. Volunteers are needed on Saturday, March 23 (rain date March 30) to pick up trash on the shores of Melton Lake. TVA has lowered the lake level for the occasion. Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary, Greenways Oak Ridge, and Keep Anderson County Beautiful  are partnering for the event. Assemble at the new pavilion in Melton Lake Park (Oak Ridge) at 9:00 AM, wear sturdy shoes, and bring work gloves.  The City is supplying the trash bags.

Log your litter collection activity for the Great American Cleanup. The months of March through May are the Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup. Citizens who pick up litter and trash around the community or on the lakefront are urged to go to the Keep Anderson County Beautiful website to log your hours of effort and pounds of litter picked up. Many of us pick up litter when we are out walking. If you tell KACB about your efforts, we (I’m on the board) will tell the world (including the state and national organization, as well as Anderson County government) about the amount of work  that volunteers have done on behalf of the community. I’ve logged 27.5 pounds of litter (that was actual weight, but many people estimate) already this spring, just in my own neighborhood.

Garlic mustard pull and wildflower walk. See native wildflowers and help eradicate an invasive weed on April 6 on the Wildflower Greenway behind the Rolling Hills Apartments (formerly Garden Apartments).  This annual event is sponsored by Greenways Oak Ridge and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning.

Household Hazardous Waste. Saturday, April 13, 2013, from 9 am to 2 pm, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Anderson County Solid Waste Management will conduct the county’s once-a-year Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event at the Oak Ridge Public Works Building at (100 Woodbury Lane in Oak Ridge, located behind the K-Mart/Kroger shopping center).

This is for waste generated by residents — no commercial or agribusiness waste will be accepted. Wastes they will accept include household cleaners, adhesives, paint removers, herbicides, pesticides, solvents, antifreeze, oil additives, rechargeable batteries, lithium batteries, pool chemicals, an similar items. Don’t bring paint, electronics, empty containers, medical waste, explosives, radioactive materials, or alkaline batteries. (Paint and electronics are accepted year round at Anderson County’s Blockhouse Valley Rd. facility; and alkaline batteries can go in regular trash.) It’s OK to bring household hazardous waste for your friends and relatives who cannot attend.

Contact Anderson County Solid Waste at (865) 463-6845 for more information. The Household Hazardous Waste Mobile Collection Service was established by the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 to remedy improper disposal and to educate the public. This service is paid for by the Solid Waste Management Fund, which receives its revenue from a surcharge of tipping fees from Tennessee landfills and incinerators and from the $1.35 fee on each new tire sold at retail in Tennessee.

City Trash and Brush Pickups. Finally, the city of Oak Ridge spring trash pickup starts April 1, 2013, followed by brush pickup starting April 29. (Don’t mix trash with brush.)  Details and the trash pickup schedule are on the city website. Trash collection starts in Burnham Woods, followed by Woodland and the city’s southeastern quadrant in the first week, and finishes up in the west end of the city in week number 4.


How should Oak Ridge deal with homelessness?

Homeless man in Memphis

Homeless man in Memphis

Homelessness is the topic of the Lunch with the League (sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge) on Tuesday, March 5. As I wrote two years ago, there are homeless people here — and by now social service agencies know more about who they are and where they are than they did in 2011. In late January, the 24-hour “Point-in-Time Count” for Anderson County counted 72 people in the county who were “literally” homeless (both “unsheltered” homeless, who might be sleeping outdoors, in cars, in vacant buildings, or in all-night businesses, and “sheltered” homeless who were staying in shelters or supportive housing) and another 68 who were “precariously housed” (otherwise known as “couch homeless”). The homeless count has increased from year to year, probably because local agencies now have a better idea where and how to find the homeless here. I volunteered for this year’s count (because I wanted to learn more about the situation of this population and because I wanted to help) and participated in the midnight to 3 am shift, which looked for unsheltered homeless.

The lack of emergency shelters for the general homeless population in this county reduces the number of homeless here (local people lacking shelter are likely to end up in Knoxville shelters), but the numbers from this annual survey indicate unmet needs. The fact that their needs aren’t being met doesn’t mean they aren’t costing us money — a University of Tennessee study that found that in East Tennessee a chronically homeless person (the survey classified 56 of the Anderson County homeless as “chronically homeless”, based on a federal government definition of that term) costs the rest of us an average of $37,000 annually in costs for drug and alcohol treatment, jail time, emergency room care, and other services.

Mike Dunthorn is Tuesday’s luncheon speaker. His topic is “Solutions to prevent, reduce and end homelessness”. Dunthorn is an Oak Ridge native and ORHS graduate who is Program Manager for homeless service in the City of Knoxville’s Community Development Department, where he has worked since 1999. He was a co-author of the Knoxville-Knox County Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness and is now working on developing a new revised plan. His presentation will focus on the issues confronting the City of Knoxville and efforts being made to address issues of homelessness by providing permanent solutions. He will address the value of partnering with many other organizations in providing assistance to the homeless, and will discuss how Oak Ridge and Anderson County may be able to benefit from some of the lessons learned in Knoxville. I look forward to hearing his perspectives on this topic.

Note: Lunch with the League is a free public event. It starts at noon in the Social Room at the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, on the corner of Robertsville Road and Oak Ridge Turnpike.


The League of Women Voters is busy this summer

Phew! The Oak Ridge League of Women Voters will be busy this summer, holding a bunch of candidate forums before early voting starts on July 16 — plus a public forum to meet the finalists for the position of Oak Ridge city manager. Here’s the schedule:

June 22 – Roane County Forum
Candidates for County offices
Oak Ridge area County Commission, School Board members
Rarity Ridge Wellness Center, 7:00 pm

Directions from Oak Ridge: Go west on Oak Ridge Turnpike (TN 95S) to Guard Gates (at Westover Drive). Follow TN 95 for 3.3 miles; go straight on TN 58S toward Kingston for 3.9 miles (past the Heritage Center and across Gallaher Bridge). Turn right at Rarity Ridge onto Broadberry Ave. Go 1.0 mile to Rarity Ridge Information Center sign; turn left into parking lot. The forum is in the Wellness Center building, with additional parking in the rear of the building.

June 28 – Join the Oak Ridge City Council for City Manager Candidates Forum and Reception
Pollard Auditorium, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

July 8 – Third Congressional District Forum
Candidates in Democratic and Republican Primaries
Pollard Auditorium, 7:00 pm
(Cosponsored by OR Chamber of Commerce)

July 13 – Anderson County Forum #1
County Mayor, Trustee, Juvenile Judge, Sheriff, Circuit Court Clerk, County Clerk,
Registrar of Deeds, Road Superintendent
Oak Ridge Room (A 111), Roane State Community College, 7:00 pm

July 15 – Anderson County Candidate Forum #2
All County Commission Districts in Oak Ridge (6,7,8)
Anderson County School Board (Districts 6,7)
Civic Center Rooms A & B, 7:00 pm