Bradley is one of four counties in Tennessee pinpointed by Gov. Bill Lee as experiencing severe spikes in COVID-19 cases in recent days, and he has urged residents to get tested, as soon as this week if possible.
Lee's caution came late Wednesday in a press conference intended to address the state's sudden surge in cases of the coronavirus.
The governor's concern was echoed by Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, who warned Tennesseans to take precautions to avoid spreading the illness.
On Wednesday, there were 1,800 new cases in Tennessee, followed by 1,575 on Thursday.
Piercey said the increases can't be attributed to just more testing.
The health official stressed, "We have a growing problem in Tennessee, not only in our metro areas, but in our rural areas, as well."
In his address, Lee urged state residents — and especially those in areas of increasing concern — to take the new spread of COVID-19 seriously.
"The growth in cases isn't limited to our densely populated urban areas," the governor stated. "I've very concerned about the number of cases that we are seeing in our counties outside of our urban areas, like Sevier County and Macon County and Bradley County and Rutherford County and many others."
Lee added, "If you're a resident of one of these counties, or any county in Tennessee, I encourage you to make time this week to get a test at your local health department and to stay home whenever possible."
The governor went on to stress, "Don’t put our steps two steps backward by refusing to wear a mask or refusing to social distance or refusing to pay attention to something as simple as washing your hands."
On Thursday, the TDH reported that 604 individuals in Bradley County had tested positive for COVID-19, with 355 recoveries and three deaths. A fourth death has not been confirmed by the TDH.
Bradley County has confirmed an additional 160 cases of COVID-19 this week, with 49 on Monday, a record-breaking 57 Tuesday, 30 new cases Wednesday and 24 on Thursday.
Last month, the city of Cleveland found itself on a list of growing hotspots for COVID-19, as published by The New York Times. The community eventually came off the list; however, since that time the local numbers have begun to climb again and the past week has witnessed Bradley County exceed 600 confirmed cases.
Unofficially, Bradley County is recorded with the 15th largest number of confirmed cases in Tennessee, according to TDH data released Thursday. The 604 cases are the fourth highest in East Tennessee. Hamilton, with 2,577 cases, and Knox, with 1,022, lead the state's eastern end in total confirmed cases.
Contributing to the rise in Bradley County's COVID-19 numbers have been the report of 40 cases inside the Bradley County Justice Center — 33 inmates, six staff and one contracted employee — as well as 12 confirmed cases within the Westmore Church of God, and another 20 reported by Covenant Baptist Church.
On Thursday, Covenant Baptist officials reported the church's total numbers are actually less than 20, and that the majority of those have already recovered and are no longer in quarantine. Additional information about COVID-19 numbers in local churches, and their impact, will be reported in future editions of the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Several local churches are openly reporting their case numbers — as well as explaining mitigation efforts that have been taken in past weeks, and are continuing to take — on their respective websites and social media pages in order to keep their congregations, and the community, informed.
Amanda Goodhard, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Health Southeast Regional Office — which oversees health departments in Bradley County — affirmed the cautions issued by the governor and Piercey. According to published media accounts, she too urged local residents to abide by safety and social-distancing guidelines.
She stressed the local residents should continue to use face masks, practice social distancing and maintain proper hygiene habits likes washing hands thoroughly and frequently.
In his remarks Wednesday, the governor described the wearing of face masks as a courtesy that can help to protect others like family and friends, especially those within others have close and frequent contact.
Confirmed case totals for Bradley County neighbors include:
• Grundy: 58 cases, 50 recoveries and 1 death;
• Hamilton: 2,577 cases, 1,700 recoveries and 30 deaths;
• Marion: 67 cases, 46 recoveries and 4 deaths;
• McMinn: 218 cases, 161 recoveries and 17 deaths;
• Meigs: 32 cases, 27 recoveries and 0 deaths;
• Monroe: 136 cases, 21 recoveries and 5 deaths;
• Polk: 41 cases, 31 recoveries and 0 deaths;
• Rhea: 274 cases, 240 recoveries and 0 deaths; and
• Sequatchie: 29 cases, 23 recoveries and 0 deaths.
Counties with Tennessee's highest numbers of cases include:
• Bedford: 520 cases, 390 recoveries and 5 deaths;
• Bledsoe: 618 cases, 612 recoveries and 1 death;
• Davidson: 10,125 cases, 6,368 recoveries and 115 deaths;
• Knox: 1,022 cases, 595 recoveries and 5 deaths;
• Lake: 690 cases, 688 recoveries and 0 deaths;
• Montgomery: 513 cases, 193 recoveries and 7 deaths;
• Putnam: 814 cases, 601 recoveries and 7 deaths;
• Robertson: 801 cases, 488 recoveries and 11 deaths;
• Rutherford: 2,733 cases, 1,236 recoveries and 35 deaths;
• Shelby: 10,765 cases, 6,889 recoveries and 195 deaths;
• Sumner: 1,507 cases, 607 recoveries and 52 deaths;
• Trousdale: 1,490 cases, 1,422 recoveries and 5 deaths;
• Williamson: 1,148 cases, 537 recoveries and 14 deaths; and
• Wilson: 859 cases, 432 recoveries and 17 deaths.
According to Johns Hopkins University, as of Thursday night, more than 2.7 million individuals in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19, with 128,684 deaths and 781,970 recoveries.
Globally, 10.8 million individuals have tested positive, resulting in 520,634 deaths and more than 5.7 million recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins.