Dickson County’s first five cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, and a “small number” of factory workers were in self-quarantine, as fears of the coronavirus triggered testing by the county health department, a ban on jail visitors and a rash of business closures.

The Tennessee Department of Health reported five cases in the county (out of 615 statewide) Monday afternoon.

Monday night, the Dickson City Council approved an allocation of $400,000 to Mayor Don Weiss to spend on emergency assistance for residents impacted by the virus. The council also voted to waive penalty and interest assessed to delinquent 2019 property taxes through the end of June. Those penalties were set to be assessed for any payment not made by March 31.

Weiss can spend the allocation to help organizations like the Dickson County Help Center or Dickson County Schools food program, City Administrator Rydell Wesson said.

The Community Emergency Preparedness Fair, an annual event at the Dickson County Fairgrounds where kids played on fire engines and learned about first aid, was set for this Saturday but was cancelled because it’s a public gathering.

Closures blamed on coronavirus precautions included the Dickson County Public Library, Thunder Alley Family Entertainment Center, the Roxy 8 movie theater, the Renaissance Center, all gyms and all restaurant dining rooms.

The UT Extension office in Dickson County has temporarily closed because of coronavirus precautions. UT Extension operates offices in all 95 Tennessee counties.

Also, on-campus activities at Freed-Hardeman came to a halt, and most of the court system was shuttered as clerks reset hearing dates. County government offices were closed for two days but were set to reopen Thursday, March 26.

Positive tests

White Bluff Mayor Linda Hayes disclosed last Friday that she tested positive for the virus. The same day, auto-parts manufacturer Nemak Corp. announced that a worker at its Dickson plant had also tested positive. The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed both cases, and later reported two more in the county without providing details.

Hayes said she was recovering in self-quarantine at home. Likewise, the Nemak worker was recovering at home as opposed to being hospitalized, corporate spokeswoman Lucy Wildman said.

Nemak said in a press release that a “small number” of employees were told to self-quarantine for 14 days because they had “close contact” with the infected employee.

Wildman declined to specify the number of employees in contact with the infected worker. She also declined to provide the gender or age of the infected person.

Nemak said it got confirmation of the infection late last Thursday and closed the plant that night. The company said the closure wouldn’t immediately affect operations because a temporary shutdown based on product demand had already been set for the following day.

Community Aid

Gov. Bill Lee ordered a halt to dine-in service at restaurants and bars across the state, allowing food takeout and delivery as well as alcohol takeout for people 21 or older.

As public life was upended, area businesses such as restaurants and stores were reeling from lost sales.

With K-12 students facing an uncertain time frame for going back to class, the Dickson County School District rolled out an “Emergency Food Service Plan” consisting of 13 food-pickup locations.

One of those sites is the Dickson County Family YMCA. Lee’s order shut down gyms, and local YMCA officials said all fitness activities were halted.

A statement from the Dickson YMCA said: “We will continue to use our facility to serve the needs of our community as those needs evolve over the coming weeks. We will continue to work with our government and civic partners to host mobile food pantries, blood drives, serve as a Grab & Go pick up site for school breakfasts and lunches, and provide emergency child care for our local hospital staff.”

County Begins Testing

The Dickson County Health Department began conducting COVID-19 testing last Thursday, according to a City of Dickson statement.

“Anyone exhibiting symptoms is asked to call the department at 615-446-2839 to talk to a nurse. If the nurse determines the patient needs to be tested, the patient will be swabbed in his/her car in the health department parking lot,” the statement said.

No Jail Visitors

Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe announced a ban on visitors to inmates at the county jail until further notice.

Family and friends of inmates must now use electronic devices to communicate with them, Bledsoe said in a Facebook post. This requires a sign-up process on the Sheriff’s Office website, according to Bledsoe.

Lawyers, probation officers, child-service workers, chaplains and others are also banned from in-person visits at the jail, Bledsoe said.

Showing support

Medical professionals in our community are fighting the coronavirus daily. Send a message of encouragement or support to them at news@dicksonpost.com for publication in the newspaper. Include your name and hometown. Also, let us know some of the creative or unique ways that you are supporting local businesses or organizations, or in-home activities to stay busy. Send to news@dicksonpost.com.

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