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Self-testing kits for COVID-19 now available at health department

Officials with the McMinn County Health Department are distributing COVID-19 self tests at their location.

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) announced in a press release that health departments across the State of Tennessee would be distributing COVID-19 self test kits three days a week to relieve pressure off of the staff of the health departments and allow them adequate staff to distribute the COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Local county health departments will continue to offer COVID-19 testing five days a week at no charge for anyone who wishes to be tested,” the release stated.

The new self test will be offered to adults on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“On these days, public health staff members at each TDH COVID-19 testing site will provide self-testing kits to adults who wish to be tested,” the press release continued. “Individuals will remain in their vehicles while completing paperwork and collecting their samples. Health department will submit the samples for testing.”

Those who use the self-test will register and receive results online.

According to the release, the self tests are not approved for people under the age of 18.

“Children and adults who are unable to register online can still receive the standard nose swab COVID-19 tests on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” the release noted.

According to Southeast Region Public Information Officer Amanda Goodhard, the self-test will still be helpful because they are still the PCR tests.

“It is the same tests that we do on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is just like the same drive-thru testing that we have been doing for a while,” Goodhard said. “This just helps us free up some of our staff so that they can focus on vaccinations, which is really the main goal.”

She noted the department wanted to focus on being able to provide testing five days a week while still allowing the staff the availability to perform vaccinations.

“Those who wish to obtain a self-test kit will go to the health department and tell them that they wish to be tested, signs will give them directions upon their arrival,” Goodhard stated. “Someone will give you the kit, which will contain instructions on how to properly collect the sample, etc ... We offer this at the same times as the usual testing and we have personnel there to provide assistance.”

The signs will instruct people to call the health department for them to bring out a kit.

A smartphone is also recommended to register your kit and receive your test results.

“We would like to encourage people to come and get tested if they feel that they need it and to quarantine as much as you can until you get your results back,” Goodhard expressed. “Please continue to wear your mask, social distance, wash your hands ... those types of things will be what helps us get to the end of this pandemic.”

TWU holds COVID-19 testing day for students on Tuesday

Tennessee Wesleyan University provided COVID-19 tests for their students in the gym Tuesday.

The testing performed was a saline solution where the students would swish and gargle the solution before spitting the solution into a vial for testing.

According to TWU Vice President of Student Life Dr. Scott Mashburn, the results from the saline tests are “pretty comparable” to the swab test. TWU used RxGenomix for the tests and Kailos Genetics is the lab that processed the tests.

“We went with this particular company to provide the tests due to the costs, turn around time for the test results and the amount of test availability,” Mashburn said. “We purchased these tests back in October to November and this company fit our needs.”

Last week, the campus officials tested students in their nursing program along with students who focused on Occupational Therapy.

“Last week we also tested our athletes, international students and some of our staff that was back early,” Mashburn stated. “Our anticipation is that (today) we will make the tests available for the commuters.”

According to Mashburn, the school is utilizing all of its health care allies along with health care students who are interning to help during the COVID-19 testing.

Some students have been exempt from having to take a COVID-19 test.

“If anyone has tested positive in the last 90 days, the CDC has recommended that we do not re-test them,” Mashburn noted. “In some situations we have had students supply their own test results, because some international students had results from their travels so they were exempt from their testing today.”

Mashburn added that this is part of the university’s ongoing efforts to keep students attending in person.

“The hope is, after (Wednesday), that we will have provided an opportunity for all of our in-seat students to have been tested,” he stated. “It is important that we continue to wear masks and social distance. Last year we were able to remain in-seat and that was the result of our entire campus coming together and it is our expectation that we will be able to do that this semester also.”

With Christmas over, Friendly Fellow Club still seeking assistance

A local charitable organization is still in need of assistance from the community.

The Friendly Fellow Club has handed out its food baskets for 2020, but the need for donations still exists for the club. Officials are asking local residents to remain in the holiday spirit and continue giving to the organization.

FFC officials have noted that applications are up 50% and distribution has increased, which also resulted in an increase in costs related to more boxes and also rising food costs, which means the club is in need of more donations to ensure they can meet their expenses.

Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 325, Athens, TN 37371-0325 or can be made via credit/debit card or PayPal on the Friendly Fellow Club website, friendlyfellows.org, by clicking the Donate button at the bottom of the page.

The Friendly Fellow Club is a 501(c)(3) organization. Not only are the donations tax-deductible, but because the Friendly Fellow Club operates under an all-volunteer board, 100% of all donations goes to help families in Athens and McMinn County.

The Daily Post-Athenian will print listings of donors as contributions come in throughout the season. Donations in honor or memory of a loved one are always a special tribute and are most welcome.

Donors using the online payment portal can add an honorarium/memorial by including that information in the “Add Note” section of the donation portal.

For more than 80 years, the Friendly Fellow Club food basket project has been a Christmastime tradition for the entire community in Athens and McMinn County.

Started by J. Neal Ensminger and Frank Buttram, the effort serves households in the community with food to get them through the winter. The Friendly Fellow Club’s work is not possible without the help of people across the community and officials want to get as many people involved as possible to make it a continued success.

For more information, email friendlyfellowclub @gmail.com or visit friendlyfellows.org

Recent donations to the Friendly Fellow Club include:

• In memory of Bob Perry, $400

• From John Proffitt, in honor of healthcare workers, $100

• From Athens Kiwanis, $650

Athens seeks grant funding for fire department

The City of Athens has brought in some outside help in hopes of obtaining grant funding for the city’s firefighters.

The Athens City Council will decide next Tuesday night whether the city will apply for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — FEMA. This grant money is designated for enhancing public safety and the safety of firefighters.

The request comes from Athens Fire Chief Brandon Ainsworth, who explained at Monday’s Council study session that, if awarded, the funding would be used to replace the 28-year-old SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) Cascade Compressor System at Athens Fire Station No. 2. The device is used to fill the firefighters’ breathing air bottles.

“It’s got to be replaced and it’s about $60,000,” explained Ainsworth.

The funding would also be utilized to purchase new SCBA harnesses and bottles at a cost of about $220,000. These would be used to outfit the city’s two new fire engines, which are scheduled to be ready by November.

“Those have to be purchased either way,” said Ainsworth. “This is an opportunity to seek federal dollars to pay for it so our local tax dollars don’t pay for it.

“We’re trying both projects,” he continued. “Who knows? We may get one, we may get both, we may get none.”

If the Council decides to move forward with the application, it will be for an amount not to exceed $275,000. The local match for this grant program is just 5% of the total project cost.

The application period for the current fiscal year closes on Feb. 12. The city applied for the same grant in fiscal year 2019 for the same purpose, but was unsuccessful.

To bolster the city’s effort in its attempt to secure this grant funding, it has hired a grant writer for a flat fee of $500.

“This specific grant writer focuses only on AFG grants,” explained City Manager C. Seth Sumner.

Ainsworth added that the grant writer has a success rate of more than 86%. The grant writer has previously been able to obtain grant funding for Niota to build a new fire station and purchase a tanker and engine, as well as money for other McMinn County agencies.

“His success rate is good,” said Ainsworth. “Who knows what’s going to happen with us? We don’t have that answer, but we need all the help we can get to try to go get that money.”