Hamilton County extends mask mandate and updates eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine

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On March 26, the Hamilton County Health Department (HCHD) opened up the eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations to all residents ages 16 and older, including non-county residents who live, work or go to school in the county. 

“The expansion of eligibility is an exciting step in immunization efforts across the state,” said HCHD Administrator Becky Barnes in a March 26 press release. “With the increase in vaccination supply, we are able to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all residents 16 and up in Hamilton County, depending on the vaccine manufacturer.”

At a press conference held on March 29, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger announced that he is asking for the current mask mandate to be extended until April 28 with the intent to be lifted the next day.

“The most important thing we were looking forward to was the availability of vaccinations, and as you well know, vaccinations are here,” Coppinger said. “Can’t express to the public enough ways or enough times, how important it is to be vaccinated.” 

According to Coppinger, the 30-day period until April 28 will allow residents to get vaccinated and for businesses to prepare how they will operate going forward. 

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are for residents ages 18 and older, the Pfizer vaccine is for residents ages 16 and older, according to the March 26 HCHD press release. 

  According to the HCHD’s website, once vaccine receivers have made their appointments either online or by phone for a HCHD vaccine site, they will need to bring documents proving their age and proof of residency, employment or schooling. COVID-19 Vaccine Encounter forms will also need to be completed. 

“A list of documents that the Health Department will accept at the vaccination site is available on the Health Department’s FAQ [(Frequently Asked Questions)] page. A school ID or official school document will be accepted [for non-Hamilton County university or high school students],” Barnes said via email.

For a full list of providers and pharmacies offering the COVID-19 vaccine, Barnes said to visit vaccinefinder.org/search.

Currently, the HCHD has three locations to receive the vaccine: the CARTA Bus Barn, Tennessee Riverpark and Enterprise South Nature Park. Partnerships with local hospitals, pharmacies and universities are also included in this list of vaccine locations. 

“The [HCHD] is primarily receiving Pfizer vaccines for distribution right now. However, there are many other places in the county providing the COVID-19 vaccine,” Barnes said via email.

On March 28, Southern Adventist University partnered with the HCHD to offer 500 Johnson and Johnson vaccines at the Collegedale Church of Seventh-Day Adventists. Volunteers made up of community members, Southern students and Southern staff helped in running the event. 

“The nursing department [at Southern Adventist University] and Hamilton County are hoping to collaborate in the future,” said Dorinda Harriss from Southern’s University Health Center. “We have also applied to have the clinic become a vaccine site. So, at some point, we’re hoping we’ll be approved to give vaccines on a regular basis.”

The total number of administered COVID-19 vaccine doses in Hamilton County is 152, 468, as of March 29, according to Barnes.

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