One-on-one sit down with Knox County Health Director

Dr. Martha Buchanan answers COVID 19 questions
Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 7:12 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Friday, the Director of the Knox County Health Department Dr. Martha Buchanan sat down with WVLT’s Will Puckett to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and the response of the Knox County Health Department.

March marks one year of the pandemic in America and while generally satisfied with how it’s been handled in the county, Dr. Buchanan wishes she had done a few things differently.

”You know it’s hard, you cant speculate so you’re not sure what if anything that would have changed. It’s not that we didn’t have conversations early on, we did, it’s just you know, could those have been different could we have thought about those and had different outcomes,” said Buchanan in her nearly 45-minute long interview.

Dr. Buchanan wishes she had brought outside voices in earlier, but she stands by her department’s response to save lives.

Starting Monday, March 8th, the Food City on Broadway will be transformed into a mass vaccination site.

“About four days we will be there doing those large volume clinics and then one day we’re going to kind of set aside and do what we call a slow clinic and that could be there or maybe somewhere else and that’s for folks with transportation issues who can’t get even to the Food City,” said Dr. Buchanan.

Monday, Tennessee will open up to Phase 1C of the state’s vaccination plan. One Million Tennesseans will be eligible to get a shot. In Knox County that only means the waitlist, with now 24,000 people on it, will only grow longer.

”But we’re in it for the long haul and we know more vaccine is coming and we’ll keep vaccinating people until no one wants the vaccine anymore and my team is committed to vaccinating people as quickly and as reasonably as we can,” said Dr. Buchanan.

To speed up the process, the Knox County Health Department is enlisting the help of Tennessee National Guard.

”We’re already working with the national guard. They’re already helping with our vaccination process, sop, the clinics we have been running at the expo and other places. They’re large scale events and we’re vaccinating 200 to 11,000 people and that’s a lot of people to put through,” Dr. Buchanan said, adding their role will range from directing traffic to administering shots.

Knox County’s top doctor was candid in her interview, saying that she was surprised when she tested positive for COVID-19 but used it as a teaching lesson that anyone can get it.

”Well I mean it just demonstrates you know, all of the mitigation measures we recommend they slow down and reduce the risk of transmission they don’t totally stop it. So, even the people who are practicing the five core actions religiously and can still get covid, they’re much less likely than those who aren’t but they still can,” said Buchanan.

While unable to give an update on the ongoing investigation by the Knoxville Police Department when it comes to the possible disposal of nearly 1,000 vaccines, Dr. Buchanan says it’s still a gut punch.

“No, I said immediately we have to discern what happened, we have to notify the state and the people who have to be notified and we have to investigate this internally,” said Buchanan.

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