HUNTSVILLE — They came in police cars, ambulances and fire trucks; they came in pickup trucks, on lawn mowers and on horses. By the dozens, Scott Countians drove through the parking lot at Huntsville Health & Rehab here Monday, greeting residents of the assisted living facility with hand-made posters and signs, beeping horns and lots of smiles and waves.
Someone blared Rocky Top — the unofficial University of Tennessee fight song — on a loop. There was even a Santa Claus.
It had all the feeling of a festive atmosphere like you’d find at a 4th of July parade or a Christmas parade — a welcomed interruption to what has been an otherwise grim time.
Not grim because the Covid-19 illness that has taken the world by storm has found its way inside Huntsville Health & Rehab. Like Scott County’s other assisted living facility, Oneida Nursing & Rehab Center, Huntsville has remained free of coronavirus. Rather, it has been a grim time because — like other states — Tennessee has been forced to close assisted living facilities to all outside visitors in an effort to keep the coronavirus from infiltrating.
Beginning with the very first outbreak in Washington state, nursing homes have been the epicenter of America’s fight against coronavirus — and that has proven true in Tennessee, as well. As a result, Gov. Bill Lee has issued an executive order placing stringent requirements on nursing homes. In addition to blocking access to visitors, the requirements also take extra measures to be sure staff members are illness-free as they report for work each day.
So residents at those facilities have gone more than two months without the face-to-face visits with friends and loved ones that they’re accustomed to. That was the reason for Monday’s drive-by parade. Residents who were able moved outdoors for the event, though for their safety an area was cordoned off . The weather was a bit on the chilly side — it has been an unusually cold spring — but the sun was shining, at least, and it lit up the faces of residents who waved at passersby and waved purple pom-poms — the official color of Huntsville Health & Rehab.