As we begin to think about our wishes and resolutions for the new year, I would like for Sevier County residents to pause and reflect on how much our community has come together this past year and to make a resolution that these relationships last well past this pandemic.
Tough times do not last, but tough, resilient communities do, and that is certainly what we are in Sevier County: resilient. In March, COVID-19 forced all of us to make drastic changes in an instant, but we have done it, supported one another through it and are stronger because of it. The minute we became aware of the pandemic and its ramifications, our local community leaders began meeting weekly and addressing needs that had to be met. Churches and local restaurants stepped up to feed kids once school was dismissed; local businesses started catering meals for employees to support our restaurants; local physicians and nurse practitioners expanded hours to meet patient needs; PPE and hand sanitizer were shared; and community members began making masks. These are just a few of the amazing things that Sevier County residents did to support one another.
The thing is, individually, none of this was achievable, but together, nothing was impossible. This entire year, I have been blown away by the support from other physicians, nurse practitioners, first responders, local businesses, churches, private citizens, city officials and county government as well as our school districts. Thanks to everyone’s support, the death rate from COVID-19 in Sevier County is a fifth lower than the statewide average. Together, we have managed this public health crisis and minimized the risk of a worldwide pandemic as it rolled into our community.
As we continue into 2021, we must keep these relationships going. I know you are tired. I am tired, too, but it is important. The keys to our success as a community are our resilience and our relationships with one another. These traits keep us successful and independent. This year also further solidifies my opinion that the greatest impact our state can make against this virus, or other catastrophes/emergencies, is by supporting small, independent communities like ours. Any aid or COVID relief should be placed directly into the hands of local community leaders, who have the relationships and the understanding of how to best put it to use.
I want to end this letter by saying thank you to the residents of Sevier County. This is exactly why I chose a rural area to start my practice and raise a family. Sevier County, you did not disappoint.
—Dr. Randy Walker and Angie Walker