Coronavirus in Tennessee: Knox County Health Dept. reports 27th death, calls for community buy-in

Coronavirus

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Knox County on Wednesday reported its third-highest one day spike in COVID-19 cases, according to new data from the Knox County Health Department.

Knox County reported 161 new COVID-19 cases, a 4.77% increase in the total case count. There were 86 new recoveries and 74 new active cases. There are now 1,967 active virus cases in Knox County, the Health Department said.

Knox County reported one new death on Wednesday. Of the 27 deaths in the county, 22 have occurred since the beginning of July.

The latest spike follows the second-highest one-day spike of cases in Knox County on Tuesday, when 167 new cases were reported. The record spike was 187 new cases on Thursday, July 23.

Of the 3,533 total cases reported in Knox County since the pandemic began, 186 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. There are 38 Knox County patients currently hospitalized.

The number of recoveries is now 1,539. Recovered cases refer to those who have been released from isolation after 10 days from their onset of symptoms, plus 24 hours of being symptom-free. Recovered does not mean necessarily the person had to be hospitalized.

Knox County currently lists 148 probable cases of COVID-19 on the county website.

The Knox County Board of Health will meet Wednesday evening to update the county reopening benchmarks such as hospitalization rates and ICU bed availability.

The Knox County Health Department updates its numbers daily at 11 a.m. Visit covid.knoxcountytn.gov for more information. Press briefings by Knox County Health Department are normally held at 12:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Benchmarks remain at last week’s levels

No color changes were made this week to the five benchmarks set out by the Knox County Health Department but new cases and deaths continue to rise.

This week’s benchmarks were:

  • Benchmark No. 1: Sustained reduction or stability in new cases for 14 days. RED
  • Benchmark No. 2 Community-wide sustained and increased diagnostic testing with consistent or decreased test result reporting turnaround time. YELLOW
  • Benchmark No. 3 Sustained or increased public health capability. GREEN
  • Benchmark No. 4 Health care system capabilities remain within current and forecasted surge capacity. YELLOW
  • Benchmark No. 5 Sustained or decreased COVID-19 related death rate for identified positive or probable cases. RED

To more visually represent how the benchmarks are being attained, a traffic light is being utilized to depict the status of each benchmark.

 Red signifies the trends are not moving towards benchmark attainment and may indicate adjustments need to be made.

 Yellow signifies the trends are moving towards/away from reaching benchmark attainment. Yellow indicates caution.

 Green signifies that the benchmark is currently met.

Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness at KCHD, said the department’s change of testing vendors has decreased wait times for lab results. The average time for the return of lab results for the week of July 19-25 was just over 3 days but Menefee said last week that wait times could be as long as 12 days.

The new vendor took over Monday and the return for results are heading in the right direction and encouraging according to Menefee.

The epidemiology staff has also seen a significant increase since last week. The team now sits at 205 members, 39 more than last week. The staff assists with case investigation, contact tracing, monitoring, data input, and data analysis.

Details were also given on two of the latest deaths in Knox County from the coronavirus. Menefee said the death the department reported early Wednesday was actually reported to them over the weekend. The two weekend deaths were a 73-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man.

More buy-in needed

While many are following the five core actions set out by the Health Department to run errands or go to the grocery story, Menefee said vigilance is needed all the time to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re seeing so many people, and I’m talking to cases, where it’s the people you’re feeling comfortable with, the people you’re working with every day, your friends that are coming over for the barbecue, the birthday parties, the sporting events,” she said. “Those are the places where we’re seeing people letting their guard down, and we’re seeing transmissions spread there.

Nashville has seen some of its case numbers drop recently after instituting closures to bars and requiring masks in public places. Menefee said seeing those numbers are encouraging but it is still too soon to tell if Knox County’s mask mandate has been effective in slowing the spread of the virus.

She also noted that any changes like closures of businesses are up to the Knox County Board of Health. The board is scheduled to meet later Wednesday evening.

“We can’t policy our way out of what people are doing in their backyards and with their friends and families and birthday parties,” Menefee said. “I think if everybody has the buy-in, I think the individuals can make a difference and have an impact there.”

Positive cases in schools

A positive case in a Knox County school could have a broad impact on contact tracing teams and school attendance. Menefee confirmed that any close contact would have to quarantine for 14 days.

“If we have a school member tests positive — staff member, student or anybody — just like with anybody else, that test positive (person) will be interviewed and we’ll do our investigation,” she said. “And everybody that was within six feet for more than 10 minutes at that person will be asked to quarantine for 14 days.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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