KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Knox County reported 252 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday while the number of active cases is 38.
The number of recovered cases is 209. Recovered cases refer to those who have been released from isolation after seven days from their onset of symptoms, plus 72 hours of being symptom-free.
Just two cases currently require hospitalization. Of the 252 cases, 35 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. There have been five deaths.
The Knox County Health Department updates its numbers daily at 11 a.m. on covid.knoxcountytn.gov.
Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan continues to stress the use of masks in public when social distancing is not possible. At the department’s Tuesday press briefing Buchanan took the time to explain the steps taken by her staff, including limiting the number of people in the room, so that she could conduct the briefings without a mask.
“You’ll see me in a mask when I’m out in public running errands or doing things out in town,” she said.
Wearing a mask is just part of the five basic principles to the Knoxville/Knox County reopening plan.
The principles are:
- Practice social distancing,
- Wear cloth face coverings when in public and social distancing can’t be achieved,
- Wash your hands properly and often,
- Clean surfaces regularly, and
- Stay home when sick.
“The five basic principles are pretty straight forward,” Buchanan said. “Social distancing is really important and a big piece of our plan.”
Reporting concerns, facing consequences
The Health Department has a fine line to walk when it comes to enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines and those who choose not to follow the guidelines run the risk of hurting themselves and others.
“Our plan relies, like much of public health does, on people doing the right thing and following our guidance,” Buchanan said. “It is really important and unfortunate when they choose not to. What those people are doing is putting our entire community at risk … of having to step back in reopening or not moving to the next (reopening) phase.
“In addition to risk of exposing their own family.”
Buchanan said KCHD has the authority to regulate businesses and issue health directives and measures that could be accompanied by court order, but public gatherings are not in the department’s jurisdiction and it cannot impose fines.
“We regulate several industries throughout the year,” she said. “Our regulation starts with education and information and moves forward from there based on public health law.”
Buchanan also says to be mindful that people can have others in their home for gatherings as long as social distancing is observed and no more than 10 people are present, per the phase one guidelines.
If you suspect a gathering is unsafe or not following guidelines you can leave, put a mask on or ask the host of the gathering to follow the guidelines, Buchanan suggests. If you suspect a business is in violation of the reopening guidelines, you can call the Health Department at 865-215-5200.
“There is risk for COVID-19 no matter where live, work or play in Knox County,” Buchanan said.
Nursing home testing
Plans are in place to increase targeted testing in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. KCHD has already tested some of these facilites but a more concentrated effort is being formulated both locally and statewide.
“If there’s two cases in a nursing home or an assisted living facility, we’re going to go and test the residents and staff,” Buchanan said.
In addition some larger facilities are doing their own testing but those results are not reported to the Knox County Health Department, unless there is a positive case.
“We are not aware of every test in Knox County … but what we are aware of is that the number of tests available in Knox County is going up and we are happy about that,” Buchanan said.
Data, antibody testing
The Health Department is working on ways to keep the public informed of data they have collected while not overloading people who want a clear, simple picture of what the local COVID-19 situation is and adhering to federal privacy laws.
Plans are in place to have a representative of Knox County hospitals available for the KCHD briefing on Friday to answer some questions. The department is also working to update its website daily.
“Our goal is to satisfy the data lovers in our community while also taking into consideration the desire of people to have a more simplified explanation,” Buchanan said. “As we gather more data, we will provide more clarity and information as best we can.”
When asked about antibody testing coming to Knox County, Buchanan said it is still up in the air as to when the test might be available.
“Antibody testing is still in the process of being validated so that we can actually use it,” she said. “We don’t want want to have a test that we can’t use and rely on the results to tell us whether you have a disease or don’t have a disease and whether you’re immune or not immune.”
Buchanan also said with COVID-19 research is still out on how long someone who has had the virus keeps their immunity to it.