Coronavirus Tennessee: 3 Knox County Health Dept. benchmarks turn red as cases continue to rise


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Three Knox County Health Department COVID-19 benchmarks are “red” after Tuesday’s update. The changes come as new cases, both in Knox County and regionally, continue to climb and the overall case count remains at a higher sustained rate.

Sustained reduction or stability in new cases for 14 days; community-wide sustained and increased diagnostic testing with consistent or decreased test result reporting turnaround time; and sustained or decreased COVID-19 related death rate for identified positive or probable cases were all set to red by the Health Department after being yellow for weeks.

“Our numbers are trending in the wrong direction,” KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said during Tuesday’s briefing. “Our new cases per day are climbing, our hospitalizations are increasing, and most troublesome, so are our deaths.”

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.

Buchanan was joined by leaders of four of the five regional hospital systems. She and University of Tennessee Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Keith Gray stressed that the community needs to follow the five core actions.

“It is more important now more than ever … that the community continue to partner with us,” Gray said.

Gray said there were a few factors that make the current increase worse than previous highs in cases seen in July. He pointed to the sustained increase in new cases of COVID-19, the unknown impact that the flu season and holiday gatherings will have on hospital capabilities, and the uncertainty of vaccine distribution and reliability.

“From a health care system standpoint, we want to continue to take care of every patient in this community that needs our help whether they are affected by COVID or impacted by some other illness. We also want to continue to keep our community open and continue to operate our community.

“We want our kids to be able to stay in school, if they choose that option, and we want to keep our first responders and our health care safe so they can continue to take care of you.”

UT Chief Medical Officer Dr. Keith Gray

Gray said the region is currently seeing about 38 new hospitalizations per 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 and that the region hit a record high of hospitalizations Monday. The region includes 19 hospitals in 16 counties in the Knox and East Tennessee regions of the Tennessee Healthcare Resource Tracking System.

The other two benchmarks, sustained or increased public health capability and health care system capabilities remain within current and forecasted surge capacity, were green and yellow, respectively.

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