City of Oak Ridge ‘alarmed’ by rising COVID-19 positivity rate

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) – Oak Ridge city officials are warning residents after data collected through wastewater testing revealed COVID-19 is present across the entire city.

“The City of Oak Ridge is strongly urging residents to take measures to protect themselves, each other, our children, our elderly and vulnerable populations, our businesses and our homes from the ravages of the COVID-19 virus,” the press release states.

Anderson County’s positivity rate — the percentage of positive tests found among all tests administered within a specific time period — hovered around 5% until the beginning of October, when it began to spike. Now the rate is 12.5%, with an average of 7 new cases being reported each day.

“Infectious disease experts say that rate should be under 5 percent, but when it gets up to 10 percent or more, that’s a good indication that there are more cases going undetected and the virus is spreading faster every day,” said Councilwoman Ellen Smith.

“This virus is far from under control. Data from wastewater indicates COVID-19 is present across our entire City,” the press release states.

City officials passed a resolution on Nov. 9 asking for community support against the “everchanging virus,” through mask wearing, washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, avoiding crowds, and adhering to social distancing requirements during activities or functions.

“This pandemic is serious. City Council and I recognize that we are limited on what we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, the data from Vanderbilt, the CDC, and the state health department about our community warns us that we are on a track for an increase in cases,” said Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch. “Moving toward the Thanksgiving holiday, all residents should be conscious of the actions they should take to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.”

The city is conducting COVID testing in the city’s wastewater.

“From the data, there’s still an upward trend. We have positives everywhere. Some places are higher than others and all areas are in the yellow range with the exception of several western sewer sheds that are in the red,” said Public Works Director Shira McWaters.

Since the beginning of March, 14 city employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and 32 have been quarantined.

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