Coronavirus in Tennessee: 106 active Knox County cases; Health Department contact tracing duties moving to state, benchmarks green

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department reported 21 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 632.

Knox County reported 106 active cases on Friday, up from 89 active cases reported on Thursday. Thursday was the second time this week that active cases in the county have dropped below 100, along with Monday when 94 active cases were reported.

Knox County reported four new recovered cases on Friday. The total number of recovered COVID-19 cases is now 521. 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. Recovered does not mean necessarily the person had to be hospitalized.

There are two Knox County COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized, down from four on Thursday. There have been five total deaths in Knox County from COVID-19.

Of the 632 cases, 57 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. There are 26 probable cases of COVID-19 listed on the county information page.

The Knox County Health Department updates its numbers daily at 11 a.m. Visit covid.knoxcountytn.gov for more information.

Traffic lights stay green

The four of the five benchmarks used as part of the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan remained in the green Friday.

 Red signifies the trends are not moving towards benchmark attainment and may indicate mid-phase 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 for the Health Department, said the new case count is “stable” but increasing at the department’s press briefing.

“It is important to remember cases are continuing to increase … and COVID is still very much a part of this community,” Menefee said.

The second benchmark, communitywide sustained and increased diagnostic testing with consistent or decreased test result reporting turnaround time, was not given a light this week. Menefee said the state is providing the data for the benchmark and is making a change as to how it is calculating that data making for the potential to have flaws.

The potential flaw is only for data between June 7-13.

Menefee said that after looking at anecdotal evidence and data from local agencies and hospitals the department would have given the benchmark a green light if they were going to assign one but wanted to make sure the data given out was reliable.

Changes coming amid shift to state plan

KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan gave a rundown of the changes coming to the reopening plans for Knox County after the first Board of Health meeting on Wednesday. As part of the six metro counties in the state, Knox County was allowed to make its own reopening guidelines under Gov. Bill Lee’s state plan.

The Board of Health voted Wednesday to stay under the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan’s Phase 2 guidelines until July 1. At that time Knox County will follow the state’s Tennessee Pledge reopening plan for the remaining 89 counties.

The Health Department has links to both plans and more details will be given after the Board of Health meets next week.

“The public health intent of those plans is the same: reducing illness in our community as we safely reopen,” Buchanan said.

The board plans on meeting once every two weeks.

One big change coming is how contact tracing will be handled.

Menefee said the state is centralizing the daily monitoring process for cases and contacts and more information will be given next week.

“We will still do the initial investigation and contact tracing,” she said. “but it does move all of the daily calls that we’re making to check in and get statuses on folks to a more centralized format and then (the state) reports back to us to follow up with any issues or concerns.”

The Health Department is also increasing contact tracing staff but the 38 staff members currently doing the work are “more than sufficient to deal with daily case count including with the daily monitoring right now.”

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