Coronavirus in Tennessee: Knox County Health Dept. addresses ‘statistically significant increase’ of new cases

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department reported 10 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, to bring the county’s total to 352.

Knox County reported 34 active cases on Tuesday, up from 27 on Monday.

Three new recovered cases were reported, bringing the total number of recoveries to 313. 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.

A case breakdown by age range
Source: Knox County Health Dept.

There are two Knox County patient currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, up from one Monday.

Of the 352 cases, 40 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. There are 10 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.

Cases of COVID-19 increase locally

The Knox County Health Department’s announcement of 10 new cases on Tuesday marks the first double-digit, single-day rise in new cases since May 11 and just the third such increase in the last month. It is also the second day the county has seen a “statistically significant increase” according to Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness for the Health Department.

The rise in cases was expected and likely considering more people are going out, Menefee said.

“We are watching it very closely,” she said.

Menefee said the “vast majority” of the new cases are not related but there is a “small cluster” among the 10.

The increase comes as phase one of the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan ends and phase 2 begins. Phase 1, originally scheduled for 28 days, was cut short after COVID-19 cases continued to decrease. The 28-day period was used since the novel coronavirus has an incubation period of 14 days.

When asked if the Health Department could move its traffic light alert for sustained reduction or stability in new cases from green to yellow Menefee said that decision will be made Friday when those benchmarks are updated.

A move to yellow signifies the trends are moving towards/away from reaching benchmark attainment and indicates caution, according to the KCHD COVID-19 data and benchmarks website.

Disheartening seeing lack of social distancing

While most were out enjoying the Memorial Day weekend safely following the five core actions in the reopening plan, the Health Department said it was disheartening to see some not following the guidelines.

The five core principles of the plan 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.

Katharine Killen, deputy senior director of strategy for KCHD, said it is up to the community to take responsibility for each other’s health and to avoid a step back in the reopening process.

“We know there are some folks in our community not wearing a mask or physically distancing but that doesn’t discount the many, many people who are,” Killen said. “If the majority of people do the right thing, that continues to set up our community for success and a path forward.”

The Health Department is taking reports of unsafe practices. You can call the KCHD public information line at 865-215-5555 to voice concerns but their main focus is on limiting the spread among those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“Our enforcement is more responsive in that anything we would do would have to be associated with known cases and our work on breaking that transmission instead of proactive enforcement,” Killen said. “Education is a considerable part of that and an effective part of that. Being outside is great. Getting exercise is great, but even when you’re in those environments, we still need you to practice those five core actions.”

Notes

Drive-thru testing will continue at the Department of Public Works Building this week. Testing is done by appointment only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, Wednesday and Friday. You can schedule and appointment by calling the Health Department public information line, 865-215-5555. The information line is available from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

With Knox County Schools starting practice for some sports, Killen said the biggest thing coaches can do is follow the Tennessee Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that are being updated constantly.

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

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