Coronavirus in Tennessee: Knox County Health Department addresses cases increase, nursing home visits

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department reported 14 new active COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, to bring the county’s total to 366.

Knox County reported 48 active cases on Wednesday, up from 34 on Tuesday.

No new recovered cases were reported. The total number of recoveries remains at 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.

There are two Knox County patient currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. There have been five total deaths in Knox County from COVID-19.

Of the 366 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.

New COVID-19 cases increase again

The number of new positive COVID-19 cases among Knox County residents increased for the third day in a row on Wednesday. The addition of 14 new cases also marks the second single-day, double-digit increase in the county, a first dating back to the first day of known COVID-19 cases in the county March 20.

Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department, said the 14 cases represent a “statistically significant increase” and would constitute a “red light” on the benchmark for the past three days.

According to the KCHD a red light on a benchmark of the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan signifies the trends are not moving towards benchmark attainment and may indicate mid-phase adjustments need to be made. Buchanan said the lights are updated every Friday.

No decision to change a benchmark’s color has been made yet and those decisions are not made without consultation from the reopening plan task force and health care leaders.

“One benchmark is not what we are going to use to determine moving forward or moving backward,” Buchanan said. “Our case count has been so low … it doesn’t take much to be statistically significant.”

The recent uptick includes two small clusters of the novel coronavirus at a business and a private school according to KCHD.

“We are beginning the process of bringing KCHD team members back in from the jobs they’ve been doing to support contact tracing,” Buchanan said.

“We’ve had great cooperation from everybody we’ve had to work clusters with.”

Buchanan said the Health Department is not alarmed but is continuing to monitor the situation.

Stores where clusters are found

Buchanan said those worried about contracting the virus from a business or seeing the county revert to phase 1 guidelines should continue to follow the five core principles of the plan.

They 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.

“Use some hand sanitizer when you go in, put your mask on, do your shopping, go back out to your car, hand sanitize again, and you should be good,” she said.

Nursing home visits

It will still be “quite some time” before nursing homes allow visitors Buchanan said.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released new guidelines last week calling for baseline testing in all nursing homes across the country before visitation will be allowed. Older adults are the most vulnerable to complications from COVID-19.

The Tennessee Department of Health is working on getting that baseline testing and the Knox County Health Department is working in conjunction with the state department.

Health Department testing

KCHD continues to offer free testing today, Wednesday, May 27, and Friday, May 29, this week at the Department of Public Works building. Testing is done by appointment only. You can call the Health Department public information line at 865-215-5555 to receive a window to arrive at the drive-thru site.

Buchanan said they are taking insurance information from those that have it.

“We’re not charging individuals for testing, however, the testing isn’t free,” she said. “It has to be paid for. … We are trying to bill some insurance. Again, no charge to the person but billing insurance that you have already paid for who will pay for that testing will enable the county to not have such a big bill to pay for all that testing.”

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

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