Coronavirus in Tennessee: Health Department addresses graduation, cluster concerns; 52 active cases, 269 total in Knox County

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The Knox County Health Department reported 12 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total case number to 269.

Knox County reported 52 active cases on Thursday, up from 43 on Wednesday.

Case breakdown by age range
Source: Knox County Health Dept.

The total number of recovered cases grew to 212 after remaining at 209 on Tuesday and Wednesday. 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 three patients currently hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Of the 269 cases, 36 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. 

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

The department holds a daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m. that can be viewed in this web story or on the Knox County Youtube channel.

Knox County Schools graduation plan

Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department, said Thursday that Knox County Schools asked the department as well as the state Department of Education for guidance in its graduation plan. She said they reviewed the plan and made a few recommendations but KCS was the author of the plan.

The school system announced Wednesday that high school graduations will take place from July 27 through Aug. 8 at each school’s football field with no parents or public in attendance. Schools that do not have a football field will hold their graduation at the World’s Fair Park pavilion.

“Right now the schools and we are trying to make recommendations,” Buchanan said. “July is a long time away.”

Buchanan said those plans could change both for the better and for the worse.

“It is up to our community to have graduation in July,” she said, reiterating the need to follow the five core principles of the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan.

“These measures won’t just protect you, they will also protect those around you and help ensure that we as a community get to move forward and not backward in our plan.”

Mask distribution, concern

KCHD has already given away 1,200 of its 19,000 masks from the state Unified-Command group. The state task force is distributing 5 million of the masks. More are expected to be distributed.

Buchanan said her department is also working with community partners to give them masks to distribute for those who do not have an opportunity to get a mask from KCHD.

The black, sock-like material masks have drawn concern from some. Buchanan said the masks are “very different” than most of the masks she has seen but that they have enough thickness to provide some protection.

When asked about what someone should be looking for in a mask, Buchanan said it should be able to trap water droplets coming out of your mouth. There are guidelines for masks on the Knox County Health Department website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

“What’s important is wearing it and wearing it properly while in public,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said masks should be washed daily with hot water. She said she uses her washer to wash her mask and line dries it afterward.

Clusters among Hispanic population

Knox County Health Department data shows an influx of positive cases within the Hispanic population. As of Thursday, 53 positive cases have been identified out of a population of 20,472. Buchanan said the increased numbers are a result of four separate clusters within large households.

Buchanan said the Health Department has been in contact with the households and Centro Hispano about the clusters.

“Even before there was an increase in cases, we’ve been reaching out to at-risk populations,” she said.

A new cluster was found Thursday, it was unclear if that cluster was included in the four or if it was also among the Hispanic population. Buchanan said the recent bumps in positive cases of COVID-19 can also be attributed to the shorter timeframe in which test results are received and the new CDC guidelines that increased the self-isolation period from seven days to 10. The CDC made the change based on data about the novel coronavirus.

“Based on inset of illness and the incubation period of COVID-19, we know this bump is not a result of reopening the community,” Buchanan said. “However … a bump in active cases is something we expect. It Is even outlined in our reopening plan.”

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