Coronavirus in Tennessee: Active cases in Knox County up to 36; county ‘not quite ready’ to lift travel, social distancing restrictions

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department is reporting seven new cases on Monday, bringing the total case number to 166.

There are now 36 active cases in the county as of April 13, up from 28 on Sunday.

The total number of recovered cases now stands at 126. 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.

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

Twenty of the 166 cases have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. This figure does not reflect the number of patients currently hospitalized in the county.

In Knox County, 3,587 total COVID-19 tests have now been conducted.

The Knox County Health Department updates its numbers daily at 11 a.m. on covid.knoxcountytn.gov.

Wait and see on stay-at-home order

Gov. Bill Lee will decide later today whether or not to extend his executive stay-at-home order, and Knox County is waiting to see what his plans are.

Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of KCHD, said she and county Mayor Glenn Jacobs said are in agreement that the county is “not quite ready” to lift the restrictions on travel and social distancing.

Talks are ongoing as to how lifting those restrictions would be implemented.

“Nobody has the answer for that,” Buchanan said. “This is untested territory.

“What we need to see is cases going down, and not going down for just a couple of days but a trend of cases going down as opposed to going up, which is where we are now.”

Data crunching

The introduction of ZIP code data on Friday brought more questions about what the numbers mean for Knox County.

“When we look at the maps we do see certain concentrations in certain ZIP codes,” Buchanan said. “What we can infer from that is there are define cases of COVID-19 in those ZIP codes. What we don’t know is testing availability throughout the county and in other ZIP codes.”

Access to testing has been a priority for the health department for a majority of the coronavirus pandemic. They are still working to make sure that health care providers have access to tests across the county.

KCHD increased its own testing today from around 15 per day to more than 90. They have also expanded the requirements to allow more people to get tested. Those who are high risk for complications to COVID-19 or experiencing lesser-seen symptoms, like loss of taste, loss of smell and gastrointestinal issues, as well as the “big three”: fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, can now get tested at the health department.

Testing results at the health department take about three to four days to come back with results. However, people who want a test are asked to contact their personal care physicians first to see if they offer a test before seeking a test from KCHD.

The most cases of COVID-19, as of data from April 10, are in ZIP code 37919. The area has 18 confirmed cases. Most cases are in the southern and western parts of the county, where most of the population is located.

Buchanan said the health department will not give a more detailed number for those ZIP codes with less than five positive COVID-19 cases out of concern for those who have the virus.

“In other jurisdictions, people have had threats to their lives or their children have been bullied,” she said. “People have lost their jobs when they’ve been identified as a positive case of COVID-19. We are really trying to stop those things from happening here.”

Serological testing

Buchanan was asked about serological testing and how it pertains to COVID-19.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, serological tests detect the body’s immune response to an infection. The tests measure the amount of antibodies or proteins present in the blood when the body is responding to a specific infection rather than detecting the virus itself. 

This could help in determining if people are healthy and no longer susceptible to the virus.

The health department the serological testing being done now on COVID-19 has not been validate yet. The FDA has relaxed some guidelines with testing to allow for faster coronavirus research.

More testing of the tests needs to be done before the results can be seen as empirical.

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

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