Coronavirus in Tennessee: Knox County cases up to 146, details emerge on local surge task force

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department said Wednesday the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Knox County now stands at 146.

Knox County reported 20 new positive local cases and one new death Wednesday, bring the total number of deaths to four. There are now 65 active cases in the county as of April 8. The death was an 84-year-old male.

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One hundred twenty six cases were reported by county officials on Tuesday. The Tennessee State Health Department said Tuesday that Knox County had a total of 143 cases.

A breakdown of cases by age range
Source: Knox Co. Health Dept.

The total number of recovered cases now stands at 77 up from 74 on Tuesday. Recovered refers to those who have been released from isolation.

Nineteen of the 146 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.

A total of 2,213 tests have now been conducted.

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

Charity Menefee, director of Communicable and Environmental Disease at the Knox County Health Department, was joined by Dr. Keith Gray, chief medical officer at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, for the daily department briefing on Wednesday afternoon.

The briefing was moved to the afternoon to accommodate for the Medical Surge and Alternate Care Task Force that was formed to prepare for the possibility of a local spike in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks. Both Menefee and Gray are members of the task force. The KCHD briefing is scheduled to return to 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, April 9.

Details given on local pandemic surge task force

Gray said area hospitals have the ability to increase bed capacity to twice what it is now. Intensive care units could double to more than twice their normal operating numbers and ventilators could surge to nearly three times the capacity.

About 4,000 additional patients could be accommodated above normal capacity at current medical facilities in the event of a coronavirus surge, according to Gray who leads the Medical Surge and Alternate Care Task Force.

The worse may not be as bad at least to newer surge models. Gray said since Gov. Bill Lee’s executive stay at home order went into effect last week models have shown a reduced surge. The models used by UT Medical and UT Knoxville staff still fluctuate however and rely on the continued efforts of the public to continue practicing social distancing.

“We have to prepare for the worse and pray for the best,” Gray said. “All of the current models don’t currently line up … as we gather more information those models reveal more and we can further refine our plan.”

The current plan includes using the Knoxville Expo Center as an alternative care site. The task force talked Wednesday about staffing the facility. Gray said staffing ratios at the Expo Center would not be the same ratios you would expect at a normal hospital.

He also said the task force talked about utilizing the governor’s plan to allow for retired care providers, those nearing the end of their college studies and others to help should the need arise.

“We have not begun to recruit professionals to staff those alternative care sites,” Gray said. “We just had our third meeting this afternoon. … We have a plan in place that would vet the site and get the logistical state planning in place and have the opportunity to construct the site in the next 30 to 40 days.”

Clearing up local, state data

Menefee said the Knox County Health Department would be releasing more details about the local cases of COVID-19 in the coming days. Zipcodes and races of those who have tested positive are expected. Similar numbers have already been released by Shelby and Davidson counties.

Numbers including gender break downs, hospitalizations and ages of the deceased were released yesterday.

Across Knox County more than 50% of the positive cases have recovered. When asked why locally more have recovered compared to state numbers, Menefee said there has been a lag at the state level getting data from across the state and with clearing up discrepancies like duplicates sent in by multiple health departments and address changes.

“The local data is probably going to be the more clear picture for counts on both deaths and cases,” Menefee said.

She also said Knox County has been keeping up with and reporting recovered cases from the beginning.

The unnamed alternative care facility that had two staff members and two residents test positive has one update: A third resident who was awaiting test results come back negative.

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

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