Coronavirus in Tennessee: Knox County total cases at 152; health department clarifies possible 5th death

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Health director says community's social distancing has reduced need for temporary hospital beds

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The total number of recovered cases in Knox County surpassed 100 on Thursday while the total number of cases surpassed 150.

Knox County reported 6 new positive local cases and no new deaths Thursday. There are now 42 active cases in the county as of April 9, down from 65 on Wednesday.

The total number of recovered cases now stands at 106, up from 77 on Wednesday. Recovered cases refers to those who have been released from isolation.

Nineteen of the 152 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, 2,219 total tests have now been conducted, 16 more than reported on Wednesday.

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

MORE ONLINE: New rapid COVID-19 test expected to be available at two East TN locations

Clarification on numbers of beds, death in Knox County

Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the KCHD, made time to clarify some numbers and provide an update on a possible fifth death from COVID-19 in Knox County.

Buchanan said the department is trying to confirm, as of early Thursday afternoon, the deceased’s residency. She wanted the public to be aware because the state’s data may be different from the county’s statistics.

“We just learned about (the death),” Buchanan said. “People are still traveling. People might get tested in Knox County but not live in Knox County.

“We did not perform the test so we have to get more information.”

They are awaiting the death report and should have more information Friday, Buchanan said.

The leader of the Knoxville-area Medical Surge and Alternate Care Task Force Dr. Keith Gray, chief medical officer at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, said Wednesday that 4,000 additional beds were available to treat coronavirus patients should the need arise. That figure is across the region.

“Covenant Health has a footprint throughout the region, as does Tennova,” Buchanan said Thursday.

Transition from Expo Center to Knoxville Center

Information on shifting locations for the task force’s alternate care site came early Thursday. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are looking now at using the former Knoxville Center/East Towne Mall facility as an alternate site should the need arise. Earlier, the Knoxville Expo Center on Clinton Highway had been eyed as a potential temporary medical facility.

That need, at least according to the latest regional models, shows fewer people may need the facility, according to Buchanan.

“The modeling the state is using is showing fewer numbers in Knox County,” she said. “We believe that the change in trajectory … is because our community is abiding by social distancing. We need to keep that in place. … It takes all of us to do this.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is working independently of the local task force and is prioritizing alternate care locations in Nashville and Memphis because of their higher coronavirus case count, Buchanan said.

Isolating cases

At the City Council meeting on Tuesday a question was asked about a program that isolates those who are without a local residence/homeless that test positive for COVID-19 in hotels in the area.

Buchanan said the program goes for any case that requires isolation like tuberculosis.

“It happens a couple of times a year,” Buchanan said, referring to the practice. “We have had to house some homeless people in hotels. we make sure there is no risk to other people who might be there. We make limitations on who can go in and out of the room and the hotels are very cooperative as are the patients.”

The Guest House was opened Monday. The facility run by the city of Knoxville and Volunteer Ministry Center will now handle those isolation cases.

Easter weekend

Buchanan said she was thankful to the religious community in the region for being creative in practicing social distancing while still finding ways to hold worship services. She acknowledged that Easter weekend, this weekend, would be a tough time for many not to be able to gather but she appreciated those extra steps for safety.

“This weekend is a really significant weekend for many faiths,” Buchanan said. “We understand that it’s going to be difficult to not gather together physically as they normally would.”

The health department’s phone bank that provides info on testing sites and testing appointments will be closed on Sunday for the holiday. The rest of the department will be working a normal schedule.

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

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