Coronavirus in Tennessee: Knox County reports highest active case count yet; region seeing ‘disproportional share’ of cases

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department reported 16 new active COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 519.

Knox County reported 114 active cases on Wednesday, up from 98 reported on Tuesday.

The previous high for number of active COVID-19 cases in the county was 112, recorded on June 4. The county surpassed 100 total active cases for the first time last week.

No new recovered cases were reported Wednesday. The total number of recovered COVID-19 cases remains at 400.

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 six Knox County COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized, up from two reported on Tuesday. There have been five total deaths in Knox County from COVID-19.

Of the 519 cases, 51 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.

Regional COVID-19 numbers ‘disproportionate’ to state’s numbers

University of Tennessee Chief Medical Officer Dr. Keith Gray said the hospitals in the Knoxville region are seeing a “disproportionate share” in COVID-19 cases compared to the rest of the state, but the health care system is meeting the needs of everyone and able to address a sudden surge of positive cases.

Gray spoke during the Knox County Health Department briefing on Wednesday as a representative of all the hospital systems in the 11-county region including and surrounding Knox County. He said while the number of positive cases is rising in the area, the death rate among positive cases and the number of patients testing positive are near or below the state’s percentages.

The state is seeing a death rate of 1.7%, it is 1.6% in the region. The percentage of people testing positive for the novel coronavirus among those tested is 5.6% statewide and 2.1% regionally.

“Overall, the data shows that we continue to do a good job statewide from a testing standpoint, and we continue to get confirmation that our statewide efforts at social distancing were very impactful,” Gray said.

Gray went on to say that personal protective equipment supplies, intensive care capacity and surge capacity are adequate. For the months of May and June the most hospitalizations seen in one-day for the combined 11-county region has been 13. ICU patients maxed out at seven.

The hospital systems in the region continue to speak weekly about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know, as we continue to monitor the trends, that we have the ability to pivot very, very quickly to accommodate COVID-positive patients should that trend continue to increase,” Gray said.

Don’t delay treatment

Hospitals continue to fill up and return to pre-COVID-19 levels across the region Gray said but that doesn’t make them any less safe. Those seeking medical treatment for chronic diseases and ailments other than COVID-19 should not wait to seek treatment.

Gray said admitted cases for chronic disease from emergency rooms and diseases seen in later stages in relation to previous provider assessments have increased as the pandemic continues. Gray said some chronic disease cases have gotten worse since they did not seek immediate medical care.

“It is safe to return to hospitals to seek medical attention,” he said. “We do not what you to delay your seeking medical attention, especially if you think you need it or have a chronic disease as that disease may be further exacerbated.”

UT Medical Center has recently updated its visitor policies to allow one person per patient, including overnight stays. Visitors will be screened and a face covering is required.

The hospital also intends to test all in-patient or procedure admissions for COVID-19. Only those seeking a test or procedure admissions were previously tested. Gray said pre-procedure testing led to a less than 1% positive case rate.

If you still do not feel comfortable with seeking care in a hospital, Gray suggests you talk with your primary physician.

Addressing asymptomatic cases

The World Health Organization walked back previous comments Tuesday saying asymptomatic cases, those that appear to show no symptoms, of COVID-19 are “very rare.”

The comments were made Monday.

Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan is still stressing the need to follow the five core actions that are part of the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan, including the wearing of faces masks in public.

“There is definitely evidence in several different places demonstrating that people without symptoms of COVID can transmit the virus to other people,” Buchanan said. “The bottom line is if you are asymptomatic, you can still make other people sick so please do the right thing and protect people around you.”

The five core actions 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.

Gray added a sixth action: Avoid large crowds.

School talks beginning

Buchanan said there have been frequent conversations with Knox County Schools and preparations are beginning for what school will look like in the fall. She said lots of work is still to be done to develop a plan.

When asked about if she felt high school graduations were practicing adequate social distancing, Buchanan said she had not seen any of the ceremonies.

“I really trust our families and our schools to make the right choices and do the right thing,” she said.

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

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