Coronavirus in Tennessee: Knox County reports record spike in part to state’s reporting system shutdown

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department reported its biggest one-day spike in COVID-19 cases yet with more than 50 new cases reported.

Knox County reported 53 new total cases on Monday. There have been 913 total cases in the county.

Knox County reported 265 active cases, up from 223 on Sunday. The net gain of 42 new active cases is the biggest 1-day jump since spikes of 36 and 26 last week as some cases get moved to other jurisdictions or previous cases recover.

There are 15 Knox County COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized, up from 12 on Sunday. There have been five total deaths in Knox County from COVID-19. The last death from COVID-19 was reported on April 28.

Eleven new recovered case were reported Monday, bringing the total number of recovered COVID-19 cases to 642. Recovered cases refer to those who have been released from isolation after 10 days from their onset of symptoms, plus 72 hours of being symptom-free. Recovered does not mean necessarily the person had to be hospitalized.

Of the 912 cases, 75 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. There are 29 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.

Increase in testing, surveillance system shutdown contribute to sudden case increase

As more people test positive for COVID-19 in the state, more are getting tested leading to an increase in wait times for results and a shutdown on Sunday to the recording system the state uses.

According to Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan, the system shut down to the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System Base System, known as NBS, was also partially to blame for Monday’s steep rise in active cases.

“We will continue to update our data but … until the system returns to full functionality the data may not be complete,” Buchanan said.

She went on to say that while some of the state’s numbers may not be accurate and undercount some cases, she is confident in the postive-case numbers given out by the Knox County Health Department.

“We know the numbers we have are solid,” Buchanan said. “We know for sure that the positives (we are reporting) are positives. There could be positives out there that we don’t know about (that haven’t come in for testing).”

Buchanan reverses statement on COVID-19-positive critical infrastructure workers

Buchanan also said she misspoke last week about whether positive cases could work in critical infrastructure jobs, like those in restaurants.

“An individual who is positive for COVID-19 should not report to work regardless of whether or not they are showing symptoms and regardless of whether they work in critical infrastructure,” she said of the CDC and state Department of Health guidelines on Monday. “Individuals who work in a critical infrastructure role, such as food service, who are a close contact to a positive case but are asymptomatic may report to work.

“However they must wear a mask and adhere to specific practices prior to and during their work shift.”

A close contact employee is asked to self-quarantine, going only to work and home, and are monitored daily. If an employee becomes symptomatic they are treated as a probable case and are required to stay home from work.

Fourth of July precautions

With the Fourth of July coming Saturday, it is up to each person to decide how to celebrate, Buchanan said.

“Residents should be thoughtful about whether they should attend cookouts or not,” she said. “If you do choose to go to a cookout, you need to be able to maintain social distancing.”

Buchanan again stressed the five core actions of the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan:

  • 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.

“While we know people are sick of hearing us talk about these actions, they continue to be the best way to protect yourself and those around you,” she said.

Buchanan said regardless of where or what your Independence Day plans are, the actions should apply as “the rules of the virus don’t change.” She also offered a suggestion that if you plan to attend a cookout, you might consider bringing your own food so as to avoid any further contamination.

Knox County testing

Testing this week at the Health Department will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the main office, 140 Dameron Ave. KCHD saw more than 300 people seeking a test on Friday and wait times have increased to as much as an hour.

The return of testing results from the state lab has also increased to as much as five to seven days, according to Buchanan. Those seeking a test should wear a mask while waiting and be prepared to wait. Those who are not in line by 2 p.m. may be asked to come back at a later date to allow for the staff to prepare results for analysis and disinfect surfaces for the next day.

The Health Department has shifted hours and added staff to reduce times this week.

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

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