Knox County COVID-19 hospitalizations increase despite drop in active cases, cases not following core actions

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The number of Knox County patients hospitalized for COVID-19 more than doubled Wednesday despite reporting over 40 new recovered cases.

The Knox County Health Department reported 136 total active COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, down from 161 reported on Tuesday.

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

Eighteen new cases were reported, up 2.51% from Tuesday.

The total number of recovered COVID-19 cases grew to 593, up from 550 on Tuesday. 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.

Of the 734 cases, 63 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. There are 24 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.

Cases not following five core actions

Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness of the Knox County Health Department, says while the county is seeing small clusters, many of the new cases have no known contact to a previous positive case, which indicates community spread.

“These large increases are concerning,” Menefee said. “Some of cases are reporting going to social gatherings and group events and they’re not following the five core actions like wearing a mask and physically distancing.

“We want our community to hear this because it further stresses the importance of taking your health into your own hands and following the five core actions. These actions alone won’t completely eradicate COVID-19 from our community but they will help to slow the spread.”

The five core actions of the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan include:

  • 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.

The increases are not just in Knox County. Sevier County has seen a sharp increase in active cases.

“The more cases that are happening in the community whether it is our community or neighboring communities is worrisome,” Menefee said.

Potentially exposed restaurant workers can still work

Some businesses across the county have elected to close after receiving notice that employees may have been exposed to a COVID-19 case. Menefee said closing is a business’s right and the Health Department “completely supports them” though it is not a requirement.

KCHD works in concert with restaurants that have a potential case of the novel coronavirus, making sure the case appropriately stays in isolation. The Health Department also identifies close contacts within the facility and discusses quarantine with them.

Menefee said restaurants fall under the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s list of critical infrastructure.

“Critical infrastructure employees can continue to go to work while they are in quarantine but they have to wear a mask the whole time they are there,” Menefee said. “There is no give or take on that. No matter if you are social distancing or not, you have to wear a mask. You have to have your symptoms monitored frequently … and they have to notify us if they develop any symptoms and they would have to stay home because they would be treated like a probable case.”

“The main mode of transmission for this virus is close personal contact. So within the definition of 6 feet for more than 10 minutes. … It’s really that close contact, talking, laughing, social gathering through spending a lot of time with each other.

“That’s really the risk. So not so much checking out at a restaurant.”

Hospitals and case numbers

More discrepancies are showing up between the Knox County Health Department’s reported numbers and the numbers given by the state. Tuesday’s increase in active cases could have been two-fold: the time the number of cases were reported to the state and given by the KCHD and a case that was moved to a different county by the state.

“We’re confident in the numbers that we’re providing to you each day,” Menefee said. “So 36 was our number (of new active cases) for yesterday.”

When asked about why the large decrease of active cases from Tuesday, Menefee said each case is different and that it takes at least 10 days of being symptom-free plus 72 hours of no fever to be considered a recovered case. Some cases of COVID-19 only take 10 days to recover. Others can take longer.

Eight Knox County residents are currently hospitalized. Those hospitalizations can be anywhere, not just in Knox County or the region. ICU beds in the 16-county region are at 10% capacity as more people choose to go about their daily lives and more surgeries are scheduled.

Menefee said that capacity is about normal for the 19 hospitals in the region.

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

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