Knox County Health Board addresses wide range of issues at Oct. 14 meeting

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A lot of topics were discussed Wednesday night at Knox County’s Board of Health meeting.

Hospitalizations at a High

A data update from UT Medical Center gives a glimpse into Knoxville area hospitals, showing COVID-19 hospitalizations higher than they’ve ever been in weeks past.

“You see previously we’ve been at 185 and there’s been a significant steady increase really since that had just started before our last meeting two weeks ago,” Dr. James Shamiyeh explained.

“During the past 14 days, we have noted a continuous upward trend in hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients. Additionally, over the last 8 days, we have noticed consecutive red flags for ICU hospitalizations and in-patients requiring ventilation,” said Health Director, Dr. Martha Buchanan.

Hospital Surge Capacity Benchmark

Knox County’s health department tracks health care system capabilities as one of its five COVID-19 benchmarks. On Wednesday, it listed the ability to remain within current and forecasted surge capacity as yellow. That indicates caution.

“After speaking with our hospital partners they have recommended that this benchmark remain at yellow because they are currently below surge capacity and have adequate staffing capabilities for the current number of patients,” Dr. Buchanan said.

Alcohol Curfew Extension

Hospitalizations and increasing case counts prompted health board members to take action on a regulation put in place last month: a sweeping 11 p.m. curfew on bars and restaurants serving alcohol.

“I’ll make a motion based on a significant rise in case counts and hospitalizations to extend for two more weeks as written,” said Dr. Shamiyeh.

The alcohol curfew vote passed 8-1. Mayor Jacobs voted no. The board also extended its social gathering limit.

Knox County Economic Update

Associate Professor of Economics from the University of Tennessee, Matt Harris, also presented at Wednesday’s meeting.

Despite record unemployment claims, he said overall sales tax receipts for the year in Knox County are actually up 13% this year over last year.

Knox County’s Board of Health will meet again in two weeks.

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