Knox County Health Department reports no new COVID-19 cases, no current Knox County hospitalizations

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department reported no new COVID-19 cases on Friday.

Knox County reported 67 active cases on Friday, unchanged from Thursday.

The total number of recovered cases remained at 233. 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 no Knox County patients currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, down from one hospitalization reported Thursday. Of the 305 cases, 37 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness and five deaths. 

There are three 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. The department holds a daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m. that can be viewed in this web story or on the Knox County Youtube channel.

What no new cases means

Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness for the Knox County Health Department, said having no new cases of COVID-19 and no Knox County COVID-19 patients at hospitals on Friday is encouraging, but it is not a sustained trend.

“It is still somewhat early to know if we’ve seen the full impact of the reopening yet, but so far we are pleased with the progress,” she said, as the county reached the phase one midway point of the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan.

There have been four days of no new, or negative numbers, in positive COVID-19 cases since the Health Department began to track the data on March 20. The department has said negative numbers are the result of cases being transferred to other jurisdictions as patients seek medical care from places outside Knox County.

“There’s nothing alarming at this point,” Menefee said. “It is still a little early to see if there’s been any big trends from the reopening and we will be looking into that next week even more since we will be out of a full incubation period, but so far things are looking good.”

Traffic light details

KCHD gave its updated data for the week as well as some more clearly defined points for its traffic light system.

“Every day we look back at the previous 14 days,” Menefee said. “We are simply trying to see if things are staying the same or are they getting worse, and if so, how much worse.

“For the majority of our benchmarks … is we want to see no three-day, statistically significant shifts within a 14-day time period.”

The five benchmarks — sustained reduction or stability in new cases for 14 days; community-wide sustained and increased diagnostic testing with consistent or decreased test result reporting turnaround time; sustained or increased public health capability; health care system capabilities remain within current and forecasted surge capacity; and sustained or decreased COVID-19 related death rate for identified positive or probable cases — are still green, meaning all standards are being met.

 Red signifies the trends are not moving towards benchmark attainment and may indicate mid-phase adjustments need to be made.

 Yellow signifies the trends are moving towards/away from reaching benchmark attainment. Yellow indicates caution.

 Green signifies that the benchmark is currently met.

Menefee did say that there was an increase in ICU bed use, a metric used in determining system capabilities for a potential surge, to five patients this week. This metric includes ICU beds at all Knox County hospitals and includes all patients, not just Knox County residents. On Thursday there was one patient in ICU.

“Because this number is so low to begin with, even a small increase registers as statistically significant,” she said. “The decision to keep this traffic light green came after talking with hospital partners and getting their input, as well as taking all of the data into consideration.

“For this benchmark, we always look at the data while communicating with the hospitals who will work with us to access their health care system capacity.”

As of May 7, Knox County hospitals have 192 intensive care unit beds, 80 of which are available, with the ability to add more, should a surge require them.

Menefee stressed that each of the five benchmarks, as well as input from city and county officials, are used in determining whether the reopening plan will move forward, backward or require a mid-phase adjustment and those decisions cannot be made “in a vacuum.”

“Decisions must be made by looking at multiple data points and trends while incorporating public health expertise and developments in science and technology,” she said.

Staying informed

While so much has changed since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States began, keeping up with the advancements in testing, treatment and safety guidelines is a challenge. Menefee said to be aware of where you get your information and to continue to follow the updated guidelines.

“We ask that people expect that there be changes and know that … and just try your best to stay informed,” she said.

“It’s hard, believe me, we are doing it every day. Go to the CDC’s website, you can check our data and all of those things, to see what the changing information is.”

Notes

  • The Health Department expects to give about 1,200 free COVID-19 tests at six public housing locations this weekend.
  • Masks should continue to be worn in public when you cannot practice social distancing. “It is really about looking out for your neighbors, your friends, your loved ones and all of those people who may be susceptible to having complications from this, and we don’t want to spread it,” Menefee said.
  • KCHD will continue its free drive-thru testing on Monday, Wednesday, Friday at the Public Works building next week while focusing on underserved communities on Tuesday and Thursday. You have to schedule a time by calling 865-215-5555.

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