Coronavirus in Tennessee: 104 active Knox County cases, Health Department disputes mask-wearing complications

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department reported six new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 596.

Knox County reported 104 active cases on Wednesday, up from 102 reported on Tuesday. Monday marked the first time the total number of active cases had dropped below 100 since Tuesday, June 6.

Knox County reported four new recovered cases on Wednesday. The total number of recovered COVID-19 cases is now 487. 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 four on Tuesday. There have been five total deaths in Knox County from COVID-19.

Of the 596 cases, 57 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. There are 21 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 for more information.

Board of Health meeting tonight

The Knox County Board of Health will meet virtually at 5 p.m. tonight for the first time since the county Law Office said plans for Phase 3 of Knox County’s reopening plan should be made by the board. The change of policy was announced Friday at the Health Department’s press briefing.

The meeting will be streamed live on Community Television.

Mask questions answered

Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan offered advice and answered questions pertaining to masks during Wednesday’s press briefing.

Buchanan said cloth-based masks need to be washed daily if used for extended periods of time.

“We know that wearing a mask is better than not wearing a mask,” she said.

Buchanan was asked about masks causing difficulty breathing, raised body temperatures, and strep throat. She disputed the claims.

“People that work in hospitals have been wearing masks during their shifts for a very long time, well before COVID-19 and we haven’t seen that happen,” she said about raised body temperatures.

As for strep, Buchanan said she’s “not sure the science would support the theory.”

Buchanan also refuted that masks do not work.

“I think there is a body of evidence that would disagree with those people,” she said. “We do know that masks trap droplets that we breathe out. We put little droplets out that we can’t see everytime we breathe out and when we cough and when we talk as well.

It is not the big droplets so much that we are worried about. It’s those little droplets that you can’t see and we know that masks can trap those.”

Buchanan said despite personal feelings on masks, the public should follow the five core actions of the Knoxville-Knox County reopening plan.

“If you choose not to wear a mask, please observe social distancing and wash your hands regularly,” she said. “You can wear a mask or not wear a mask, but we need to reduce risk for everybody. So if you’re not going to wear a mask observe social distancing. If you’re going to wear a mask, we still want you to observe social distancing but it is not as important.”

Bulk mask distribution put on hold

The Health Department is putting a hold on mask distribution for community organizations to replenish its supplies. The department began offering the state-issued cloth masks Monday through its website but the demand has been greater than anticipated.

Buchanan said in the last two days 171,943 masks have been given out to organizations and individuals on a first-come, first-served basis. More than 300 organizations have asked for masks.

“We simply don’t have the quantity at the moment to distribute them in bulk to organizations,” Buchanan said. “We are working to get more soon and will resume distribution to organizations at that point.”

Individuals can continue to visit the KCHD main office, 140 Dameron Ave., to pick up a face mask or face covering from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Health Department testing events coming up

This Thursday, KCHD will host a walk-up testing site from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Carter Senior Center, 9036 Asheville Highway. A second community testing event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, June 22, at the East Knoxville Free Medical Clinic at Magnolia Avenue United Methodist Church.

You do not have to have symptoms of COVID-19 and no appointment is needed for either community testing event. There is no cost to the individual receiving a test.

Free testing is also ongoing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Health Department’s main office. Again, no appointment is needed.

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