Coronavirus in Tennessee: 28 active Knox County cases, testing ‘exceeding expectations’

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knox County Health Department is reporting one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total case number to 193.

There are now 28 active cases in the county as of April 20, down from 32 on Sunday. The total number of cases grew to 193 from 192.

The total number of recovered cases rose to 161, five more than was reported on Sunday. 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 193 cases, 27 of them have resulted in hospitalization at any point during the illness. This figure does not reflect the number of patients currently hospitalized in the county.

The Knox County Health Department updates its numbers daily at 11 a.m. on covid.knoxcountytn.gov.

Testing at KCHD quadruples

Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said that testing there has “exceeded expectations” after being opened up to those not showing traditional symptoms. As of the department’s daily briefing on Monday, the number of free tests given has quadrupled previous days of testing.

Buchanan said last week the department was able to test about 90 people per day when it was required to be in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case or showing one of the main symptoms, fever, cough and shortness of breath, to receive a test there.

The increase in those seeking a test is likely to put a strain on the KCHD’s supply of tests and may lead to a tweak in the schedule of when tests are administered. Buchanan said the department will be able to test about 400 people on Monday and Tuesday before supplies become limited.

“We do not have unlimited supply,” she said. “We are continuously working to get more supplies to do more testing.”

Buchanan reminded those who are seeking a test can get one at most health care sites, including some urgent care sites, and that most insurance providers are paying 100% of costs for testing. If you do not have insurance, the health department is still able to provide a test for you for free.

Delays in results, increase in cases expected

Buchanan also said with increased testing it is likely to see delays in testing results and an increase in confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.

Across the state, more than 11,000 people went to free testing sites this weekend, and more health care providers are giving tests to those seeking one without the traditional symptoms. The typical wait time to receive results is about 4-5 days according to Buchanan.

“The labs got a big volume of tests over the weekend so it’s going to take a little longer to run those tests,” she said. “We know that some of those folks who got tested are going to be positive. We expect to see some increase in positives across the state and in Knox County.”

Health departments across the country and in Knox County are using a test called the polymerase chain reaction test. Buchanan said the test uses a nasal swab that detects the protein of the virus in the body.

“They just help detect the presence or absence of the virus,” she said. “People can sometimes test positive after they’ve recovered and no longer infectious because there is some residual not-living virus in their system.”

Buchanan said those who receive a test should self isolate, even from their own family members when possible, until their results are returned. Any person who tests positive for the COVID-19 virus and shows no symptoms for 72 hours after self-isolating for seven days is considered recovered and is safe to be around others.

Addressing protestors

When asked about her response to the protestors locally and across the country seeking to reopen the economy, Buchanan was sympathetic but cautious.

Almost 100 people showed up to a protest outside of West Town Mall on Sunday calling for the U.S. economy to be reopened.

“I think everybody is ready for us to be able to open up our economy,” she said. “We support opening up our economy when we can safely do that.

“I understand people’s frustration. … We will work with our community leaders to make a safe decision about when we can open our economy back up.”

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