Coronavirus Tennessee: UT Medical Chief Medical Officer offers praise for collaboration, leadership during pandemic

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Dr. Keith Gray, chief medical officer at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, praised the work being done by hospital systems, government leaders and the Knox County Health Department on Tuesday during the department’s media briefing.

Gray, the acting spokesperson for the Knoxville area’s hospital systems, praised the collaboration between medical and governmental leadership and said the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic will pay dividends should similar issues arise in the future.

“The leadership that has been shown in this community has dampened the impact relative to other communities in our nation,” he said, putting emphasis on KCHD’s work. “Without them, without their leadership we would not have successfully navigated this pandemic to the point where we are right now.”

Gray’s vote of confidence came hours after the Knox County Commission passed a resolution critical of the Knox County Board of Health which is made up of medical professionals and KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan.

Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness at the Knox County Health Department, said the department needs to do a better job of bringing what they do to protect the community to the forefront.

“Having a better understanding from the get-go of what public health does is something that we can continue to work on and try to do a better job of making sure our community is aware of the work that we’ve done in the background,” she said.

Data update

Gray went on to say that new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations reached a peak around late July and early August when students were returning to school and people were traveling for the Labor Day holiday.

Speaking about UT Medical Center cases, Gray said hospitalizations of cases have ranged in age from 36 to 96 with an average age of 62.

What has changed is the symptoms and severity among positive cases. As more has been learned about the virus, the need for stays in intensive-care has fallen statewide.

During Gray’s last briefing on Aug. 5, 40% of positive cases that were hospitalized required a stay in the ICU. Now it is around 25%.

Current systems being seen in most positive COVID-19 cases include respiratory issues, fever, gastrointestinal issues, and loss of taste and/or smell.

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