Knox County Health Department: COVID-19 cases ‘across the board’ indicate more community spread

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County’s recent up-and-down coronavirus testing numbers suggest people are not doing all they can to stop the spread of the virus, said Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness for the Knox County Health Department.

“Our positive cases are kind of across the board. There’s not a trend that’s coming out there and to me that’s an indicator of more community spread. So we’re not being able to identify a certain population or group that we were seeing it in like we were able to see back in August or September.”

She also explained a typing error made Thursday morning. Before the 12:30 p.m. briefing the new cases count for Knox County was changed to 75.

“The amount of data that we publish daily is just unprecedented,” Menefee said. “There are humans that are doing it and sometimes these things happen. We corrected it as soon as we were made aware of it.”

Benchmarks update

During Thursday’s KCHD briefing, Menefee discussed the county’s COVID-19 benchmark alert system and clarified how it works.

Menefee explained that individual benchmarks having “red flags” on consecutive days demonstrates how steep the growth of COVID-19 is in Knox County. The more steep the increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and the more concerning the virus becomes, she said.

“It gives us an idea of the trajectory of where our data is going to help make decisions on how we want to move forward and what we want to focus on,” Menefee said.

Benchmark No. 1, sustained reduction or stability in new cases for 14 days, was set to “yellow” after spending last week at “red.”

To more visually represent how the benchmarks are being attained, a traffic light is being utilized by KCHD to depict the status of each benchmark.

 Red signifies the trends are not moving towards benchmark attainment and may indicate 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.

The benchmarks are based on data as of Tuesday, Oct. 27.

KCHD reported 75 new cases of the coronavirus among Knox County residents on Thursday. Menefee said over the past 14 days Knox County has averaged 114 new cases per day. The average number of new cases over the last seven days is 129.

Benchmark No. 2, community-wide sustained and increased diagnostic testing with consistent or decreased test result reporting turnaround time, is yellow. More than 8,000 tests were conducted for Knox County residents and testing turnaround time between collection and lab report is 2.46 days from Oct. 18-24.

Benchmark No. 3, sustained or increased public health capability, remains green. There has been no change to the number of epidemiology support team members.

Benchmark No. 4, health care system capabilities remain within current and forecasted surge capacity, is yellow. This benchmark uses regional data and Knox County data to show the number of positive patients in the hospital, intensive care unit beds used, and ventilators used.

Available capacity for all hospital beds in the 19 hospitals for the region is at 24%. Available ICU bed capacity is at 12.9% and ventilator capacity is at 56.7%.

Benchmark No. 5, sustained or decreased COVID-19 related death rate for identified positive or probable cases, is yellow. There have been three deaths in the last seven days.

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