Regional COVID-19 hospitalizations hit record high; hospitals urge public to get tested, follow guidelines

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — COVID-19 hospitalizations in and around Knox County are higher than they have ever been and the hospital systems are urging people to get tested and to follow the safety guidelines.

That was the message given by the Knox County Health Department on Thursday during their twice-weekly briefing. There are currently 51 Knox County residents hospitalized according to the Health Department.

In region hospitals there are 192 inpatients battling COVID-19 as of Tuesday, Oct. 6.

The department’s benchmarks were updated Wednesday evening. The fourth benchmark, Health care system capabilities remain within current and forecasted surge capacity, was “yellow.” The hospital systems for the counties surrounding Knox County make the call on how to represent the benchmark.

To more visually represent how the benchmarks are being attained, a traffic light is being utilized 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.

Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness of the KCHD, stressed that despite the lowering number of cases the hospitalization rate rising is troubling.

According to the KCHD COVID-19 data page, hospital beds have an available capacity of 24.1% (737 beds) as of Tuesday, Oct. 6. Intensive-care unit beds have 11.2% (31) available capacity. Ventilators available capacity stands at 56.3% (138).

“These data are trending in the wrong direction for our community,” Menefee said. “Hospitalizations are a surrogate for how well our community is doing as it does not rely on testing choice or access. Whether or not an individual has been tested previously does not keep the from the need to be hospitalized if their illness becomes severe.

“So in seeing the rate of hospitalizations continue to rise, the hospital systems are asking the community to intensify their efforts to slow the rate of COVID spread and resulting hospitalizations.

“Avoiding a diagnosis does not help the individual or community, and if anything, allows for the disease to spread throughout the community which has many consequences. We need to keep our hospitalizations as low as possible so that they can continue to provide the highest level of COVID and non-COVID care without having to limit services again.”

Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness of the KCHD

Benchmark No. 2, Community-wide sustained and increased diagnostic testing with consistent or decreased test result reporting turnaround time, was also yellow.

Menefee said there has been a decrease in testing over the last two weeks in Knox County.

“We’re worried that the burden of disease is higher than what our tests are showing,” she said.

Menefee went on to say she knows there is a sense of fatigue locally with the pandemic entering into its eighth month, but real consequences can be felt by those experiencing COVID-19 and those seeking care for other ailments when supply and staff are stretched thin.

Benchmark No. 5, Sustained or decreased COVID-19 related death rate for identified positive or probable cases, was also yellow. There have been 13 deaths in the last 14 days and eight in the last seven days among Knox County residents.

The Knox County percent positive per 100,000 tests is 8.4%.

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