Chattanooga mayor raises concerns about COVID-19 cases

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nearly a month after being forced to reopen his city, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is raising concerns about recent data that he says shows the coronavirus is still actively spreading throughout the area.

As of Wednesday, Hamilton County — which encompasses Chattanooga — had 774 confirmed cases, more than double the number it had 10 days earlier.

Berke told reporters that although testing in the area has increased, the Hamilton County Health Department has not released how many tests are being conducted. That has made tracking the ratio of positive tests to total people tested impossible.

“What we have to do now is acknowledge that there is spread going on in our community,” Berke said.

Hamilton County Health Administrator Becky Barnes told reporters Tuesday that the increase in case numbers was due to both increased spread and increased testing. The county has screened more than 14,000 residents, about 4% of its population.

Berke had initially disagreed that his city was ready to reopen back when restaurants and retail stores started accepting in-store customers in late April. However, he was blocked from enforcing his extended shelter-in-place order after Hamilton County health officials decided to comply with Gov. Bill Lee’s reopening plan.

“I made clear what we should do. That isn’t what we did, and now my job is to help mitigate where we are,” Berke said Wednesday when asked if he felt the increased in numbers were related to reopening the region.

Overall, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 21,306 confirmed cases statewide and 353 deaths.

In Shelby County, health officials reported 102 deaths Wednesday, an increase of eight deaths from the previous day. The county, Tennessee’s largest by population, has reported 4,581 total cases.

Of the 102 deaths, 40 have been reported at 19 senior care facilities, such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.

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Adrian Sainz contributed to this report from Memphis, Tennessee and Jonathan Mattise contributed from Nashville, Tennessee.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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