COVID-19: 6/4/2020 Update

Worldwide Daily Cases 6.4.2020 (Source: Worldometers.com)

I’m coming at you today with one more chart. The charts help me visualize what is happening and particularly so when they include moving-average lines to smooth out the bumps. I hope they help you, as well. Today I’ve added the Knox County Daily Case Count to the list. I’ll confess to not understanding their trendline. Maybe one of you can explain it to us all. I hope the charts help you as they do me.

On another topic, I received an email from a reader who said I have become an International Covid Blog. This confuses me a bit because, while I do briefly summarize international trends and news, every article on the illness includes local information. On the days when we have a health department press conference, that forms the biggest section. I’m pretty sure the virus and the resultant closures have impacted

At any rate, if you don’t want to read these articles, please be aware that I am publishing two a day and the morning article is almost always about other topics. Like this morning – cute kitties and a new business! Maybe you want to go read that instead of this?

International News:

As of this writing, there are 6,615,298 confirmed and reported cases across the world and 388,759 deaths attributed to the disease. Yesterday saw reports of 121,414 new cases across the world and 4,928 additional deaths. Previously reported trends of increasing confirmed cases continue, with yesterday’s new case total coming in at the third highest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic. The moving average line above shows this pretty clearly, with the near leveling off in April being followed by steady increases since.

The number of reported deaths has been the bright spot in recent weeks, even as the total seems very large. Again, the moving average line helps show that deaths leveled off at their highest level so far in April and steadily declined into late May. There seems to be a leveling off more recently, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. It continues to be an oddity that the number of identified cases are rising, while deaths are declining. Likely, through higher rates of testing, we are identifying more mild or asymptomatic cases we were missing before. The worst of the pandemic has also shifted to countries such as Brazil and especially Russia which are not as forthcoming about deaths.

Worldwide Daily Deaths 6.4.2020 (Source: Worldometers.com)

Yesterday, there were seventeen countries reporting at least 1,000 new cases, a number that has remained pretty steady recently. Brazil continues to surge and surpassed the U.S. in both new cases and deaths yesterday, with world leading 27,312 cases and 1,269 deaths, roughly a quarter of new cases and deaths reported in the world for the day. After Brazil and the U.S., Russia and India continue to identify eight-to-nine thousand new cases a day and to report deaths in the hundreds.

The list of other countries being hard hit with high rates of increases continue to remain much the same. Chile, Pakistan and Bangladesh stand out. Of interest is a surge in Sweden, with a roughly 5.5% single day increase in cases, which may be the biggest percentage surge of the day.

U.S. Daily Cases 6.4.2020 (Source: Worldometers.com)

National News:

The nation continues to grapple with unrest regarding the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman. This is prompting concern regarding the virus on two fronts: fear that the virus will be spread in the protests and concern that we are loosing focus of that other important struggle, the virus. There is reason to feel we need to work toward at least splitting our attention or we could set ourselves back in the struggle to control the illness.

At mid-day, there are 1,906,692 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. 109,255 Americans have died of the illness. Yesterday, 20,578 new cases were reported and 1,083 people died of the illness. The graph above shows that the U.S. peaked in April, averaging just over 30,000 new cases per day. May saw a steady decline to the low 20,000 range, where it has stayed. It’s early to read a trend, but there may be an increase in recent days.

U.S. Daily Deaths 6.4.2020 (Source: Worldometers.com)

Deaths have, thankfully, declined here as they have around the world. Like cases, deaths peaked in April, averaging just over 2,000 a day and then declined more sharply than cases to about half that number. As with cases, there appears to be a stalling in the drop, if not a slight up-tick over the last days.

Part of the drop in cases and deaths may be attributable to the social distancing when the U.S. was at its most locked down. Also of importance to the total numbers is that the virus hit our most heavily populated areas first and now a number of the hardest hit are less populated states, though it is a mix. That scenario could produce lower total numbers with devastating rates in low population areas.

Yesterday, there were four states reporting more than 1,000 new cases. They are in order: California (4,421), Texas (1,464), Florida (1,317) and North Carolina (1,199). It is the first day that three of the top four states reporting cases are in the south. Other southern states and their ranking on yesterday’s list: Georgia (9th), Virginia (10th), Tennessee (15th) and Louisiana (18th).

Tennessee Daily Cases 6.4.2020 (Source: Tn.gov)

State and Local:

Yesterday, the State of Tennessee reported 447 new cases of COVID-19, 7 deaths from the illness and 37 new hospitalizations. It brings totals in each of those numbers since the beginning of the pandemic to 24,822 cases, 388 deaths and 1,829 hospitalizations in the state.

While the drop from over 800 the previous day is encouraging, new cases continue to outpace recovered cases, leading to an increase today of over 40 new cases, bringing that total to around 8,500. The four-day moving average sits between five and six hundred a day for the second consecutive day.

Tennessee Daily Testing and Positivity Rate 6.4.2020 (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

Testing continues to swing so widely from one day to the next, so it is hard, from looking at the charts, to get a handle on whether we are even, increasing or declining. I haven’t, so far, found a site that gives a rolling-average line, which would help. My best guess without adding up all the numbers and making my own averages, is that we are about where we’ve been for a while. The biggest concern from the chart above is that even at a high level of testing, our rate of positive tests is increasing. As explained in detail yesterday, this is not good.

Knoxville Daily Cases 6.4.2020 (Source: Knox County Health Department)

On the local front, the Knox County Health Department is reporting 11 new cases, not as bad as some recent days, but about twice what we ran for most of the month of May. I’ve included the chart above with the trendline I mentioned at the beginning of the article. If anyone would like to explain the trendline, that would be helpful to me, and perhaps others. For a long time it sloped slowly downward and now it slopes slowly upward.

There are 112 active cases in Knox County, which I believe to be a new high. There are two people hospitalized after one was added to that number over night. There are no additional deaths to report and there are 11 cases listed as probable. Totals for the county since the beginning of the pandemic now reflect 452 cases, 44 hospitalized and five dead.

There is no Knox County Health Department Press Conference today, but I did submit a couple of questions for which I received answers. I expressed concern that the testing data reflected in the chart on the Knox County Health Department website is two weeks behind, which makes a read of current testing levels difficult and asked if that could be kept more up to date, as it is one of our benchmarks.

I was told that it has to do with when the benchmarks are updated and when the testing numbers are totaled. Benchmarks are updated on Friday, but the current week of testing data runs to Sunday, which means the graph is updated to include the previous week, but the new week’s data isn’t complete, resulting in the lag. As a result, for example, the current data only includes through the week of May 24. That week showed a very slight decline in testing, but with no more recent data, it delays knowing if that reflects a trend.

Another testing benchmark tracks speed of test result returns, with the goal of getting them back more quickly. Slower results mean longer isolation for people who may not have the illness and can reflect a struggle or inefficiencies in returning results in a timely manner. At the earliest point, test results were returning in an average of just over 10 days. That steadily improved to the last week of April at which time test turn-around time bottomed out at 2.49 days on average. It has steadily gotten worse since, increasing each week to the most recent reported at 3.88.

I was told this may be because there are “more opportunities for testing,” but that it was being monitored. This is why it would be helpful to see if we are actually doing more testing in something closer to real time.

There is a Knox County Health Department press conference tomorrow.

Scruffy’s Cafe Opens Tomorrow at 1015 North Broadway (Plus Some Important Notes at the End)

Scruffy’s Cafe, 1015 North Broadway, Knoxville, June 2020

Tennessee appears to be at the cutting edge of the cat world. At least that’s how it appears. I stopped into Scruffy’s Cafe and talked with co-owners Talisa Cantrell and Emily Deas and learned that Tennessee has five cat cafes (with this opening on Friday), which places it atop the states with the most cat cafes. This is Knoxville’s first.

Talisa said it began last winter when she  and her partner (and now co-owner) William Ridenour flew out west to go snowboarding in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Landing in Denver and with some time to kill, they did a quick search of things to do and found the Denver Cat Company, which is not, as you might guess a production line for cats. They spent some time drinking cider and playing with the cats. Talisa said they looked at each other with the same idea.

Scruffy’s Cafe, 1015 North Broadway, Knoxville, June 2020

Scruffy’s Cafe, 1015 North Broadway, Knoxville, June 2020

Back in Knoxville, where she worked in the mental health field, Talisa called her father and told him that she and William planned to open a Cat Cafe. He was very supportive and then he asked, “What’s a cat cafe?” She explained it’s a place where people can enjoy being with cats, eat a few snacks and maybe take home a new friend if a cat selects them.

They began making plans and finding a location. They connected up with Happy Paws, a local cat rescue organization. Once they had a space, they began a build out that would need to be safe and secure for the cats to roam around since they are a no-cage facility. She said they turn the idea of rescuing a cat on its head, saying sometimes it rescues you, for which they’ve claimed the hastag #whatrescuesyou.

Scruffy’s Cafe, 1015 North Broadway, Knoxville, June 2020

They did a GoFundMe campaign to raise money and had a thousand shares within a couple of days and raised over $4,000, more than enough to get the business moving. Talisa got a message from Emily who said she’d had dreamed of doing this for years and wanted to meet her. She sent a Buzzfeed video in which she was featured. The two instantly connected and Emily became a partner, coming up with the hashtag and design for the logo which she is now painting on the side of their building.

The idea is simple on its face: book a time online (encouraged, but not required) and pay $10 during the week or $12 during the weekend to spend an hour playing with the kittens. While Talisa said that some people check in and run to the back, others linger a bit and get snacks. Snacks are currently available and merchandise is on the way. If you are chosen by one of the furry creatures, an adoption can be arranged.

Scruffy’s Cafe, 1015 North Broadway, Knoxville, June 2020

Scruffy’s Cafe, 1015 North Broadway, Knoxville, June 2020

It’s a strange time to open a business with the pandemic going on, but Talisa said in some respects, it’s ok. Both she and Emily emphasized¬† that its not just to help the cats, its to help people. It offers a safe and comforting space to spend some time and if ever that was needed, it would be now. Talisa said, “I’m glad we can be here for the community at this time. We want it to be the kind of place where you can forget about what’s outside, pet cats, and talk with others.” She said it’s a “happy space.”

Scruffy’s Cafe, 1015 North Broadway, Knoxville, June 2020

She said some people come in and visit out front, but others make a bee-line for the back where she says “Kitty Paradise” awaits “beyond the golden doors. Once inside, customers will find kittens roaming about and making their people selections. There’s also a blue room which is a sort of symbolic space and reflects the mental health component the two want to incorporate. They are building a resource list of therapists and counselors and hope to use their space for support groups of various sorts. They’ve spoken to local professionals about coming in to help with those.

Scruffy’s Cafe, 1015 North Broadway, Knoxville, June 2020

The two very much believe in animal therapy and think being around the kittens will have a calming effect on people. The two say they are here to make a difference for the people and the animals. As Emily put it, “At our soft opening this weekend, people kept saying this was better than their therapy. Our own cats were important to our mental health and we want that for other people.

Scruffy’s Cafe, 1015 North Broadway, Knoxville, June 2020

Scruffy’s Cafe had a successful soft opening last weekend and for about five hours on Saturday and five more on Sunday, they booked their maximum of fourteen people per hour. They will open tomorrow and begin their regular hours, which are 11:00 am to 7:00 pm Tuesday through Friday and 10:00 am to 7:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. They will be closed on Monday.

You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram, or learn more and make your reservations on their website.


Other Notes:

Gregory’s Greenhouse will hold a two hour curbside sale of plants in front of Knoxville Soap Candle and Gifts tomorrow from 11 -2

The state is releasing $200 million for small businesses, soon. When available, details will be found here.

 

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