COVID-19: 3/31/2020 Update (Including Today’s Health Department Briefing)

Scenes from Downtown During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Knoxville, March 2020

I’m coming at you a bit later today due to a personal obligation. We’ll cut right to it:

International News:

The numbers worldwide continue to grow rapidly. As of this writing, based on the Worldometer data, there are 828,305 diagnosed cases of COVID-19. This reflects about a 10% increase from yesterday, which, if continued, would mean a doubling every seven days. There have now been 40,733 deaths, which reflects about a 15% increase over yesterday.

As I follow the countries and states every day, whether locations are above or below about ten percent seems to be an indicator of whether the situation is getting better (the curve is bending) or worse. It’s been helpful for me to think that way, particularly in locations with small numbers. The numerical increase might seem small, for example 10 cases turning into 11 or 12, but it is the percentage that matters.

National News: 

There are now 176,518 diagnosed cases in the United States, reflecting an over 20% increase from yesterday. In real numbers, we are rapidly closing in on twice the number of cases of any other country (Italy, with 105,792). Known deaths now total 3,431, an increase of just under 30% from yesterday. Yesterday was the first day in which more than 500 died in the U.S. (558) and we topped 20,000 new diagnoses in a day.

As the numbers expand, the illnesses and deaths will get closer and closer to home. Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor from whom many get their news, has now been diagnosed and will continue his job from home. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta lost a friend to the illness. I now know someone locally who is being tested and another in isolation. I also learned this morning that a friend’s father died of the illness. It’s becoming much less abstract.

Across the country, some spots are already experiencing horrific results (New York, New Orleans and others are close behind), while many locations are currently well within capacity to deal with the levels of illness they are seeing. An interesting, and perhaps predictable, divide is emerging between the responses to the crisis by mayors of cities and the governors of states. We’ve seen that play out locally. Speaking of . . .

State and Local News:

Yesterday, Governor Lee issued a “Safer at Home” order, and it comes a week after the same was done locally. It also falls short of what a large group of medical professionals have urged in the state, which is “Shelter at Home,” requiring, instead of requesting, that citizens stay home except for when vitally necessary. The lapse in time between the major cities issuing this guidance and the governor doing so statewide means that rural and small-town areas have continued spreading the virus for additional time.

Reflecting the current partisan divides, he said he would not require the distancing because of his concern for personal liberties. We may learn through this that the cost both to health and the economy would be smaller if we placed more severe restrictions more quickly, allowing us to get past the outbreak quickly. Half measures and semi-compliance will likely extend the crisis.

Currently confirmed cases in the state total 2,026, reflecting an increase of over 10% from yesterday. 13 deaths have been confirmed, reflecting a 30% increase over yesterday.

Locally, a total of 63 cases are reported confirmed in Knox County, just over a 10% increase from yesterday. There have been no reported new deaths. In a move that appears slow, but welcome, Knox County announced yesterday that all playgrounds and park restrooms are now closed.

Health Department Press Conference:

Charity Menefee, Director of Communicable and Environmental Disease and Emergency Preparedness at the Knox County Health Department, led the briefing. Today’s briefing became completely virtual, with press connected via video and none present. She started by thanking the many people who have volunteered. She thanked Governor Lee for his new directive. She noted that local governments can be more strict and cited the recent closure of playgrounds in Knox County as an example.

Noting the number above, 63 people have been confirmed ill, 24 have recovered, and 11 were hospitalized at some point during their illness. She strongly encouraged continued physical distancing and not having large gatherings. The local standard continues to be groups of no larger than ten. (Ed. Comment: Why? Why not say no gatherings?)

  • She said medical capacity fluctuates and can be increased, and the health department isn’t asking them to continually report numbers.
  • She stated that it is important that people social distance even in lines for take-out food, etc.
  • She asked that people buy only what they need and not hoard.
  • Asked why the University of Tennessee Medical Center is already using masks, she said it is to start conserving in preparation for future demand.
  • On masks for the public, she said “first and foremost” medical providers should wear them and those caring for others with the illness should do the same.
  • She stressed fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the concerning symptoms.
  • It’s too early to know trends because the numbers are so small.
  • No cases have been identified in the jail population locally, and they are working closely with the jails on procedures should there be any.


  1. Leslie Badaines says

    I am so grateful for your continued updates! Stay safe and healthy!

  2. Neil McBride says

    Your summaries and comments are excellent — short and to the point. Thanks, Alan.

  3. Thank you for writing this!

  4. Jerry Lenn says

    We appreciate the daily update. Great work Alan!

  5. Betty Bean says

    Thanks, Alan. These updates are invaluable. It has to be wearing you down.

  6. Kristina Gordon says

    Alan – I just heard from Parinda Khatri at Cherokee Health Systems that they desperately need masks and gowns. If people can make them using the templates online and drop them off at Center City that would be a huge help.

  7. Brenda Palmer says

    Thank you for keeping us informed.

  8. I, too, appreciate your reporting, Alan. And I have no problem with some of my liberties being taken away temporarily if it means that my loved ones get to continue living. I would appreciate more of our leaders taking a stand instead of being so wishy washy. I don’t understand the “gatherings” limited to ten people, either. It would only take one infected individual to cause harm to the other nine.

    • Susan Ballard says

      Judith- I agree with the wishy washy comment.

    • Dee Pierce says

      I agree with everything you stated, Judith. And I’m very upset that Gov. Lee did not support the “Shelter in Place” petition which thousands of Tennesseans signed this past week. I personally recruited a number of signees here in Knoxville. The “Safe at Home” order simply doesn’t “contain” to the degree that we need to help stop this highly contagious and deadly disease. If Lee would do his homework (study the response of other nations who are turning the curve, per example) and listen to the experts (scientists, physicians, etc.), he could help save lives. Instead, he’s decided to put “personal liberties” (only excuse I found) ahead of public health in Tennessee. That tells me he doesn’t understand the nature of the crisis and/or when preserving life is far more important than anyone’s personal freedom. Without life, freedom doesn’t matter. I left a voice message with the Governor about his watered down COVID-19 response to the petition by Tennessee’s medical community and citizens. Here is his number, if others would like to urge him to toughen up. Call 615-741-2001.

  9. Allison Webb says

    Thank you so much for these updates. As I am still working non-stop at this point, your summary of the daily briefings are the only way I can keep up with it all. Thank you, thank you!

  10. You are my go-to source for updates. Clear, complete but concise and no spin. Thanks!

  11. Thank you for your continued updates. We took the dogs for a walk at Victor Ashe Park on Saturday and bouncy houses were being set up. I don’t understand why law enforcement would allow this to happen. It could only be a bad outcome.

    • Yes! We did the same and were shocked when we saw the bounce houses going up as well. Why?!

      Alan, I want to join my voice to the many praises you are receiving. I so appreciate your articles and updates and look forward to them daily. Thank you!

  12. Alan your analysis of the numbers, locally, nationally and globally, is so helpful. So much to be gleaned from this statistical data you put into your excellent writing. No doubt this is taking you much time to research and communicate. Thank you so much.

  13. Sue Groves says

    Thank you for your daily reports. I especially like your candid, but brief, comments after sharing questionable information, such as that from the governor. How he can be so spineless in dealing with this crisis is very disturbing. Over the weekend some home improvement stores were inundated with shoppers. I know this because I have a family member who works at one, and he and fellow employees are worried about getting sick. Greed and sales seem more important than the workers health and the public good. We still have a substantial number of people not taking this seriously.

    • So what are you going to do if your water heater starts leaking or a tree limb falls on your house and requires repairs? These home stores need to stay open for those reasons. Its not greedy owners. People are getting tired of being locked in their house. Is it any wonder when they are stuck in it all the time they are going out to buy and do stuff to it. I realize as a society we have to walk a line here but the reality is that living in fear forever is not going to happen. I don’t care if I get sick. I told my mother I would not see her for awhile and have kept my distance from everyone I can.

      The reality is that I have worked as a chef for 20+ years I am use to moving a lot for 12-15 hours a day 6-7 days a week, and now all of a sudden I have no job and I am expected to lock myself in my house none stop. Its not a matter of not taking this seriously its a matter of my mental health too. I was at Home Depot this weekend. It was crowded but no one that I saw was on top of each other. I talk to a man and his wife about growing blueberries from about 10′ away. When I got in line everyone stayed anyway from each other. After I paid with a debit card the cashier kindly tapped a bottle of hand sanitizer on the counter so I could see it was available.

      This is serious but acting like we can all lock ourselves in our house for the next two to three months and it not cause serious harm is a joke. We are doing this to slow the spread so our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed. It is not going to STOP the spread. Its here, its widespread, and its going to run its course. Use some common sense so when this is over we still have something to go back too. People at a home improvement store are not evil. We live in a free society and its going to stay that way no matter how much you fear.

  14. Can’t say says

    What are we to tell our children (specifically teenagers who definitely don’t understand the need for social distancing) when they want to go “hang” with a friend during this Safer at home” period??
    Especially when other parents allow this to happen. A Shelter at home order would definitely curb this kind of behavior and help decrease the spread of this virus. This is a crucial time for our state where our current actions can make or break our future. I’m not so worried about my children actually getting violently ill with this virus as I am about its transmission from asymptomatic carriers and/or mildly ill carriers. Many parents are still lucky enough to work outside of their home and all of us at some point go to a store, ATM or gas station. We can wash our hands all day, but someone’s virus laden droplets can still land on our hair ( I just threw up a little thinking about that) or on our clothes while we as parents are running errands. Then we innocently pass it on as we hug our children. Or when we scratch our head, touch our phone then put the phone up to our mouth.
    Believe me, it is difficult being home all day with teenagers who are mad at being kept home by their “paranoid” Mom. I prefer to think of it as “tough love”. A short term pain for a long term gain.
    I am not qualified to help on the front lines of this war against the virus. But I can make a difference if I can keep the spread of this Covid-19 disease down, even if it’s just by 1 person.
    How many people live in TN?? If we all stop the spread by 1, then it’s more than worth the simple action of staying at home.
    I also feel that families effected by divorce and currently involved in parenting agreements need to rethink their plan for a temporary solution that is best for everyone’s health. Switching homes just increases chances of spreading the virus. And sometimes, one parent may not be as diligent about following CDC/state recommendations. Just saying.
    Special shout out to all the healthcare workers, 1st responders, politicians and health Dept workers who have had to step up their game and/or put themselves in harms way… thanks, hang in there and know that you are appreciated!

  15. Marc Atchley says

    Has anyone read about Sweden’s approach? Intelligent, caring people (and governments) can differ in their opinions as to how best to deal with this pandemic. The Guardian has an interesting article that leaves me curious to see whether the Swedish approach ends up being genius or an epic failure. Here’s the link:
    Also, what about the universal use of face masks? The Telegraph (UK) published an article with surprising statistics about the helpfulness of even simple face masks.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Both are interesting articles. The mask debate is ramping up. I’m seeing some on the street and I bet we’ll start to see more. The article about Sweden is fascinating. I had not tuned in to it. From everything I’ve read and the rate of increase the article cited, I can’t see how that ends well. I’m really surprised they are taking such a nonchalant approach. It will be a country to watch. Thank you for the links.

  16. Twice the number of *confirmed* cases. We’re testing more than any other country (1m so far, 100k per day). Other countries (especially those that have deaths that dwarf ours) likely have more cases, but have not confirmed them.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      That’s why I continue to use words like “confirmed” and “acknowledged.” The disparity in testing and reporting is making comparisons very difficult. That said, we know how many cases have been confirmed and, more importantly, we know how many people have died. Also, to say we are testing more than any other country is similarly complicated. Both South Korea and Italy have dwarfed the U.S. in tests per million. I’m not sure which other countries you mean when you say countries that “have deaths that dwarf ours,” because while we aren’t at the top per capita, there are only two countries with more deaths in real numbers, Italy and Spain. As I said in the article, comparing rates per capita puts us lower, but gets complicated as to the kinds of tiny countries that get included in the comparisons.

  17. Me. Pamela Schoenewaldt says

    I don’t get Lee’s use of “personal liberties.” He doesn’t support women’s personal liberties to make reproductive choices. The “personal liberties” to have an assault weapon limits the right to life of innocent people. And so on. And the “personal liberties” of people to hang out and drink/party together in this time can mean death for themselves and others, as well as longer time under “safe/r at home” restrictions.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.