COVID-19: 4/1/2020 Update (Including Today’s Health Department Briefing)

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

I hope you are each staying as safe as possible and following the Safer at Home orders issued by state and local governments. As with any rapidly evolving situation, it’s easy to be a step behind. I think that goes for individuals as well as governments and medical professionals. The concept of doing now what will be expected next is a difficult one, particularly when being asked to change ingrained habits.

I’m reminded of caretakers. I’ve had the opportunity to care for relatives and to watch relatives care for one another. It’s a clear pattern, particularly as we are asked to give up boundaries that have existed between family members involving privacy and dignity. Once we admit that our loved one needs help, they’ve already needed it for a while. Once we acknowledge that we need to start bathing our mother, who would have hated that when she was well, we needed to have been doing that for a while. Generally, when I’ve seen family members taken to a nursing home, it comes months or years after what, reasonably, would have been the best time to make that decision.

Now, in a sense, we are all caretakers. Caretakers of those we love, yes, but also of our local communities and the larger community that is our country. We all want the best for our loved ones, our community, and our country. Still, it’s hard to know when to change behaviors to adapt to new information and to do it quickly enough that it prevents the most harm, while preserving what we can of what we had and of what our country has been.

We need to patiently, but with urgency, continue that dialogue among ourselves. It is hard. Most of us are afraid. Some more afraid of the startling numbers of deaths now being predicted and others more afraid of the startling economic devastation being predicted. Both are important and shouldn’t be seen as mutually exclusive. Disagree strongly, but respectfully, and let’s figure this out and save the people and places that we all love.

International News:

As of mid-day today, there are 887,257 cases of COVID-19 world-wide. The number increased about 9.5% since yesterday. Italy and Spain, two of the hardest hit countries, continue to show a bending of the curve, with Italy now below a 5% daily increase in cases and Spain edging toward that mark. Deaths are continuing at a higher rate in those countries, although yesterday’s increases were below 10%. There have been 44,265 deaths. Yesterdays toll represented about a 9% increase worldwide.

Yesterday in a comment, a reader left a link that I wanted to share here because I found it fascinating. According to the Guardian, Sweden, long considered a very forward-thinking country, has chosen a different course than all its neighbors in its response to the virus, thus far. Schools, gyms and stores are fully open. Bars, restaurants, cinemas and public transportation are continuing to operate. Urging citizens not to panic, the government has requested that gatherings be limited to 50 people.

Doctors have started to object, but to no current avail, with the government noting the relatively small number of cases at this time and saying there is little evidence that extreme measures are warranted when the numbers are at that level. As of today, there are 4,497 cases in Sweden and 239 deaths. This reflects over 10% increase today in cases and about 30% in deaths. The numbers are small, but the curve is steep.

When viewing the numbers, it is important to note that the population of Sweden is just over 10 million. The current rate of infection is 490 per million and deaths represent 24 per million at this time. In terms of rate, this puts them just behind the U.S. in infections (573 cases per million) and well ahead of us in deaths (12 deaths per million).  This will be an interesting, and hopefully not tragic, experiment to watch.

National News:

The biggest news coming out of the last twenty-four hours has to be the revealing of models in the presidential news conference indicating current estimates of deaths in this wave of the epidemic range from 100,000 to 240,000. Where five weeks ago the president said, “This is a flu. This is like the flu,” a stance that he continued to repeat as recently as last Friday, yesterday he said, “It’s not the flu. It’s vicious.” Observers noted it was the most somber the president has ever appeared in front of the press.

States (in red) with a stay home order as of April 1

It’s also important to note that these projections assume a nation-wide stay at home order. Not all states currently have such an order, and the assumption for these numbers is based on the idea that they all do so right away. Interestingly, Tennessee is sometimes counted as a state with a stay at home order and sometimes it is not, as our “Safer at Home” order is less strict than most.

It’s impossible to ignore the political and ideological shape of the Stay at Home orders. Using the map above from Business Insider, anyone with a cursory understanding of political divides in this country would immediately see it is also a political map. There are fifteen states without stay at home orders. All voted for President Trump and all have Republican governors. The red dots in those states represent cities with Democratic leadership and stronger orders. Your opinion as to whether the fifteen states are correct in their response or the thirty-five states are correct likely depends on your political stance.

The numbers continue to mount in the U.S. as confusion continues as to whether there is medical equipment and where it is and who is controlling the supplies. 24,742 new cases were confirmed yesterday (between a 15% and 20% increase). 912 deaths were recorded, a new record and one that has been upped each day recently. This represented about a 30% increase in the total since the pandemic started.

Total cases in the U. S. now sit at 190,818, with total deaths at 4,129. There are more cases in the United States than anywhere else in the world, and we have the third highest death toll. Adjusted for population, the rankings are different, but it is difficult to compare the U.S. to countries like San Morino, Adorra, and Vatican City, which rank above us when going strictly by population.

State and Local News:

Governor Lee issued this press release yesterday, detailing the state’s current efforts, including the recently issued “Safer at Home” order. The Tennessee State Department of Health site, which is updated at 3:00 p.m. each day, currently lists 1,832 cases of COVID-19 statewide, with 66 for Knox County. The more up-to-date Worldometers site says there are currently 2,521 cases and 24 deaths in the state of Tennessee. This reflects a considerable escalation in positive results of 25% over yesterday. (Note that Tennessee may be more behind than other states in testing, and this could be an artifact of that backlog). Tennessee deaths from the virus are reported to be 24, reflecting about an 85% increase from yesterday, when the number of deaths was 13.

The Knox County Health Department reports 77 current cases. This represents a 22% increase from yesterday.

Knox County Health Department News Briefing:

In her daily briefing, Dr. Buchanan started by expressing gratitude for the technological capability to dispense information while social distancing. She also thanked her staff for their hard work. She mentioned working with Kroger and the City to set up drive-through testing this Friday and Saturday. It is not for walk-up, but is strictly drive-through. Those tested “will have to be approved through Kroger for testing.” (Ed. What?!?) She said more details would be coming later this afternoon.

She said there are currently 77 cases, 28 of whom have recovered and twelve of whom have been hospitalized at some point in their illness. There have been no new deaths since yesterday.

She did report that a small cluster has been identified at an assisted living facility locally. She would not identify the facility. Three residents and one staff member have tested positive. Tests are pending for three other staff members. Everyone else in the building has been tested and their tests were negative. She said it is similar to the situation in central Tennessee, but with better results.

She continued to stress keeping separation when outside. She encouraged only having one family member enter a grocery store. She expressed gratitude to everyone following the requests for social distancing. She said the response has been good.

In other information:

  • The press continues to press for numbers of beds and ventilators, she said ask the state.
  • Based on CDC guidance, she will not recommend re-testing at the center.
  • She would not give information regarding the death, citing patient privacy concerns.
  • Asked about range of beds from current to what could be the expanded number, she said there are too many pieces of information to assemble at this time, held at the hospital or the state level.
  • Asked about the pre-approval through Kroger, she said that pre-approval will have to be obtained and appointments made.
  • She hasn’t compared our growth rate to other counties, but acknowledged they are growing and urged people to continue social distancing, regardless of comparisons.
  • She said masks have been distributed to hospitals, but she has no number of total masks available.
  • Asked about he long lines at Lowes and Home Depot, she said they are considered essential so that people can fix a toilet or sink. She suggested that those businesses enforce social distancing, that one person of the family enter, and that you only go if it is truly necessary.
  • They are working to secure testing for inmates.
  • The city has responded to the Health Department’s request to develop emergency housing for any homeless individuals who are awaiting test results, has symptoms, or is positively diagnosed.
  • Testing results are currently running 48 hours to a week after administration.
  • Kroger is obtaining the tests that they will use. (Ed. ?!?)
  • The Health Department is not actively closing businesses but is working with them in an educational capacity.

Comments

  1. Jay Nations says

    Thank you for your sober, informed reporting.

  2. Thank you for providing a daily update on many issues but for now, I really appreciate the updates on COVID 19. The news stations show Dr. Buchanan’s initial statement but they never seem to allow time for the questions and answers. So thank you for covering the entire update.

  3. Nina Reineri says

    Thank you Alan – for bringing this easy to understand summary to us daily, it is so appreciated. Kroger testing is an interesting idea and sounds promising. Regarding the first part of your article, I trust this dude more than I trust anyone. Here’s Gates op-ed today in WSJ. “First, we need a consistent nationwide approach to shutting down”.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bill-gates-heres-how-to-make-up-for-lost-time-on-covid-19/2020/03/31/ab5c3cf2-738c-11ea-85cb-8670579b863d_story.html

  4. Allison Webb says

    Good to see your take on the president’s attitude as I don’t listen to him directly anymore. Something there needed to change though. I saw a headline earlier today the state will also start being more specific about the geography where positive tests and deaths are occurring in Tennessee. Did I read that correctly?
    Thank you again for everything you are doing to keep us informed!

    • Yes, finally. The New York Times has been tracking that information since the beginning and will allow you on their site free of charge for any Coronavirus articles. They have quite an extensive collection of information that get update twice a day if your bored and or interested

      • Allison Webb says

        I subscribe to and follow the NYT religiously but hadn’t seen that, so thank you for that information!

  5. Joyce Richman says

    Thanks Alan, I read this everyday.

  6. Google Smithsonian magazine’s November 2017 edition. Their cover story was about China and predicted the next pandemic would be coming from there. They thought it would be bird flu again but did mention Coronavirus towards the end of the article. The WHO has apparently known of this situation there for sometime. Go figure.

  7. Live Downtown, but had to drive Kingston Pike from Northshore to home this morning. Downtown has been so quiet that I was shocked to see that Kingston Pike traffic and parking looked just like any regular Knoxville day. I understand drive-ins and Kroger doing business, but so many non-essential places had cars in front of them. This was disheartening.

  8. Betty Bean says

    You are a must read.
    Thank you for doing this. It must take a lot out of you.

    The nursing home/assisted living problem is so worrisome. My mother was at Oakwood for 15 months until she died in December. I’m so worried about those sweet, vulnerable people – both the residents and the caregivers, some of whom work two and three jobs to make ends meet.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Thank you and yes, it is very worrisome. My uncle, for whom I am the caregiver, lives at Knoxville High. We’ve considered moving him to Oakwood when he needs increased care. Were you pleased?

      • Betty Bean says

        Yes, overall, we were happy with it. But I think there are always frustrations. They have very caring employees – who should make more money. My family would have been willing to pay more if the caregivers could make more money. They welcome families at all hours.

  9. Thank you, Alan. I read and appreciate your thorough yet concise coverage each day.

  10. Sue Groves says

    I was disappointed with Dr. Buchanan reporting that people seem to be honoring the Stay Safer order. Downtown, where I live, I think that is true, but last weekend the Clinton Highway and Schaad Rd. Home Depot just had people who were looking for some place to go on a Sunday afternoon. From someone who works there, I was told that people came and had their kids with them. The only lines were at the cash register as anyone who went there could go in the store and the place was full of people. They don’t seem to get the danger in doing this and that they are endangering employees there by not being able, in some areas of the store, to maintain 6 ft. of separation. Very disheartening.

  11. Thank you so much Alan for these updates. I’ve had to stop watching CNN or local new because my anxiety goes crazy with how they report on this virus.

    I wish someone would ask about daycares because how does it make sense to close school yet allow daycares to remain open. I understand essential workers need childcare however I think only a few centers need to be operating. Most centers are already low on numbers.

  12. This is a really good site to see what is happening around the world. You can hover over each column to see more detail.
    https://covidly.com/

  13. Bernie Rosenblatt says

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!! You do an outstanding job.

    Went to Costco this morning and they do an excellent job of controlling the situation

  14. Thanks Alan. My Mother is at Beverly Park Place. They’ve been shut down (quarantined) for a while now. So far they have been good. I call everyday. Scary times.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Knox High is restricting visitors, too. I have to go periodically to put medicine in his dispenser and take him the little things he needs, but I’m going less often and keeping in touch other ways.

  15. What worries me most, particularly about the length and severity of this pandemic, is the lack of consistency, here and around the globe. Most people will eventually come around, but it will be too late for too many. I do hope that the folks on the front line catch a break soon. My thanks and much respect to them.
    Another frequently updated site with useful information is: https://coronavirus.1point3acres.com/en

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