COVID-19: 4/2/2020 Updates (Including Today’s Health Department Briefing)

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

I hope this afternoon finds each of you safe and secure. These are strange times, of course, and they are hard for many. We’ve always known we should be thankful for family, shelter ,and food, but that means a little bit more right now. Please be aware of those who are struggling for any of the above. And who thought we’d ever be consciously thankful for a roll of toilet paper? It’s a perspective shift and maybe not a completely bad one.

Here’s what’s happening in the last 24 hours:

International News:

There are now 964,603 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. We will almost certainly cross a million positive test results by the end of the day. Yesterday there were 76,872 new cases. There were 4,890 additional deaths yesterday, bringing that total to 49,240. This represents a twenty-four hour increase of about 8.7% in cases and about an 11.3% increase in deaths. The increase in cases is slightly less than yesterday, so maybe that is the beginning of a trend. The increase in deaths is greater than yesterday.

In raw numbers, the United States continues to have nearly twice the cases of any other country in the world, more than three times the new diagnoses than the nearest country in the world, and the third highest number of deaths. Adjusting for population, the worst hit countries in each of those categories are Italy, Spain, and Switzerland for cases, and Italy and Spain for deaths per million. It isn’t close at this point. In encouraging news, all three countries seem to have bent their curves, with diminishing numbers of new diagnoses.

Yesterday I mentioned Sweden as an outlier in terms of response. They’ve done the minimal amount of response, but gatherings can still be up to fifty people and cafes and shops are still open. I’m going to continue to follow them to see what happens next. Yesterday they had 512 new cases and 59 new deaths, an 11.5% one day increase in cases and a 32.7% one day increase in deaths. Not good numbers. If the numbers were to trail off there, this would be a minor event. If those percentages continue, this will quickly be a humanitarian tragedy. The totals as of mid-day today are 5,456 cases and 282 deaths. Sweden has about 10,000,000 people.

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

National News: 

The national picture continues to appear difficult. As of mid-day today, the United States has 216,722 cases, representing more confirmed and reported cases than any other country, with roughly twice that of the next country down (Italy, 110,574). Also as of mid-day today, the United States has 5,140 deaths. The numbers represent rough twenty-four hour increases of 13.5% and 24.5%. Our curve may not have flattened, but these percentages are a bit better than yesterday, so that is hopeful. Yesterday, as we topped 200,000 cases nationally, we also surpassed 1,000 deaths in a single day (1,049) for the first time.

White House estimates continue to range from 100,000 to 240,000 expected deaths in this wave of infection. Dr. Fauci, who has guided this president and the previous four in epidemics and pandemics, has been reported by the Washington Post to have death threats and has had increased security. Apparently, right-wing anger has targeted him as the cause for the current state of the economy. Asked about his and Dr. Birx’s security in yesterday’s press conference, he declined to comment before President Trump stepped to the microphone and said, “He doesn’t need security, everybody loves them. Besides that, they’d be in big trouble if they ever attacked.”

Similar mixed signals continue over testing and equipment. President Trump has said for weeks that everyone who wants a test can have one and he continues to tout big numbers of equipment that have been distributed. That stands in stark contrast to what hospital administrators and governors from all over the country say in repeated interviews. President Trump acknowledged yesterday that the national stockpile is virtually empty.

Regarding Stay at Home orders, the percentage I’ve seen of the U.S. population under such orders has increased since yesterday, from 80% to 87%. However, this may be deceptive when some states, like ours, have a non-enforced order and others, such as Florida, make exceptions for large gatherings like religious services.

Unemployment is also a rising concern, as had been predicted. 6.6 million people filed for unemployment last week, which is more than double the number last week and is a new all-time record. Whereas last week’s large filing heavily represented service industry workers, this week’s filing was more across the sectors. As is so often the inexplicable case on the heels of such bad economic news, the stock market traded higher in the aftermath of that announcement. Stocks continue to trade, however at a rate of about 20% to 25% below the beginning of the year.

State and Local:

As of mid-day today (Worldometer is my source for this and most data in this article) there are 3,045 cases and 26 deaths in the state of Tennessee. This indicates a 20.7% increase over yesterday in cases and about an 8% increase in deaths, representing an improvement for both over the previous day’s percentages.

Locally, the Knox County Health Department website lists 85 confirmed cases, with 42 recovered, 13 hospitalized at some point in their illness, and 1 death. They report that these numbers are derived from 1,115 tests given locally. The number of cases represents a 10.4% increase over yesterday’s total, which is a lower percentage from yesterday.

Knox County Health Department News Briefing:

Charity Menefee thanked Kroger for the new drive-through testing and confirmed the above numbers. She discussed surge capacity planning, which is always ongoing and, she said, widely available on the Internet via CDC websites and more. The plans address staff, space, and stuff such as personnel, beds, and materials. Acknowledging the thirst for more information regarding capacity, she said the complications of each situation makes it difficult to be more specific.

In response to questions:

  • Should we see the number of recoveries locally as encouraging? Yes.
  • She acknowledged there are discrepancies in state and local reporting due to timing and errors. Errors are being eliminated as they are discovered.
  • She feels there will be more cases identified as testing is ramped up via the drive-through and other testing increases.
  • Projected peak dates are still unclear for local numbers, but they are looking at it.
  • Asked about the mixed messages from the City and County Mayors, she said both are on the same page with distancing and staying at home.
  • Asked about the senior housing outbreak locally, she said there is one new positive from staff, but one previously reported as positive has been changed to “inconclusive.”
  • Asked about which facilities were being considered, she said there are no details for release at this time. The County and the Army Corps of Engineers are working together.
  • Asked if when deaths and cases taper off if we’ll be able to lift some of the restrictions, she repeated the cautions already encouraged regarding distancing, hand washing, etc. She didn’t commit to a timetable or marker that would indicate a reduction. She said she feels there is increasing compliance and she encouraged more compliance.
  • She sees us as being on the early end. We’ll pass the half-way mark when the numbers start dropping.
  • She said the Health Department staff is tired and is working seven days a week and making major decisions. She also said the work environment is good, and they are confident in their response to the crisis, so far.

Comments

  1. You’re a hero for doing this, Alan.

  2. David Butler says

    Alan, thank you for these updates. Very well done, very enlightening. Good information is gold these days, and yours is 24-carat.

  3. Lucy Sieger says

    I’m not one to comment very much, but I’ve enjoyed your blog for years. Your posts on COVID-19 have been timely, concise, and most of all informative. Thank you so much.

  4. Heidi Steeves says

    Thank you so much for doing such a wonderful job!

    Could you please include this link in your article with the details of Kroger testing?

    Thanks so much!

  5. Heidi Steeves says
  6. Leigh Loveday says

    Thank you for your thorough, informative daily updates. They are so helpful, and just what we need to help us navigate this ordeal. Your service to Knoxville is much appreciated.

  7. Ann Rigell says

    Great job on these updates, Alan. I get notifications from several sources, but find yours to be the best. Love your writing style. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for keeping us informed, Alan. The health dept. website does not seem to have detail on drive through testing. If that becomes available, I am sure some of us would like to see that.

  9. I read early on that for mental health, it may be good to limit the number of sources one seeks for information. I wait for your reports daily Alan. You’re doing good work! Thank you.

  10. In the present time we are still behind the curve proactively, what we are doing now should’ve already been implemented before but alas it’s too late for that now. My question does anyone know if anything is being planned for the future when this current outbreak lessens and if and when it returns? Have we learned anything from this event to have in place if it mutates and returns? Hopefully we won’t be behind the eight ball then as we are now. We’re from the government and we’re here to help.

  11. The governor’s vague “stay home” order of this afternoon did not mention whether state parks will be closed to encourage people to obey that order. It would be great if you could find out and publish this info.

  12. i was thinking what if someone could convert knoxville center mall ( formerly east towne mall ) into a hospital that would treat only patients who had been diagnosed with covid19. it would certainly take the strain off of the existing hospitals and not put others in danger. since the mall is closed now surely the city leaders could work with the ones who own the mall to convert it. and hopefully if it all turns out ok. it could be converted into a community hospital if it isnt redeveloped into retail or other uses. im not sure who owns it right now, but i know simon used to. i used to work there in the early 90s to the early 2000s. we desperately need to work together right now in having innovative thinking on how to deal with this virus and surely the owners of the mall could work with city leaders to help with whatever issues may arise with that proposal. i just heard a story somewhere that the city was going to utilize the knoxville expo center as a hospital site. east towne mall has lots of smaller stores that could be used as patient rooms and lots of larger stores that could be used for offices and things like that and the food court area could be converted into a cafeteria for employees and visitors. making it a covid19 designated hospital would keep people in other hospitals protected from getting covid19. and any of the existing hospitals wouldnt have to worry about others being infected. i just had a thought about it and maybe it could work and maybe not, but what is the harm of at least trying something like that since we are in desperate times.

    • We have a big vacant hospital by Fulton high that could be brought back to life really quick. The mall could be used for non Covid cases but you would want a place with closed rooms and single air units in those rooms to limit infection. That would be easier to achieve in a hotel/motel.

    • Knoxpatch says

      I don’t think our local hospitals are overly burdened from COVID-19 at the present time. The sanitation and HVAC challenges for converting A mothballed mall into a hospital would be highly impractical.
      Let’s just hope that the diagnostic numbers continue to be manageable.

  13. well knoxpatch i will just say this. we will have to wait and see. but ive seen already that trump and his puppet government wasnt prepared obviously so why not take the initiative and do something before it is too late. and i disagree it would take all that much to convert the mall if people just did their part and pooled their resources. i used to work there and i also worked at two different hospitals so i think i know a little of what i am saying. and as far as your comment jordan, i actually thought about mentioning the conversion back to the hospital at st. marys but i figured the city probably will never do that because those plans are already set. i doubt they will go back to a hospital usage for there now, but i do agree it would proabaly be a better place than east towne mall. we really are getting ready to get swamped with cases and deaths. dont you guys see that? so, i was just thinking ahead instead of having the government wait before its too late, like that idiot trump has!

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