COVID-19: 4/27/2020 Update (Including Today’s Mayor’s Press Conference Regarding Re-Opening Businesses)

Knoxville Skyline from the South, September 2018
Knoxville Skyline from the South, September 2018

Here’s a brief hit on mid-day numbers before moving into today’s anticipated joint press conference with Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and Knox County Health Director Martha Buchanan. Their anticipated announcement will give local businesses the first glimpse of how re-opening the economy will look.

International News:

The numbers used here reflect just shy of 72 hours since the last report, but they are close, I think, to use them to fairly compare to recent weekends. There are currently 3,013,836 confirmed cases of COVID-19 world-wide and 207,900 deaths. Relative to mid-day Friday, this reveals an increase of 251,869 (9.1%) cases and 14,683 (7.6%) deaths.

Relative to recent weekends, there is good news. The last four weekends have shown a steady decline in the rate of increase for both numbers. New weekend cases for the last four weeks increased 23.8%, 15.5%, 10% and now 9.1%. Deaths for the weekend periods over the last four weeks increased 27.8%, 19.3%, 12.2% and now 7.6%. I think we might safely call that a world-wide trend, and a good one.

For perspective on the rate of spread, it took , nearly three months (early January to April 2) to reach 1,000,000 worldwide cases. The second million took only 13 days (April 2 – April 15). Reaching the third million took 12 days. Perhaps the encouragement is that the speed has remained consistently in a range of about 70,000 to 90,000 per day for the last two weeks and hasn’t increased. Given the weekend numbers above, I suspect the next million will take longer.

National News:

As of this writing, there are 987,916 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and 55,425 deaths. This reflects weekend increases of 97,197 (10.9%) in cases and 4,589 (9%) in deaths. The three-weekend trend is positive for the U.S. as it is for the world. For the last three weekends, the increases in cases in the U.S. have been 18.4%, 12.9% and 10.9%. The past three weekends have seen increases of 30%, 14.7% and now 9%. It is an encouraging trend.

One caveat nationally: the drop reflects the massive population centers which have seen the steepest increases and now the steepest declines. The states which now have rapidly increasing counts have smaller populations, meaning the overall numbers may drop while some areas may experience increases.

Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Knoxville Skyline, 2014

State and Local:

The latest numbers released by the state indicate 9,667 confirmed cases of the virus and 181 deaths. This reflects an increase of 1,401 (16.9%) cases over the weekend and an increase of 11 deaths (6.5%). The trend lines here for the last three weekends indicates cases have increased 14.5%, 12.9% and now 16.9%. The numbers do not indicate that Tennessee has hit the markers of 14 days of declines recommended by the White House as a determinant for when to open the economy.

Locally, Knox County is reporting 214 cases and, still, four deaths. The number of cases increased by 7 (3.6%) over the weekend. This is slightly higher than last weekend (2.1%). In Knox County, there are currently 29 active cases, with six of those persons in the hospital.

Mayors’ Press Conference on Re-Opening:

Dr. Buchanan started with thanks to the mayors for their support, as well as the team that developed the plan which she said will be released later today.

Mayor Kincannon acknowledged the pain inflicted by the decision to shut businesses down, but said that has allowed the county to become more prepared and learned to adapt to the difficult circumstance. She thanked those who have continued to work on our behalf and, particularly, the Health Department. She also thanked those who have practiced social distancing. She also said the plan to re-open is based on data that shows us how we can open, when we might need to pause and and when we might need to backtrack.

Mayor Jacobs, said his heart goes out to the victims of the illness and to the 400,000 people who have lost their jobs. While acknowledging the lives lost, he emphasized the lives ruined by economic destruction. He says it will not be easy to return, but we must and we will. He said he wanted to follow the lead of the governor to open earlier, but waited for the teams to be able to develop comprehensive plans. “Fire, ready, aim is not a good strategy. We are going to be more deliberate.” He said he hopes that gives businesses a better chance to succeed with less confusion.

Both emphasized the importance of continuing to behave responsibly as citizens.

Dr. Buchanan pointed out that the state allows local entities to operate differently. Nothing changes here until May 1. She said she feels the shutdown might not have been handled the best and they want to do better with the reopening. She said the plan is not a return to business as usual, but to a new normal. She emphasized it will take patience before we can resume our lives as usual.

There are three phases. Each allows a relaxing of restrictions and a slow return to normal. During each phase there will be instructions for individuals, businesses and organizations. There will be markers for when we can move to the next phases. We need to continue the behaviors which have been encouraged. Businesses will have to determine how they work with the guidelines.

She said data has been used to determine whether we were ready to move to phase one. A stable rate of increase of cases has been experienced in Knox County and number of deaths have remained the same. Testing has been expanded and rate of return has gotten better. She says her staff has now been allowed to develop a plan that can be scaled up as necessary. The health system has been able to put a plan in place. These things allow us to move ahead.

Each phase will last 28 days in order to evaluate the impact and what is happening with the rate of spread. There may be changes during a phase as needed. She requested that a COVID-19 coordinator be designated for each organization in order to have a point of contact. A panel has been designated to answer questions and she anticipates them to be overloaded and asked for patience.

Phase one should mean that high risk individuals should remain home. Large venues are not being opened. Bars will be closed, as well as playgrounds. Capacity restrictions are based on six-foot restrictions and the ability to maintain separate distance at particular businesses. In some cases the limit is 50% of fire capacity, in some cases no more than ten.

Details from Phase One:

Vulnerable Individuals should continue to shelter in place. All populations, when in public, should maintain strict physical distancing protocols.  All populations, when in public, should wear cloth masks.  Avoid socializing in groups of more than 10. Maximum of 6 people per table when dining in public. Minimize non-essential travel.

Employers should encourage telework and return employees to work in phases. Should implement strict physical distancing protocols. Close common areas. Strongly consider special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population.

Pre-schools and daycares can operate. Sit-down dining, theaters, sporting venues, places of worships, salons and personal care businesses & gyms can operate under strict social distancing and sanitation protocols. Salons and barbers should operate by appointment only. Bars, libraries, playgrounds, pools & splashpads should remain closed.


  • A case spike might indicate a need to pull back, but it depends. If it is a cluster that can be isolated, maybe not.
  • Over 500 people were tested Saturday. Testing this week will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
  • What is the advice to immune-compromised people? She is encouraging business owners to allow workers to work from home and for each person to make a decision about what is best for them.
  • How did you decide which businesses are able to open, now? It depended on the capacity of the businesses to separate. For example, diners can separate at tables, bars are designed for closeness and gathering.
  • About 75% of what is being opened falls under the purview of the health department and they will enforce the new guidelines, but she expects that they will cooperate. Mayor Jacobs pointed out that businesses had input and that if they violate the standards, they will likely be punished by fewer customers. Mayor Kincannon said that the business owners she has spoken to want their customers to be safe and are willing to do what it takes to make them safe.
  • Is part of this plan designed to build confidence among the public? Yes, there is part of that. Think of yourself and others as having the virus and act accordingly and the spread will be controlled.
  • She anticipates the need for masks (when you can’t social distance) will continue for “many more months.”
  • The recommendations for institutions, such as U.T., will be dictated by state guidance.


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