COVID-19: 5/18/2020 Update (Including Today’s Health Department Briefing)

Daily Tennessee Cases 5.18.2020
Worldwide Daily Cases 5.18.2020

Today’s report comes after a warm, sunny weekend that I hope you each enjoyed. It’s important to hit a trail, take a walk in the neighborhood, take the boat out, if you have one, or do something to otherwise enjoy nature and to remember that this crazy, beautiful world is still out there. We’ve got to work a little harder right now to find the joy in our lives, but there is joy. And it will grow as this passes.

International News:

There are currently 4,837,094 confirmed cases and 317,303 deaths worldwide. As alarming as the numbers seem, they are both worse and better than they seem. As large as they are, there is encouragement in many places around the world that the numbers are dropping and we may be seeing the decline of the first wave in some countries, at last. At the same time, these numbers simply cannot reflect the full reality the global impact of the virus given that so many countries cannot afford to test extensively and are simply burying the dead, while other countries will not acknowledge the true death toll for political reasons.

Over the weekend, daily cases peaked on Friday at the third highest daily number (99,401) since the beginning of the pandemic. This must necessarily be to some extent due to the testing efforts which have increased dramatically around the world. It’s important to remember that this does not negate the fact that these are real cases. It simply means we didn’t know they were there before.

Worldwide Daily Deaths 5.18.2020

The numbers declined for both Saturday and Sunday. But here’s the catch: This pattern repeats worldwide every week. Friday is always the highest day of the week and the next three days decline. Monday is the low point, then totals increase to a peak on Friday. It has to be a reporting/testing anomaly. Tracking the highs of Fridays might give us the best picture of where we are in decline, assent or plateau. Here are the last six Fridays in round numbers staring six weeks ago and bringing it forward: 96K, 94K, 87K, 102K, 95K, 97K, 99K. I see a slight trend upward with a spike in the middle.

Deaths, on the other hand, have declined for five consecutive days and do not follow a predictable cyclical pattern. With the case numbers above remaining steady worldwide, it’s a bit of a surprise to see declining deaths. Part of the answer to the riddle might be found in countries like Russia which seem to be dutifully reporting cases, but not deaths. With more extensive testing, perhaps we are finding milder cases and the true mortality rate is emerging at a lower level as a result. In any case, there is a clear curve in the reported numbers.

The biggest news of the weekend came with the announcement by drug manufacturer Moderna, that positive results were seen in their Phase 1 trials of a vaccine. The vaccine had proven effective in animal testing and the Phase One trial included 45 people. The vaccine appeared to be safe, with none of the participants having adverse impact beyond redness in the injection area. Phase Two tests have begun and the company hopes to start phase 3 trials in July with a much larger sample.

Countries continuing to struggle with high cases, in addition to the United States and Russia, remain largely the same: Brazil, India, Peru, the U.K., Saudi Arabia, Peru and Mexico. Increasing concern has been expressed regarding the outbreak in Africa where it is hard to track due to political and testing issues. Yesterday, eighteen different countries reported more than 1,000 new cases each.

U.S. Daily Cases 5.18.2020

National News:

There are currently 1,532,313 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. 91,077 deaths in the nations have been attributed to the illness. An examination of the graphs of daily confirmed diagnoses and deaths, there is a clear trend downward, indicating a decline in both, even as the country opens its economy. If this trend continues, it will be remarkable.

That said, we still had right at 20,000 new cases yesterday. And given the huge number of deaths we’ve recently seen, it’s important to remember that nearly 900 deaths, as we saw yesterday, still represents 900 grieving families and that daily number will go back up, given the numbers of new cases being identified. At over 91,000 American deaths, the numbers are staggering. And that isn’t an annual number, that is a 2 month number.

U.S. Daily Deaths 5.18.2020

Additionally, there is an internal issue with the numbers and the current decline. The heavily populous northeastern states are seeing a decline in cases after two months of tight controls. Are the total numbers for the country declining because of them while rising elsewhere? It’s unclear. Texas, for example, this weekend reported it’s largest one day surge since the beginning of the pandemic, with over 1800 new cases in a single day. Amarillo, the epicenter for an outbreak in the panhandle, contributed over 700 to that number.

Other states are a mix, of course, but many seem to be navigating the re-opening without experiencing a surge in cases. Six states reported more than 1,000 new cases yesterday. That is fewer than I reported on Friday, but we do see cyclical numbers, so that one might be worth tracking.

State and Local News:

The state is reporting 17,388 confirmed cases, with about 8,000 remaining active. There were 100 new cases reported yesterday. I was able to find the daily numbers in a similar format to the numbers provided globally and nationally. You’ll find it here and posted above. Unlike national and global numbers, there doesn’t appear to be a predictable pattern. Our worst days often follow known clusters.

May 1 was our worst day with 1,156 cases confirmed. That was our only day over 1,000 since the pandemic began. After moving downward, there was another spike lasting two

days on May 11 and 12, in which we had over 500 new cases each day. Since then the numbers have been much lower even as we open up businesses, parks and other public spaces.

Other numbers from the state include 298 deaths, including 3 yesterday. 8 people were hospitalized yesterday. 325,280 tests have been given and 5,079 were tested yesterday.

The biggest statewide news came on Friday, when Governor Lee declared a new phase in the opening. He announced that capacity limits on restaurants and businesses will be removed starting May 22. That same day,  racetracks, amusement parks, water parks, theaters, museums and auditoriums will be allowed to open with social distancing in place, all in time for the Memorial day weekend.

Daily Tennessee Cases 5.18.2020

The orders do not apply to the sections of the state being governed by local health departments. As I’ve stated before, while it appears control was given to the large metropolitan areas, the city mayors truly were bypassed in favor of the area health departments, the heads of which are employed by the County Mayors. While the order does not apply to Knox County, because of this arrangement, you might guess that the new orders would shift our local reality, given the nature of our local county government. You would be right . . .

As I searched Fox News for articles on the Coronavirus, I had to scroll down my mobile device to find the first article mentioning it. The first five articles were about Al Qaeda. The next article was coverage of the new Trump campaign ad attacking Joe Biden’s mental acuity. Hang with me. The next was an editorial announcing the fading of the coronavirus and the Biden candidacy, followed by an FBI official attacking media bias. There were then three on the Ahmaud Arbery shooting, another on Al-Qaeda, one on Lindsey Vonn in her swimsuit during quarantine, one covering President Trump blasting the HHS whistleblower and then this headline . . .

WWE star-turned-Tennessee-mayor: Lockdown oders have been ‘extremely troubling.'” It doesn’t take as much detective work to know the reference, there. The trouble he reported was that “there is nothing in the U.S. or his state’s Constitution that would allow for many of the restrictions.” He said states are not trusting their citizens to do what is best for themselves and “decided that they have to tell people what to do and that’s not their job. And frankly, I don’t think that they have that authority.” He expressed pleasure that the WWE is once more hosting events.

Mayor Jacobs said on Friday, after the governor’s latest statement that he didn’t see why Knox County couldn’t follow suit. This contradicts the previous statement that we would open in phases and remain in each phase for a full month. A meeting will be held later this week to discuss the issue. With the continuing low numbers in the county, and the move by the state, it seems likely a further opening would be difficult to resist.

There was area news of a setback in the fight against the virus, when it was announced that 57 employees of the Monterey Mushroom facility in Loudon County tested positive for COVID-19. County Mayor Bradshaw said this is simply a variable of increased testing, that the mushrooms are safe and that the facility would continue to operate.

In Knox County, there are currently 311 confirmed cases, an increase of only five this weekend. There were no new deaths and no one is currently hospitalized. With increased testing and increased contact, if these numbers continue, it will be clear that the virus is well under control for the time. Here’s hoping. There were no additional deaths.

Knox County Health Department Daily Briefing:

Dr. Buchanan led today’s press conference, thanking those who came out for testing this weekend and those, including the National Guard, who helped with testing. It continues this week in a similar pattern to previous weeks. She confirmed the above numbers and opened up for questions:

  • She said guidelines for phase two were being developed and some will come this week. She said the numbers were encouraging.
  • She said consultation and advice will be given to local schools regarding re-opening, though some comes from the state. That has not begun.
  • Noting that the Knox County Mayor said he saw no reason to not reopen, what does she think? We’ll look at the data.
  • We are trending downward and we’ll be making phase two recommendations soon.
  • The Loudon County Mayor said over the weekend that a number of the workers at the mushroom plant live in other counties. Do any live here? We work with the region, if any will continue to do so, but we do not comment on specific cases.
  • I talk with the mayor regularly.
  • Is there more information on temperature and the virus? Not that I know of as far as definitive research. It is somewhat safer outside, but you still need to maintain distance. If you can’t maintain 6 feet of social distancing, wear a mask.
  • As more places open are you worried about more complicated tracking for new cases? Yes, but we are prepared to do so.
  • When will it be safe to visit our families? Now if you keep distancing and limit the gathering to 10. Nursing homes are an exception.
  • If this is a marathon, where are we? Half marathon? Maybe getting close, but not there.
  • How are you navigating keeping the public informed as they become fatigued with the 24 hour news channel? It is hard. We need the public to share good information.
  • How concerned are you that wishful thinking will overcome caution? People need to be careful. When Nashville got up and running they had 600 cases in one week. We don’t want that here.
  • The BBB has distributed a survey regarding public attitudes about reopening and we plan to use that public input along with other data.


Gift Card Winners and New Giveaways

Congratulations to Cindy Farabow who won a $50 gift card to Lox Salon and to Michael Thornton who won a $50 give card to Royal Bark Social Club. Thank you to City People for the donation of the gift cards. Thank you to EVERYONE who has entered and donated, which is the real point. So far, here’s what readers have donated as they entered the various giveaways:

  • $90 to a home cleaner (to not clean the house)
  • $65 to the Knoxville Service Industry Fund
  • $425 to Second Harvest (several credited the Vol Piper for inspiring the gift)
  • $100 to Collection for 12 Sevier Avenue Businesses
  • $20 to Central Cinema
  • $20 to Knoxville Zoo
  • $20 to the YWCA
  • $20 to Young-Williams Animal Shelter
  • $25 to the United Way Covid Response
  • $100 to the UT Vet College Assistance Care Fund
  • $5 for PPE for Health Care Workers in New England
  • $5 to the CDC COVID Relief Fund
  • $25 for a Union Avenue Gift Card
  • $15 to Ruby Tuesday’s Fund to Purchase Lunch for a frontline worker
  • $15 for a first responder’s lunch
  • $30 to a musician who appeared on the Blue Plate Special
  • 1 Local Love Box Purchased
  • $20 to Project Be Kind
  • $15 to Children, Inc. COVID-19 Response Fund
  • $300 Knoxville Interfaith Clinic
  • $200 to With Love From Harlan
  • $50 to the East Knox Free Medical Clinic
  • $25 to UT Student Life Emergency Fund
  • $100 Gift Card to Runner’s World
  • $25 to Americares COVID-19 Response Fund
  • $15 to Ronald McDonald House Emergency Fund
  • $25 to Love Kitchen
  • $60 to Group in Charlotte making masks to sell and donate

Total Given: $1,815

This week City People has purchased a $25 gift card to Downtown Wine and Spirits and a $25 gift card to Knoxville Soap Candle and Gifts. To enter send an email to with the subject header “Downtown Wine Gift Card Giveaway” or “Knoxville Soap Candle and Gifts Gift Card Giveaway,” depending on which you want to enter. The deadline to enter is midnight Friday night.

Same rules as before: “like” Knoxville Page on Facebook, or City People to help us help local businesses and donate at least $10 to something supporting COVID efforts or to someone impacted by the pandemic. Confirm in the email that you’ve done both and tell me how much and to whom you donated. Each entry requires its own donation. If you cannot donate at this time, enter anyway and just say so. It’s all good.

In the meantime, if you’d like to have access to multiple local gift card purchase options at once, visit Knoxville Page. If you’d like to have your business’ gift cards represented there, send me an email at and I’ll connect you up. During this difficult time, all money for gift cards goes directly to the business you choose to support.