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

Worldwide Daily Cases 5.19.2020

I hope you had a chance to read this morning’s article about people providing help to those in need. We will really have to work together to help each other and our local businesses if we want to have our city return to its previous strength when all the pandemic passes. It’s going to be hard for many people and a number of businesses to hang on. Help where you can. Ask for help if you need it.

International News:

There are now 4,926,566 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world. 320,947 people have died across the globe The rate of new cases does not seem to be slowing, as the pandemic moves from one part of the globe to the next. There were 88,858 new cases confirmed yesterday. No doubt part of the increase at this point is due to increased testing in many countries. Still, the chart at the top of this article shows that we have a seven-day cycle of ups and downs, but all within a pretty narrow range for the last seven weeks.

Deaths tell another story and the divergence of the two trends is interesting. Yesterday, 3,445 deaths were reported across the world. As the chart below clearly shows, there is a world-wide decline in the number of deaths reported each day. The trend started in mid-April and has been consistent since. We know death rates trail infection rates by a couple of weeks, but with the infection rates being even for seven weeks, it would seem deaths should be in a similar plateau.

Have we gotten better at treating? Are we hiding deaths? Probably both, but also it seems likely that we are finding more people with the disease and the relative mortality rate is now more accurately coming into focus. In other words, we are finding cases we weren’t finding before, so a more accurate ratio of cases to deaths is now coming into focus. Yet, a true reduction in raw numbers indicates this is not all that is happening. This is an encouraging note.

The New York Times has an interesting look at how France made decisions over the last twenty years that negatively impacted its ability to fight the pandemic, one of the variables in determining its outcomes (at least so far) would be worse than its neighbor, Germany. Companies were put in charge of maintaining the country’s stock of PPE. They didn’t do it well and they outsourced production to other countries. This yielded cheaper prices, but hobbled the country’s ability to produce its own PPE. It’s a cautionary tale to all countries dependent on other countries for necessary medical supplies.

Yesterday, the number of countries across the world reporting 1,000 or more new cases dropped to 15. It had been 18 in recent days. The list is top-heavy with the U.S., Russia and Brazil contributing more than half of the new cases on that day. Of continued concern is the fact that some of the hardest hit countries at the moment, India, Pakistan, Mexico and Bangladesh, for example, have abysmal testing rates. We don’t know the real numbers in those countries and likely never will.

National News:

For shear numbers, the U.S. continues, not only to have the most cases and deaths in the world, but it continues to build on that lead every day, with daily cases and deaths leading the world. As of mid-day, there are 1,555,611 confirmed cases in the U.S. Over 1.1 million cases are still active. 92,259 of those people have died. There are over 1.1 million active cases identified in the U.S. The U.S. ranks sixth in per capita cases among modestly populated countries, ninth in per capita deaths, and twenty-seventh in per capita testing.

U.S. Daily Cases 5.19.2020

The numbers yesterday revealed single day increases of 22,630 cases and 1,003 deaths. The number of new daily cases has been in a slow decline since late April and, as discussed above in relation to international numbers, the deaths have trailed off faster than new cases. This is encouraging and supports the notion that the leaked numbers from the White House that showed 3,000 deaths a day by the end of this month were premature, as the author said.

U.S. Daily Deaths 5.19.2020

Noting that the numbers of cases are cyclical, for whatever various reasons, with early week numbers being the lowest, it is still encouraging that only six states reported more than 1,000 new cases yesterday. Those states include, in order of most cases, Illinois, New Jersey, California, New York, Massachusetts and Texas. Several others were close.

All states have eased restrictions at least to some degree, with many states easing most restrictions. As people become more mobile and begin gathering in larger groups for holidays like the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, we will soon learn if we have been able to simultaneously re-open the economy and control the new numbers.

Making national ripples yesterday was President Trump’s announcement that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic measure against getting the virus, even though there is no evidence to support doing so. While the president insisted he is fine, the drug carries risk for heart issues for those who are obese. The announcement was generally greeted with shock and sparked new concern that a run on the drug for an unproven use will reduce its availability for those who need it for approved treatments.

State and Local News:

Yesterday, the state of Tennessee reported a single-day increase of 623 new cases of COVID-19. This represents the third single largest day increase since the beginning of the pandemic. An anomaly? A result of our increasing contact with each other? An acceptable level to get our economy moving? We’ll see on the first two questions and the answer to the final question depends on perspective. We were told there would be an increase as we open up for business and work.

The increase brings the total number of confirmed cases in Tennessee to 18,011. Just over 8,000 of those cases are still active. With 623 new cases yesterday and 234 people pronounced recovered on the same day, the number of active cases grew by about 400.

Tennessee Daily Cases 5.19.2020

301 people have died, including three yesterday. Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 1,489 people were hospitalized, with 7 of those coming yesterday. The state reports 337,428 people have been tested, including 12,148 yesterday.

The testing program in the state drew a positive review from NPR which credited the state for announcing early that it would pick up the tab for all tests, resulting in more people willing to be tested. Tennessee currently ranks 11th in both raw numbers of tests given and per capita testing among the fifty states and Washington, D.C.

Locally, the Knox County Health Department is reporting an increase of five cases from yesterday, to a total of 316. The number of known active cases has dropped to 47 and there are no current hospitalizations, nor new deaths to report. While things could change, the increased area activity does not seem to have impacted Knox County to this point. It’s very encouraging.

Knox County Health Department Briefing:

Dr. Buchanan began by thanking environmental and facility teams for their work to keep everyone safe. She reminded the public that testing is still available. She confirmed the above numbers and noted that there are four probable cases. She pleaded for compassion, noting that the pandemic has impacted all of us. “We must never forget who we are as a community.” Noting that some are getting impatient, she said the virus is not gone, the risk is real.

She said if you are out and you see someone with a mask and you don’t agree with it, show compassion. If you see someone without a mask, show compassion. If a business asks you to wear a mask, show compassion.

Questions:

  • There are reports of major local restaurants telling employees to disregard health department instructions and of employees being fired for refusing. Do these reports give you pause about the lack of enforcement? Is the lack of enforcement putting local service workers in danger? It is unfortunate when an employer or owner disregards the guidelines. We rely on their good judgement and good will. To the public, I would say if you want to send a message to those people, vote with your pocket book and don’t support them.
  • Yesterday Governor Lee said the biggest challenge in the state is supporting public health as we go back to work. How are we doing here? If we follow guidelines, I think we’ll be successful.
  • It appears our mayors have different ideas of how and when to reopen. How will that impact what the health department does? Many people disagree during these difficult times, but I must make decisions based on what I think is best for the health of Knox County. Sometimes I make everyone angry which says I am probably striking a good balance.
  • The Knox County Schools will likely to see hundreds of family and friends present for June graduations, making those the biggest gatherings in the county since the beginning of the pandemic. Do you see graduations as exempt from the plan? They have taken guidelines into account in their plan.
  • Have you met with staff to discuss the downward trend in active cases? I spoke with my staff and we are continuing to see that trend. The fourteen day trend looks lower. We will continue looking.
  • Do you have results from the KCDC tests? Can you give us results? There were roughly 480 tests given. We have most of those results back. The number of positive tests were low. About 15% of our positives are asymptomatic.
  • Should people get an antibody test before returning to work? They are not accurate enough or helpful at this time.
  • What is the latest number of complaints? I don’t have those.
  • Do you think Knox County is ready to join the state’s plan? We are considering that. I think we’ll be able to recommend moving to phase two next week.
  • We’ve been very flat for a long time. We hope we can stay there.
  • Is there any protections in place for workers who refuse to violate guidelines? I am not familiar with employment law.
  • Does chlorine or salt in pools reduce the likelihood of spread? The danger isn’t the water, it’s the contact that happens both in and out of the water.
  • Have you met with Mayor Jacobs in the last day or two about the reopening plan? I’ve been in contact with his office.
  • Are there any deaths that are probable, but not confirmed? No.
  • Can the Health Department use its kitchen enforcement powers to enforce wearing of masks in restaurants and kitchens? No. The state gives us that power and specifically said we cannot do that.
  • Any possibility we will move forward with phase 2 before May 1. We are going to have those discussions this week.
  • Have their been any cases of COVID-19 at the jail? Have the inmates been tested? No cases are reported, they are testing as needed and following guidelines.
  • Is there any way to have buffets going forward? Are sneeze screens enough? The screens are not enough because of the high touch utensils. Some places are having staff serve buffets.

This Week’s Giveaway!

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 KnoxvilleUrbanGuy@gmail.com 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 Knoxvilleurbanguy@gmail.com and I’ll connect you up. During this difficult time, all money for gift cards goes directly to the business you choose to support.

Comments

  1. William Wilson says

    It is difficult to “vote with your pocket book and don’t support them” when the identity of “them” is unknown. Is there a list?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Not that I know of. I was pretty disappointed in this answer, to be honest. Clearly, there will be no regulation from the Health Department of even something as simple as wearing a mask in the kitchen. I will not know which kitchen isn’t wearing masks, so the only thing I can do if that matters to me, is avoid all restaurants. Not great.

  2. Oslo Cole says

    It is an absolute travesty that there isn’t more enforcement of health and safety standards for the benefit of patrons AND front-line service workers. Something MUST be done about this prior to a complete lifting of all capacity restrictions!

    • Travesty? Time will tell. The travesty may end up being the businesses and lives lost to the complete, utter, knee-jerk overreaction to all.this.

      • With zero Covid cases in the hospital, we are even more at risk for an exponential growth in cases. We must bend the curve.

        • Oh god yes. We are surely just two weeks out from the Second Wave. It’s gonna be brutal in just two more weeks. The hospitals are going to be so overwhelmed that they might have to bring in some of the people they laid off. Just wait. Two more weeks. It’ll be a nightmare for sure.

        • This is a joke, right?

          • Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be just fine, although it’s quite an unpopular opinion.

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