COVID-19: 5/28/2020 Update (Including Today’s Health Department Briefing)

Worldwide Daily Cases 5.28.2020 (Source: Worldometers.com)

I’ve had many conversations about the pandemic on Facebook in recent weeks. Conversations on social media can be frustrating and exhausting, but sometimes they are an illuminating window into how others think, where they find information and how they process information. We all have beliefs and we gravitate toward information that confirms those beliefs, but it’s deeper than that. We all want to feel safe and that’s a primal urge.

If we can believe coronavirus isn’t that deadly, only hits people not like me (the elderly), only impacts clusters, only looks like it’s a problem because of increased testing, we feel more safe. Sometimes those beliefs may be true, while other times we selectively see what we want to see because to see otherwise challenges our beliefs and our feeling of security (financial, health or otherwise).

For many of us, the arguments around this virus are abstractions. We’re financially ok and we don’t have the virus or know someone who does or who has died what for many is a lonely and painful death. For others of us, it is very visceral and personal. We’ve lost money, a job or a career. We’ve lost a family member or friend or watched them suffer. It makes the conversation very difficult for those talking in abstractions to communicate with those who have experienced a real loss or who are terrified that it’s about to happen.

So, what can we do? Stop talking? Retreat into our various enclaves and echo chambers? Many of us will, no doubt. A better option, in my opinion, is that we keep talking. Have the painful conversation. Disagree, but do so kindly. Try to understand people whose experiences are not like ours. Remember that we all want the same things: economic and physical security.

Sure, we have different opinions about how to achieve those, but if we have any hope of pulling together to defeat this or any of the other challenges facing our country, we are going to have be more kind to those with whom we disagree. I am very appreciative of the many, many readers who have respectfully disagreed in comments on this website. This isn’t a contest to see who’s right, it’s a struggle to obtain the goals we all want.

International News:

As of mid-day there are 5,828,808 confirmed and acknowledged cases of COVID-19 around the world. There are 358,373 deaths. In the 24 hours ending last night, there were 106,475 newly confirmed cases and 5,283 reported deaths. The number of new cases is the third highest new cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began. The two highest daily numbers were a week ago.

Worldwide Daily Deaths 5.28.2020 (Source: Worldometers.com)

There was a surge in reported deaths yesterday. While it doesn’t change the clear trend in the chart above, that we have seen declining reports of worldwide deaths since mid-April, it is a reminder that we’ve not turned any sort of corner and the battle continues. Deaths don’t follow the same pattern as reported cases, so whereas we expect higher numbers of cases both today and tomorrow, we can hope this large two-day increase in deaths is an anomaly on our downward trajectory. Yesterday’s reported death toll was our highest in 13 days.

Brazil may be the most concerning worldwide coronavirus story. Yesterday, Brazil reported over 22,000 new cases, surpassing the U.S. in daily totals. As noted yesterday, this comes in a country about 2/3 the population of our own and with testing per capita currently running less than 10% of ours. There have also been continuing allegations of hiding the true death toll, particularly among indigenous people who are being hit hard by the virus.

Sixteen countries reported 1,000 or more new cases, yesterday. Brazil is now second in the world for total cases. India has joined the top ten as their case count remains high despite an extremely meager testing program. Only the U.S. and Brazil reported more than 1,000 deaths yesterday, with Mexico and the U.K. following on that list.

U.S. Daily Cases 5.28.2020 (Source Worldometers.com)

National News:

There are now 1,751,487 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, about four times more than Brazil which ranks below it. The U.S. has  reported a total of 102,476 deaths, about three times more than the next country (the U.K.) below it. Yesterday, 20,546 new cases were confirmed and 1,535 deaths were reported.

New cases have remained in a range right around 20,000 for the last 18 days, but there appears to be a slight decline this week, with lower spikes. Due to reporting and testing cycles, we would expect today’s and tomorrow’s totals to be higher, but perhaps they will be lower than previous weeks.

U.S. Daily Deaths 5.28.2020 (Source Worldometers.com)

After watching a sharp reduction in total daily deaths over the last six or so weeks, deaths increased on Tuesday and doubled from that on Wednesday. The 1,535 deaths yesterday were the highest daily total reported in the United States since May 15. Reported deaths do not follow the same seven-day cycle as reported cases, so we can be hopeful that was a one-day spike. Additionally, with total number of cases declining slightly, and given that deaths will represent a percentage of cases, we might hope for reduced deaths to continue as long as there are reduced numbers of cases each day.

Yesterday only four states reported more than 1,000 new cases: California, Texas, Illinois and New York. Southern states joining Texas from the south in the most reported daily deaths nationally were Virginia (5th), Georgia (10th), North Carolina (16th), Louisiana (17th), Alabama (19th) and Florida (20th). Tennessee fell to 23rd.

Tennessee Daily Cases 5.28.2020 (Source: TN.gov/health)

State and Local News:

As of yesterday afternoon, the State of Tennessee reported totals of 21,306 cases and 353 deaths. Increases for yesterday remained at an elevated range for cases, though it dropped slightly. There were 341 new cases reported yesterday, down from 358 the day before. There were ten additional deaths reported.

With 572 people counted as recovered yesterday, the number of active cases (new minus recovered) declined by just over 200 to about 7,400. Thirty-eight additional people were hospitalized across the state yesterday and the state reports 6,126 were tested to bring the total tests to 409,630.

Tennessee Testing and Positivity Rates 5.28.2020 (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

While we’ve had some very high totals of tests given on three recent days, the graph above appears to me to indicate we’ve leveled off, if not declined in average daily tests given recently, though I’m not sure what to make of the day we had positive results, but no tests given. There seems to be a similar leveling off or reduction of testing nationally.

Meriting attention is the line which represents a seven day average of positive results as a percentage. The goal is for that line to remain under 5% for fourteen consecutive days. The good news is that ours has remained under 5% for 20 days. The concern is that it has risen in recent days and has been at 4.7% for the last three days.

Locally, after two days of concerning increases in new cases, we have very good news: The Knox County Health Department is reporting only one additional positive test for yesterday! This comes after concerning increases for the last several days, particularly the last two when the increases were 10 and 14. The small asterisk with this number is that we actually have three new cases, but two have been transferred out of the county’s numbers as they were shown to be residents elsewhere.

Active cases stand at 47, with two of those patients hospitalized. There were no additional deaths yesterday. The health department continues to report 10 probable cases.

Knox County Health Department Press Conference:

Charity Menefee led today’s briefing. She expressed gratitude to those contacted by the health department as having the illness or having been exposed and who have followed guidelines for isolation as requested. She confirmed the above numbers. Beginning next week, walk-up testing will be moved to inside the Knox County Health Department on M-W-F. No appointment is necessary.

Tuesdays and Thursdays will continue to be reserved for targeted testing. She mentioned complaints about specific businesses that have been posted to the KCHD FB page and requested that everyone with a concern call 311.

Questions:

  • As we see increases locally, are you watching other areas like Hamilton County that had small increases a couple of weeks ago and now is seeing large increases? Yes.
  • How many red lights would it take to move back to phase one? We’ll look at all of them and also look more closely to see who large the swing is, for example, the number of case increases has been so low, that a relatively small increase could make one data point be a concern. Any decision to change direction would be thoroughly explained.
  • Are you concerned about people not wearing masks in public? Yes. We ask that people take this recommendation seriously.
  • How many people have you asked to be quarantined? We’ve monitored over 1200 people who were positive, probable or exposed. She clarified that a probable case would be a person who has been identified as having had contact and now they have developed symptoms.
  • What do you say to people who say they are “over” COVID-19 and say things need to be normal? I get it. We all want it to be over. It is going to be with us for a while. We can do most of what we did before, but we need to be careful and follow safety guidelines.
  • Why are the probable cases staying at 10? Why aren’t they being resolved? Categories are fluid and those may not be the same ten people as a few days ago. They don’t always have to be tested.
  • What do you say to people who say that wearing a mask is an infringement on their rights? We’d like people to look at it as a way to protect your neighbors and community members and to care for them.
  • What are you doing to help the Hispanic community, which has been harder hit locally? We’ve had a series of meetings and gathered information and hope to have some information on that in the near future.
  • Does the KCHD have any shortages of resources? No. The only thing we need is for the community to work with us.
  • Is there any additional information on clusters? No.
  • The Knox County School Board met in person last night. What does KCHD think about that? I didn’t know that and we want everyone to follow guidance. Up to 50 people are permitted to meet as long as they maintain social distancing or wear masks.

Comments

  1. Bob Fischer says

    Once again. Thanks for balance. A dispassionate news source for vital issues is essential for the welfare of a community. Thank you for all you do.

  2. Concerned Citizen says

    Has there been any follow up for businesses that have been in direct violation of the phased re-opening plans such as Calhoun’s?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      They never name businesses, but say they do follow up and claim to have a good response to that.

  3. Susan Ballard says

    Alan- thank you for your hard work on keeping us informed.

  4. Melita Duffy says

    I read all of your posts but this one really spoke to me. Or maybe it was just time to let you know how much I appreciate not just (what I think is) your own perspective, but the consideration you give to so many varying opinions, and how much I also think we need that to get through this. Or maybe it was that today, just at the point where my husband and I finally relax wearing our masks on our Lakeshore Park walk, we pass a group of at least 25 high school girls herding through our sidewalk path (good for them, school will finally start up in the fall, things are getting back to normal, they are on the track team?). But my first thought is that no coach or parent has advised them to pull out their masks if they pass others….Or maybe I’m just too critical? Sensitive b/c I’m older and in that scary age range? This is such a process. Again, thank you for speaking for our community.

  5. Jim Ullrich says

    I saw an article in the newspaper printed a week or so ago that talked about a new start up company using covid 19 test in wastewater plants and can determine what way things are going up to at least 2 weeks before it shows up in the health department data. Does any know if this is being used in Knoxville or any nearby city?? My understanding is that this company is providing (they are experimenting ) free except for freight and container cost ( which is around $120 per test). It seems to me this could be cheaper way to determine where and how to use individual tests and in many other beneficial ways. I think they will be experimenting if it works for other viruses.

  6. I feel like I can get the most straight forward, reliable, and comprehensive information from your blog so it is my “go-to”. Thank you and please continue to your updates.

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