COVID-19: 5/6/2020 Update (Including Today’s Health Department Briefing)

Life During the Pandemic, Knoxville, April 2020
Life During the Pandemic, Knoxville, April 2020

I’m beginning to feel a bit like Leslie Jordan as I write the intro to these posts each day. If you don’t know the actor from Will and Grace, or why I would reference him, check out his Instagram at that link. His following has risen tremendously (currently 4.2 million) on the platform as he’s given his daily updates during the pandemic. They all start with some variant of, “Well sheeeyut. How you hunkerdowners doin’?” I hope you are each doing as well as possible.

International News:

As of this mid-day writing worldometer reports there are 3,759,296 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. Something strange happened with the numbers, because this is less than the number I wrote yesterday when I reported 3,767,662. I don’t think it was my mistake, though it could have been. If it was my error, I apologize. I am trying my best to be accurate and I’m wondering if numbers aren’t being adjusted.

The site reports a single day increase yesterday of 81,247. This continues the range of daily deaths that has remained consistent for over a month. There are 259,950 confirmed deaths. This represents a one-day increase of 6,237 deaths worldwide. This also continues to fall in a narrow range for the last month. Over 6,000 worldwide deaths were first reported on April 4. Since, the daily deaths attributed to COVID-19 have fallen between 10,520 (April 16) and 3,523 (May 4). Most days for the last month have been in the 5,000 to 6,500 range.

Life During the Pandemic, Knoxville, April 2020

Not much has changed internationally, with the U.S. continuing to lead in new daily cases and deaths, as well as totals in each category. The UK continues to have persistently higher numbers of new cases, while numbers continue to drop in other European countries. Notably, Germany with fewer than 1,000 new cases for four consecutive days and a declining rate for weeks. As a result of their declining rates they are opening shops and museums.

A combination of luck, favorable demographics and an aggressive, early response with testing, tracing and sheltering has resulted in a German death rate of 83 per million. This compares to their nearby neighbors who each rank as the top seven worst death rates per capita in the world among relatively populous countries: 1. Belgium (720 deaths per million) 2. Spain (553 deaths per million) 3. Italy (485 deaths per million) 4. The U.K. (433 deaths per million) 5. France (391 per million) 6. The Netherlands (304 per million) 7. Sweden (291 deaths per million). The U.S. ranks ninth in the world at 220 deaths per million.

Other countries around the world that continue to display troubling increases include Russia, Brazil, Peru and India. Over half of the new cases in the world yesterday came from just three countries: The U.S. (24,798), Russia (10,102) and Brazil (6,449).

National News:

There are now 1,241,102 cases of COVI-19 in the U.S. There is a total of 72,695 deaths. These numbers reflect 24 hour increases of 22,464 cases and 1,968 deaths. These numbers reflect slightly fewer new cases than the day before and slightly more deaths. They both continue to fall in a similar range to the last month.

An interesting article in the New York Times examines whether individual states normal death rates have been impacted by the virus. This was one of the questions raised here in the comments early on: Would the overall death rate be impacted by the illness? Their examination of the states (to this point) shows a significantly higher death rate than in a normal year in eight states, a slightly higher death rate in sixteen states a normal death rate in 18 states (including D.C.). The remainder have slightly lower rates of death, possibly due to lowered traffic fatalities and flu deaths due to staying at home.

President Trump is on the move. He flew to Arizona today to tour a Honeywell plant that is producing masks. After indicating he may wear a mask in the plant that requires them, he and his entourage wore protective glasses instead. I’m not sure what the rational. The president’s team has indicated more trips may be in the offing.

President Trump indicated on Tuesday that the White House Task Force would be winding down, but amended that on Wednesday to say they would be shifting their focus to rebooting the economy. While the projections from the Institute of Health Metrics reported yesterday of over 130,000 deaths by August were correct, the report of a Johns Hopkins model in a White House report projecting 200,000 new cases a day and 3,000 daily deaths by the end of this month may not have been completely correct. Those numbers were in a White House document. The author of the study, however, says the projections are preliminary and he has no idea how they were included.

State and Local News:

As the state escalates the re-opening of businesses, there are currently 13,624 confirmed cases and 226 confirmed deaths. These numbers represent overnight increases of 122 new cases and 7 deaths according to the state website. Again, as above, the numbers shift and are not consistent day-to-day. An example is a recent day in Knox County in which the increase was 0. In fact, we had four new cases that day, but four were reassigned out of county. I assume the same is happening with numbers at every level. The numbers are very similar to a week ago.

The state reports that 218,796 state residents have been tested, including 7,353 yesterday.

At the local level, the Knox County Health Department reports 257 cases and 5 deaths. While deaths remain the same, this reflects a 24 hour increase of five cases. This is consistent with the single digit increases we’ve seen for weeks. There are 43 active cases and 3 people are currently hospitalized.

Knox County Health Department Briefing:

Dr. Buchanan lead today’s briefing, expressing gratitude to nurses. She said the Health Dept. has received a shipment of masks from the state and will begin distributing them at the Dameron Avenue office. One per person and you must be present to get one. (Ed. This seems odd – encouraging people to congregate). Testing continues by appointment at the Health Department and will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week. Probable cases are now being included in reporting.


  • How many masks did we get? 19,000 in this shipment and more may come later.
  • How can people without transportation get to the office to get a mask? There are other sources of masks elsewhere. She pointed out that a bandana works, as well as other coverings.
  • How many health care and first responders have been tested? We don’t track that.
  • Why isn’t COVID-like illness a benchmark? It hasn’t been standardized now.
  • There seems to be a growing backlash to health recommendations, particularly wearing masks. Have you seen that? Yes. We often have people disagree with us. We stand by the recommendation as science-based.
  • Some people say forcing people to wear face-masks is unconstitutional. What do you think? People are entitled to opinions. There are a wide-range of health-related requirements such as speed limits which are designed to keep the public safe.
  • We (WBIR) spoke yesterday about a house party in Fort Sanders. Many have commented we should let them make their own choices. How can those choices impact the rest of us? During a pandemic personal choices impact all of us. Those kinds of behaviors will prevent us from being able to move forward with our re-opening plan and may set us back.
  • Have you been out to a restaurant? Do you think it is safe? No, I have not. We work with them to keep customers and staff safely.
  • Have you advised UT on reopening? We continue contact with them.
  • Is it safe for people in Knox County to travel to other places like Pigeon Forge to bowl, etc.? It’s their choice. Please continue safe practices if you do and monitor yourself for symptoms.
  • Where are we on the curve if it is a marathon? Not to mile 13, which would be when we start going down in cases. We continue to slowly increase. We expect a bump up within the next couple of weeks. We hope it goes up a little and flattens again.
  • Could KCHD or the county or city leaders order the wearing of masks? I trust our citizens to do the right thing. If a person who is told to isolate doesn’t, I have the power to enforce that.
  • Benchmarks were based on national standards and developed by local experts.