Welcome to the final week of July. Wearing that mask? Keeping that distance? These are the best tools we have at this point to slow the spread and keep our businesses open and operating, even if it is a bit different from what we’d come to expect. Watching around downtown this weekend, I still saw a lot of people out, posing for photos in big groups and generally heading out for a night on the town as if nothing is happening. Something is, indeed, happening here. What it is is pretty clear. Wear the mask, keep the distance. Please.
16,482,150 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 653,303 deaths have been confirmed as a result of the illness. Yesterday, an additional 221,743 cases and 4,308 deaths were reported. Approximately 10.1 million people have recovered and over 5.7 million people are actively ill.
Yesterday’s 221,743 cases was about a thousand fewer than the same day a week earlier. The previous four days had each produced totals which were higher than any other days since the beginning of the pandemic. The fewer cases yesterday produced a drop of 150 cases in the seven-day moving average, which now sits at 252,950.
Deaths yesterday were also about 100 lower than deaths the same day a week earlier. The seven-day average dropped by 14 to 5,641. The current death rate is comparable to that of May 1. Even as the daily death rate in the U.S. has continued to rise, yesterday, several countries topped the death total in the U.S.: Mexico (729), India (716), Brazil (556), the U.S. (451)
Reported case numbers are also showing some re-shuffling of the countries at the top, as India continues to rise in both cases and deaths. While 25 different countries around the world reported at least 1,000 new cases yesterday, the top four countries produced about 60% of the world’s newly reported cases: The U.S. (56,130), India (50,525), Brazil (23,467) and South Africa (11,233). India is a major concern due to its limited testing program, massive population and crowded living conditions.
China is concerned because of 61 new cases reported in the country on Sunday, for the biggest daily number since March 6. (This is included because I find it striking that the country (of 1.4 billion people) in which the virus began has about half the number of daily cases as Knoxville, Tennessee. In another example of the striking contrasts: 11 new cases were reported in a Da Nang hospital in Vietnam. As a result of those 11 cases, the first new cases in months, 80,000 tourists are being evacuated from the city.
4,384,069 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 149,945 have died of the illness. Yesterday, those totals grew by 56,130 new cases and 451 deaths. About 2.1 million people have recovered and about 2.2 million people have an active case of the illness. The new cases yesterday represent the lowest number since July 7.
The seven-day average of new daily cases sits at 67,612 and dropped about 1300 from the previous day. New cases show some evidence of leveling off nationally even as that seems to be happening in Florida, Arizona and California. Paraphrasing a medical professional I read this weekend, leveling off is good. Unfortunately, we are leveling off at massively high numbers, similar to slowing the increase in the speed of a car at 100 mph on a icy road. We need to slow way, way down. We are still identifying new cases at more than twice the rate we were when we shut the country down.
The 451 deaths yesterday sounds better than the relatively high recent numbers, however, it is higher than the analogous day a week earlier and the death rate continues to creep upwards, with the current seven-day average sitting at 937 additional dead Americans each day. The rate of increase has slowed, offering some hope deaths might soon peak.
Sixteen states reported 1,000 or more new cases yesterday, and six reported multiple thousands: Florida (9,344), California (6,074), Texas (4,309), Louisiana (3,840), Tennessee (3,140) and Georgia (2,765). Other southeastern states near the top include North Carolina (#9), Mississippi (#10), South Carolina (#12), Alabama (#13) and Virginia (#17).
It’s worth noting that the simple daily ranking doesn’t cover the entire story, as the states vary widely by population. Mississippi, for example has been in or near the top ten for weeks in new daily cases, but it ranks 35th in population, meaning its per capita rate is likely worse than Florida, California and Texas, which have the three largest state populations in the country. Tennessee has the 16th largest population in the country. Add Illinois to the list of states to watch. It ranked eighth in new cases yesterday, but it seeing sharp increases and is the sixth most populous state in the country.
A fifth Florida child, nine-years-old, has died of COVID-19. The family insists she had no exposure and did not have an underlying health condition. Phase three testing is set to begin across the United States for Moderna’s potential vaccine. They call having the vaccine available by the end of this year a “stretch goal.” One church in Alabama is reporting more than 40 cases after holding multiple-day in-person services. The Republican version of the latest aid bill is to be unveiled this afternoon. It will reportedly include the same personal payments as last time, but somewhat smaller unemployment benefits.
State and Local News:
After crossing 2,500 new cases three times in an eleven day period through last Thursday, new cases in Tennessee dropped on Friday and Saturday before rising to 3,140 new cases yesterday. The number is second only to July 13 on which 3,314 new cases were reported. A total of 93,936 cases have been reported in the state since the beginning of the pandemic, which places Tennessee 13th in raw numbers of the states, and 16th in per capita cases among the states.
Tennessee is the 16th most populous state in the U.S, so, to this point, the numbers are about what one would expect, all other variables being equal. Tennessee, however, currently has a much higher rate of spread than more populous states and its numbers are getting worse comparatively.
922 Tennesseans reached the recovery threshold yesterday and 3 died, bringing the net active caseload up by 2,215 for the day to a current total of 38,239 active cases. 54,730 have recovered and 967 have died. 48 additional people were hospitalized yesterday and a massive 50.4 K tests were reported yesterday to bring the testing total to about 1.4 million. The surge in testing brought the positive test result rate down to 8.5%, still well above the target of 5%.
As of yesterday, there are 1,086 COVID-positive patients in Tennessee hospitals, up just over 30% in the past two weeks. There are 282 additional pending cases among currently hospitalized Tennesseans. Current hospital availability: Beds (21%), ICU Beds (17%), Ventilators (68%). This is very close to the numbers from one week ago (22%,19% and 67%, respectively).
Locally, the rate increase in new cases continues to be high. After having no days prior to July 14 in which more than 100 cases were reported, nine of the last fourteen days and six consecutive days have seen increases over 100 cases in a day. 120 new cases were reported today, bringing the pandemic total in Knox County to 3,205 cases. There are 140 probable cases in the county.
1,332 people have recovered and 1,847 people currently have the illness and are counted as active cases. This is a 41% increase in one week. There are currently 45 Knox County residents hospitalized, which is almost identical to last Monday (44).
The health department reported an additional three deaths today (though the deaths reported on a given day may fall to any of several previous days, making the graph on the website not align with reporting days). The deaths reported today included a 68-year-old female, a 74-year-old male and a 43-year-old male. An additional death over the weekend was reported as a person between the ages of 65 – 74.
Total age-breakdown for deaths, so far, in Knox County, include two people 18 – 44, nine people 45 – 64, three people 65 – 74 and twelve people 75+, for a total of 26 deaths. Five of the deaths came in March and April and twenty-one have occurred in July.
Knox County Health Department Press Conference:
Dr. Buchanan chaired today’s meeting and began by expressing gratitude to those reaching out to people in the community whose first language is not English, saying videos were made in five different languages. Testing continues to be available M-W-F 8 am to noon. They are, once again, asking for insurance information. She asked that anyone being tested remain in quarantine until they get results. She said they have identified a new lab and hopes they will speed results. She also noted that you can’t test your way out of quarantine. If you are a close contact to a positive case, you must quarantine for 14 days.
She confirmed the above numbers.
Have there been cases on football teams? We don’t comment on that.
Is it safe to have football? TSSAA has made recommendations and those should be followed.
Are deaths potentially reported on one day are they potentially placed on a different day? Yes.
If one person is tested three times and all are positive, is that one or three? It is one. You can continue to test positive because of the dead virus in your body even though you cannot infect others. We are still looking at whether people can be re-infected.
Are the masks helping locally? It is still early because of lag time before getting symptoms, getting tested, getting results. We should see the impact soon if we are going to see any.
Deaths are reported from different sources and that impacts how quickly they are counted.
21 of the 26 deaths locally were reported in July. Is that a sign we are not taking it seriously? We hope they are taking this seriously and practicing the guidelines in every single situation. She likened it to dieting only during the workday, but not at home.
Three to four weeks is the typical span from infection to death for those who die.
Many people cannot afford to take 14 days off. Should employers do something to help them? We do recommend that.
Are you concerned that low-income people might not cooperate with contact tracing because they cannot afford to quarantine? We have seen some of that, but we are trying to help with rent and food support.
While people are waiting for a test result, should they continue to work, etc? No, if you are concerned enough to get testing, quarantine until you get results.
Still working on alternate test site.
Are the recommendations from CDC for our county on the agenda of the Board of Health this week? Yes.
Is KCHD being overwhelmed with contact tracing? So far, yes. We are working long hours, seven days a week.
Has KCHD seen exposures from people who are supposed to be quarantining? Not sure, but it is likely.
How is COVID-19 determined as a cause? We accept the ruling of the coroner’s office.
What is the Board considering regarding bars, which are listed on the agenda for Wednesday? Wait and see.
Can a person request a mask from the KCHD online and have it mailed for free? No.