COVID-19: 9/17/2020 Update (State, Local, UT, KCS Data and the KCHD Briefing)

Tennessee Daily Cases 9.17.2020 (Source:
Tennessee Daily Cases 9.17.2020 (Source:

In a year that has felt a lot more like “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” than not, a gentle autumn rain is a welcome thing. I suppose we’re getting the edge of the hurricane, but we’ve also got the promise of cooler temperatures. The rain feels comforting for us, where it was threatening for others to our south. It’s not unlike the choice we all face – to bring comfort or despair, kindness or abuse, words of reconciliation or angry and bitter words. Let’s choose well.

State News:

The state of Tennessee reported 1,856 new cases yesterday, along with 24 deaths, bringing those respective totals to 171,574 and 2,074. There are an additional 5,513 probable cases. 160,202 cases are no longer considered active, while 9,298 remain ill.

74 additional COVID-19 positive patients were hospitalized yesterday, across the state, and the hospital census for these patients moved upward slightly to 823. 267 ICU patients are COVID-positive, as are 133 who are on ventilators. The numbers have been stable for the last week, but declined significantly in the weeks prior to that point.

Tennessee Daily Testing and Positive Test Result Rate 9.17.2020 (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

When she visited UTK yesterday, Dr. Birx specifically mentioned concerns regarding the level of testing in Tennessee, saying it had dropped by 50% in recent weeks. In addition to dropping over-all, it is reported in bursts which lead to wild fluctuations in numbers of cases. Almost 28,000 tests were reported yesterday to bring the total to about 2.54 million since the beginning of the pandemic. For the day, the state reported an 8.21% positive test rate, while Johns Hopkins reports a seven-day average of 6%.

Knox County Daily Cases 9.17.2020 (Source: Knox County Health Department)

Knox County News:

The Knox County Health Department reported an additional 151 Knox County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 today, bringing the pandemic total to 8,807. Of these, 6,892 are now inactive, while 2,183 remain ill.* One additional death was reported today, for a total of 68. The person who died today fell in the 65 – 74 age range. 336 cases are reported as probable.

34 COVID-positive Knox County residents are currently hospitalized. The number is lower than it was a week ago and about ten below where it was for the two weeks prior. A total of 320 people have been hospitalized at some point during the pandemic.

*Editor’s Note: These numbers do not add up. The number of total cases (8,807) should equal inactive (6,892)+active (2,183) +deceased (68). Clearly, it does not. This is because the probable cases are not included in the total case number, but they are included in the other numbers. Increasingly, at the state and local level, the two are being blended. For the sake of consistency, I’ve continued to separate them where I can. At some point, I may need to accept the number they report, with the understanding it includes probable cases.

Knox County Health Department Briefing:

Charity Menefee chaired today’s meeting. She acknowledged our Hispanic community and Hispanic Heritage Month.

She discussed how to watch sports safely with friends. She said to limit the size of the group and advised outside, if possible. She said to space by six feet, do not congregate around food (pre-plate or bring-your-own) and to wear masks if distancing is not possible.

She acknowledged the numbers reported above and reported on the benchmarks – which I covered in yesterday’s article.


  • Why didn’t the 10 pm curfew work and why do we think the 11 pm curfew would work? She said it was a compromise.
  • We haven’t seen any additional inactive cases for the last three days, shouldn’t there be? We’ll check.
  • What changed from last week, given the changes made last night by the board? Our numbers increased and Dr. Birx made recommendations.
  • What is the grand strategy for slowing the spread over the coming weeks? It is really simply the five core actions that we’ve requested. They are the key to all of us being able to continue living our lives.
  • Nashville is facing a controversy regarding bars, does that impact the decision made last night? No. Across the country this method has been used and cities have seen their numbers drop. It is challenging to know specifically where some cases arise. We do know the intake of alcohol reduces the likelihood of following the core behaviors.
  • She said there have been cases in which people have been going to bars and restaurants, but no cluster related to one.
  • The largest growth category is 18 – 22 and is the undercurrent of recent discussions related to additional interventions.
  • KPD says it will enforce the mandate. What about the county? The sheriff will have to answer that. I believe Chief Thomas is convening a meeting with that group.
  • We will continue to educate first.
  • What do you think of the county mayor being the lone dissenting vote? He has a right to his own opinion.
  • Dr. Buchanan said we are now in a red zone, what does that mean? It means we have a higher rate than we had before.
  • We’ll be talking about a plan and benchmarks to shoot for to drop restrictions and we’ll bring those to the board.
  • Safe trick or treating? Five core actions. We’ll look at it more closely when it is closer.
  • Dr. Buchanan mentioned that staff has been reduced to tears by responses. More specifics? Most are easy to work with, but some people are very angry and saying some very vicious and hateful things. It is day-in and day-out. We haven’t wanted to complain. We are trying to do our jobs and contact tracing is no different that has been the case for many years, but there is more anger. It makes coming to work difficult at times.
University of Tennessee Active Cases 9.17.2020 (Source: University of Tennessee)

University of Tennessee News:

The University of Tennessee reported improving case numbers for the third consecutive day. The current number of active cases is 435, and the number has dropped rapidly – by 35, then 146 and now 64. Of the active cases, 421 are students and 14 are staff. But there is a question . . .

The number of recovered cases, now at 845, is going up, which explains the drops – until today. A reader pointed out to me that recoveries went up by 31 from yesterday to today, but active cases dropped by 64. Where did the other 33 cases go? A case is resolved by recovery or death and no deaths have been reported. I’ve forwarded the question to UTK, but haven’t heard back at this point. I’ll let you know if I get an answer – and thanks for the tip!

The reported number of quarantined/isolated students and staff also continues to decline significantly. The school reports 102 employees, 859 residential students and 660 non-residential students are currently isolated or quarantined, for a total of 1,621. Just four days earlier, this number peaked at 2,175.

No clusters have been reported since September 8.


Knox County Schools Active Cases 9.17.2020 (Source: Knox County Schools)

Knox County School News:

Yesterday afternoon, the Knox County Schools reported a total of 47 active cases, up from 42 the day before, though lower than last week’s 54 on the same day. 38 of the currently active cases are students and 16 are staff members. 181 students and staff have recovered.

One of the most difficult obstacles for the school system has been the number of students and staff quarantined or isolated. That number is currently reported at 902, which breaks down to 842 students and 60 staff, most there presumably due to exposure, though that exposure wasn’t necessarily in schools. The total number has shifted very little over the last week.

The metrics watched by the system remain unchanged, with teacher attendance, student attendance, bus and cafeteria attendance all in green, custodial attendance in the yellow and substitutions in the red. Ms. Wagoner said at the Board of Health meeting last night that they have detailed metrics on each of the specific schools, as well, and can use that to make more precise interventions like the recent decision to close Cedar Bluff Middle for a week. No other schools have been closed at any point.