COVID-19: 9/24/2020 Update (Including Today’s Health Department Briefing)

Tennessee Daily Cases 9.24.2020 (Source: TN.gov)

We disagree. That is human. We express our very different opinions. That is our wonderful gift as free people in America. We discuss our differences. That’s how we grow, if we listen. But then we attack and demonize those with whom we disagree. Telling someone who disagrees with you that they are evil, ignorant, blind followers, weak, and afraid will never invite them into agreement. If both sides see the other as evil, there can be no compromise.

The bitterness and cynicism, the self-righteousness, the absolute certitude that we and we alone know the TRUTH, will destroy us as individuals. It damages our country and, so, is un-American. We have an obligation as citizens to form our opinions based on facts presented from reliable sources, to listen to others, and to respectfully advocate for our position. In the end, we make our best, informed decision and act accordingly, disagreeing with others, no doubt, but not de-humanizing them.

If I am not reaching that standard, I am part of the problem. Are you part of the problem, or are you moving us toward a resolution of this crisis, toward better more respectful conversation, toward a healed or healing country?

State News:

The state of Tennessee reported 1,561 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and 14 Tennesseans died of the illness. 180,083 cases have been confirmed and 6,626 are reported as probable. 169,649 people are now reported to have inactive cases. 2,275 people have died from the illness since the onset of the pandemic.

75 additional COVID-positive Tennesseans were hospitalized yesterday. The net number in hospitals across the state, however, dropped for the day from 794 to 708. The number is the lowest it has been in six weeks, as it has more-or-less steadily declined over the period. There are currently 240 COVID-positive Tennesseans in ICUs and 114 on ventilators. These numbers have also sharply declined over the same period.

Tennessee Daily Testing and Positive Test Result Rate 9.24.2020 (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

As close followers of the data will have been able to guess, given that yesterday’s number of cases more than doubled from the day before, reported testing increased from about 12,000 each of the previous two days, to almost 22,000 yesterday. The state reported an 8.25% positive test result rate for the day, while Johns Hopkins University reports a seven-day average positive test rate for the state of 5.7%.

Knox County Daily Cases 9.24.2020 (Source: Knox County Health Department)

Local News:

The Knox County Health Department is reporting 60 new cases today, bringing the pandemic total to 9,400 in Knox County. Of these, 8,024 cases are considered inactive and 1,712 are active. There are 413 probable cases. No additional deaths were reported today, leaving the total at 77.

37 COVID-positive Knox County residents are hospitalized today, up from 33 yesterday. 351 have been hospitalized since the beginning of the pandemic. Today’s case number marks the first time the Knox County daily case number has been under 100 for three consecutive days since mid August.

Benchmarks, which I mentioned in this morning’s article, were updated yesterday. The new case benchmark was moved from red to yellow and otherwise, all benchmarks remained unchanged: Green for public health capacity and yellow for testing, hospital capacity and deaths.

Press Briefing:

Charity Menefee and Dr. Buchanan each spoke at today’s press conference. They thanked Liliana Burbano for her work with Spanish language messaging. Charity focused on safely enjoying football with friends this weekend. They suggested watching outdoors, keeping distance and wearing masks if that isn’t possible. They recommend pre-plating food rather than gathering around a table. Wash hands often and sanitize commonly touched surfaces, such as remotes.

She reviewed the above data and the benchmarks. She said they are going to focus on the data regarding testing for the next several weeks to determine what is happening. She said the positive test result rate is running just over 8%. Twelve new members to the contact tracing team were added since last week.

Questions:

  • Last night the board spoke intensely about testing. Can you explain why it is important? It allows us to identify cases, including asymptomatic cases in order to contact trace and limit the spread of the illness. It allows for making better decisions.
  • Can you share your thoughts on the Freedom Forward video? Charity said it was disheartening for her and her team. She said staff was concerned for their safety and their jobs. They are trying to do their jobs and it was a hard thing to view. Dr. Buchanan echoed the sentiments. She said both the images and words were hard to hear, though everyone is entitled to express their opinions.
  • There is no plan at this time for systematic testing in the community as it is more complicated than on campus.
  • How do we incentivize people to get tested? We think wanting to know about your own health and wanting to protect your community’s health should be enough. Charity added that the more cases that are undetected in the community makes it more likely that people will become sick and hospitalized and we’ll all be impacted.
  • Are we worried about the trend in deaths and do we expect October to be worse? We are worried about it. We are seeing younger people being impacted, which produces fewer deaths, but we worry about their contacts with older citizens.
  • Are UT students quarantined in local hotels monitored by the department of health? Are they to remain in their rooms? Yes and yes.
  • The federal government recently released lower death rates. When will restrictions be lifted? The mortality rate is still high and the Board will make their own decisions.
  • Why have deaths gone up after the mask mandate was put in place? We saw a reduction in cases go down after the mandate, as has been seen all over the country. The opening of schools set us back as contact went up.
  • What data says bars and restaurants spread the disease? They were given a curfew due the higher risk activity. Dr. Birx has a country-wide view and she stated she has seen across the country is that if they limit bar hours, case rates go down.
  • Could you speak to setting metrics for when we can lift a mandate? It is an attempt to use data to make decisions and for the community to understand where we stand.
  • Is there any new information on re-infections? We have seen some people test positive a second time, but there isn’t a large body of knowledge. If you test positive within 90 days, you are not considered ill again. Outside that window, it is complicated and may be a new exposure.
  • How many cases are related to bars? Many people have acknowledged that they had been in bars. If we wait until we can prove every source without doubt we will be behind on stopping the illness.
  • Why closures at a specific time? Where is the data? The board is trying to balance risk by reducing hours, but helping businesses with the least limits possible.

University of Tennessee Active Cases 9.24.2020 (Source: University of Tennessee)

University of Tennessee News:

The University of Tennessee is reporting 135 active cases, including 128 students and 7 staff members. The number is up three from yesterday. 1,304 are reported to have recovered. There are 650 in isolation, down from 685 the day before. Of the 650, 56 are employees, 283 are on-campus students and 311 are off-campus students. No additional clusters were reported.

Knox County Schools Active Cases 9.24.2020 (Source: Knox County Schools)

Knox County Schools News:

The Knox County Schools report 58 active cases, including 45 students and 13 staff. 225 have recovered. The number of active cases is up from 44 reported the day before.

There are 1,095 people in isolation or quarantine. Of these, 1,004 are students and 91 are staff members. The number is up from 979 the previous day. Halls High School remains the only school on complete virtual learning.

Comments

  1. Joyce Richman says

    From what I’ve read from a person who went to Embassy Suites downtown, the UT kids “quarantined” there were all partying in the bar. They had masks but they were shoulder to shoulder. Can’t drink with a mask on.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I’ve seen that repeated on FB, as well. Do we know it is true? I haven’t heard from UT that they are quarantining students there and they’ve named other hotels.

      • Probably not, if it’s like most viral things shared on Facebook. “And everyone stood up and clapped. Copy and paste to share if you love FREEDOM”

    • I can confirm about the incredible lack of social distancing or mask wearing on the rooftop bar of the embassy suites. Now, I’m one who has decided to patron local places and be as careful as I can..to help them stay open. However, I tried going to the radius rooftop lounge last friday night and was shocked at what I saw- Literally no one wearing masks and no social distancing. Folks packed into tables, at the bar, etc. It seemed like mostly the 35 and under crowd. Its felt like I was transported back in time to summer of 2019, if I’m honest . As soon as I saw this, I went back downstairs and ended up going to Sapphire (which seemed to take the rules much much more serious).

      I’m honestly kinda surprised that radius hasn’t been put on blast on some of the local reddit pages, this page, etc for their utter lack of compliance. It was very disappointing to see.

  2. Alan, thanks so much for those opening remarks. Well said, sir.

  3. Rosemary Gilliam says

    Thank you so much for the Intro. Yes, we need healing on numerous levels. If only we could “Agree to disagree, Respectfully “

  4. I feel that the Freedom Forward video showed a lack of class on Mayor Jacob’s part. As an elected official, he should be held to higher standards and this was kind of reminiscent of a stunt from the WWE days. Unfortunately, the divide in this country gets larger daily and this video does not help! Not many of our elected officials, democratic or republican, are acting with class!!

    I appreciate your updates daily!!

    • Thank you for standing up for not trying to divide us but provide us with FACTS about Covid. It is real, we are in a Covid pandemic, it is potentially fatal. “Freedom to Infect” seems to be what many desire. I am sorry so many of our elected officials scoff at asking people to be responsible to others during this time or put suggestions for mask wearing and social distancing in such mild terms it is hard to take it seriously. These are life and death decisions that affect our entire community, state, and nation – this is not politics, or shouldn’t be.

      • I agree: “Freedom to Infect” seems to be the desire. Why not “Freedom to drive drunk”? It seems like the same logic. “How dare you restrict my freedom to drink and drive?”

        • Eh, not a great analogy. There are laws against driving drunk, but no laws against individuals (knowingly or unknowingly) infecting another person with COVID-19. You’d likely have fewer instances of drunk driving if you closed the bars at 10:00 every night instead of 3:00 in the morning, yet no one is clamoring for that to occur.

          It’s not particularly that people desire the “freedom to infect,” but rather that a lot of us feel that you should do a better job of taking responsibility for your own health as opposed to relying upon an unelected board to restrict the actions of others in the hopes that it mitigates your risk.

          • There are laws against infecting others with HIV. I can see the possibility of at least a civil action against someone who fails to take precautions in a public health crisis. If I could fully protect myself without your cooperation I could see your point but in fact there is plenty of evidence that failing to wear a mask/keep distance can cause you to infect me, no matter how responsible I am being. And if I happen to lack economic power my ability to protect myself may be even further impaired.

  5. Rachel Leah Greene says

    Thank you!

  6. Alan, thanks again for your work.

    With regard to the 3 days of sub-100 cases, could you also provide the number of tests results tallied over those days? I have a sneaking feeling the rate of testing fell proportionally to the number of positives recorded.

    If that’s the case, the use of straight positive numbers to change the benchmark color is flawed. Is that all that is being used to shift new cases color? It gives a false sense of security (and alarm) if so.

    I can only think of positive rate in a random sampling of a statistically large enough pool within a geographic region (say, Knoxville urban area) as a valid measure of spread/new cases.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I know of no source for local testing totals. I’ve repeatedly mentioned the issue at the state level, where it is very clear.

  7. Many people do not believe they need to form their opinions based on facts. And many people operate in bad faith. Hopefully these people are a small minority.

  8. Thank you for your opening remarks. I have been struggling with many of the issues you’ve mentioned as a writer struggling to adapt, not only to circumstances, but to the various forms and forums that have evolved under modern times. Times were simpler when one could establish relationships with editors and know that they would hold you in standard when you approached any ethical boundaries. That is a much larger struggle with today’s media and its various forms of outreach.

    When one compounds that with the relatively new concept of citizen journalism in a digital world, where seemingly everything is wide open to everyone and there is literally no accountability to truth, how does one establish the parameters under which one’s reporting is relevant? When personal accountability and personal ethics are the only restrictive elements holding ones standards in place, how does one achieve the balance necessary for fair, truthful and relevant reporting and analysis?

    I would point to terminology as an example. What do we refer to Mayor Jacobs followers as? Citizens in pushback? A cult? Terrorists? Patriots? The resistance? The intellectually challenged? Depending on the circumstances directly surrounding any given event, and the viewpoint one wishes to espouse all could be used with varying degrees of accuracy. A problem with dealing with propaganda is that the entire purpose of a political propaganda is to get a population to accept a proposition that would have been repugnant prior to the introduction of the propaganda. Like looking the other way while your government willfully instituted policy shown to arbitrarily increase the death rate among the citizens of of a local community.

    It is an ongoing struggle for balance and accuracy. A commitment to truth becomes challenging when data is being manipulated beyond the point where one can recognize and account for variance via cross check. This is not an easy atmosphere for the professionals to operate in, and it is particularly difficult for us that do it out our commitment to our community and the truth. We don’t have the access to the information and sources our professional contemporaries do. What we do have, is the ability to analyze and comment on implications that our professional contemporaries may wish to hold back on until they have the implication cross sourced. Unfortunately those without a commitment to truth also have that freedom in the use of propaganda. Once one side introduces a toxic element to the debate, both sides become toxic.

    Back in May, when Mayor Jacobs came out in his weekly address with semi automatic combat weapons and urged his supporters to go to the gun range, I found his action bizarre. When I saw his 4th of July speech I found that same video disturbing. As he instituted a propaganda campaign in heated rhetoric with a blatant disregard for fact against both the science of pandemic management and the Board of Health, I looked back and found that early video alarming. Now now, with his overt call to arms in opposition to the board of health, I find his original address dangerous. How many of his supporters are armed, sighted in, and prepared to become operational on command? This is longer a county united by our common goals and collective needs. We are citizens lining up in opposition to our neighbors. We are in a county-wide conflict that has a death toll.

    There are no easy answers right now. At some point, we must make a value judgement as a community as to whether or not our citizens lives and their quality of life supersedes a minority’s right to economic advancement. Sales tax revenues are up. People in all sectors, including restaurants, that have taken advantage of circumstances have not only survived, but many are thriving. City government has been proactive and provided zoning relief allowing greater opportunities for downtown businesses. None of Mayor Jacobs dark, dire threats of what will come to pass if the Board of Health have come to pass.

    Why do we have the conflict we’re currently having?

    • Facebook.

    • Bill McKibben, in one of his books on climate change, said that a major reason Republican politicians fought against the concept so consistently was because they didn’t want to admit that there was any role for large government and climate change would require governmental action. Grover Norquist’s goal of shrinking government to a size where it could be “drowned in a bathtub” seems to be the core motivation for a lot of what Republican politicians do. The financial benefits are obvious.

      Politically, this is my guess: trying to set a precedent. “Well we didn’t allow an unelected board to dictate to us during a pandemic, so why would we now?” It is very important that the Health Board not lose this battle.

      Personally, shutting down a health board – in a pandemic – would get you a lot of MAGA-world street cred. I hope it’s not like that, I hope Jacobs understands that this is not a game, that bad policy decisions could result in many preventable deaths and/or long-term disability.

      I have no inside information, but this is my guess as to why we are having this controversy. This is exactly the kind of question that concerned citizens should be asking.

  9. Thank you for your introductory paragraph. I agree completely. One thing those who believe in taking INDIVIDUAL responsibility for conquering this disease could do is volunteer for the COVID-19 vaccine trials There’s no government involvement — it’s all private enterprise. It’s a great opportunity to put the rest of one’s body where one’s mouth is. And yes, I’m a volunteer. I’ve had my injection.

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