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

Tennessee Daily Cases 9.24.2020 (Source:
Tennessee Daily Cases 9.24.2020 (Source:

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.


  • 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.