COVID-19 Update: 9/15/2020 (Including the K. C. Health Dept. and UTK Briefings)

Tennessee Daily Cases 9.15.2020 (Source:

I hope your week is off to a good start. There’s a bit of coolness in the air, with a promise of more to come. The virus can’t kill a good weather day. It’s a great time to sit on the porch, balcony, stoop, or deck. Or to take a walk through the city or along the river. Any time is a great time for a walk along a trail, but this time of year is the best. Grab it before it’s gone – winter will be here in a blink.

State News:

The state of Tennessee reported 2,450 additional cases of COVID-19, yesterday, to bring the pandemic total to 169,130 (yesterday’s total was higher because it included, mistakenly, probable cases) Tennesseans who have had the illness. There are an additional 5,144 probable cases. 156,808 people have recovered. An additional 19 deaths were reported from the illness, bringing that total to 2,097.

U.S. Daily Testing and Positive Test Rate 9.14.2020 (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

Net hospitalizations have risen to 762 COVID-positive Tennesseans, with an additional 56 people hospitalized, yesterday. There are 126 pending cases. 260 are in the ICU and 114 are on ventilators. All hospitalization numbers remain better than a week ago on this day.

Testing surged yesterday, as long-time readers here would know, given the surge in numbers of cases. The state reported results from 36,583 tests, yesterday, with a 7.15% positive test rating. The James Hopkins University numbers show a seven-day average of 6.2%.

Knox County Daily Cases 9.15.2020 (Source: Knox County Health Department)

Knox County News:

The Knox County Health Department is reporting 219 new cases today, the second largest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic, just three shy of the highest number set nine days earlier. The pandemic total for cases is now 8,590 cases. The surge in cases drove the number of active cases to 1,955, the highest it has been since numbers were adjusted downward on September 5. 6,892 people now have their cases classified as inactive.

There are currently 34 people hospitalized and the total number hospitalized since the beginning of the pandemic now sits at 312. There are no new deaths reported today, leaving that total at 67. 324 people are reported as probable case and that number has risen every day for two weeks after fluctuating prior to that. I hope to ask for an explanation in today’s press conference.

Press Conference:

Dr. Buchanan began today’s meeting noting the pain of those who have experienced the illness and those who have lost family members. She reiterated the need to follow the five core actions. She gave an example of how to safely visit family on an out-of-town visit. She said to continue to wear your mask inside, use separate bedrooms and bathrooms, wash hands, eat together outside. If you are not feeling well, do not leave home.

We continue the same testing schedule this week at the Jacob’s Building. She reminded everyone of the board meeting tomorrow night. She confirmed the above numbers. She noted the large daily increases and pleaded with everyone to follow the core actions if we want to have anything resembling a normal fall. If everyone follows the guidance, the community will be safer and people can do what they want, only with precautions.


  • Why is the probable number going up continually? People have more contacts and cases are also rising.
  • We’ve seen a slight dip in UT cases. Does the Health Dept. think that bar closures around the campus would help? Dr. Birx confirmed that curfews with alcohol helps. It’s something to consider.
  • Did Dr. Birx speak about possible mitigation strategies? Yes.
  • With 25% of cases within school age recently, what does that mean for schools? Schools being open depends on what  we all do.
  • What is the Health Department saying to schools? The same thing we are saying to everyone.
  • Does KCHD have oversight over bars? We have a regulatory relationship, but only codes related to food. The Board could act in that arena.
  • How do you decide when to enforce or to educate? We’ve had a relationship with this industry for decades and we have always started with education. With COVID, there have been different regulation and we treat it the same. We’ve not yet taken regulatory action against a business.
  • Are fewer people requesting tests? Yes. We are seeing the testing numbers across the state and the country going down. It’s a concern. We need to be identifying people who do not have symptoms, but are ill. We need the cooperation of the community to get tested, to quarantine, if needed, in order to keep our community safe.
  • Are you considering shifting how enforcement is handled? Enforcement has to be a coordinated effort and regulations need to be clear, which is a lesson we’ve learned.
  • How should people decided when to get a COVID-test? People who are symptomatic or people who are not symptomatic, but have had an exposure.
  • What notices has KCHD gotten regarding vaccine distribution? There is a lot of conversation and communication. We are preparing.
  • Flu shots or mists will be offered after school hours at schools, in hopes of having parents also get vaccinated.

University of Tennessee Active Cases 9.15.2020 (Source:

University of Tennessee News:

The University of Tennessee is reporting 645 active cases. 630 students and 15 staff total are included. Only 1 faculty member is included in the number. There are 2,087 in quarantine or isolation. There are now more residential students than non-residential students in quarantine. This number is down by about 90 since yesterday. Of the total, 102 are employees.

Press Conference:

Dr. Birx, from the White House Task Force, met with UTK staff today and reviewed their situation, made suggestion and was, according to Dr. Plowman, impressed with the measures the University has taken. She also met with community leaders, including both mayors and Dr. Buchanan. She encouraged a community-wide approach.

Dr. Gregg said Dr. Birx supported the surveillance testing. She said the CDC may be updating quarantine recommendations, he said, to a shorter period. Dr. Birx supported the encouragement to gather outside and keep gatherings small. Dr. Gregg said the numbers are encouraging, though he’s watching for the two-week mark after Labor Day. He and Dr. Plowman noted that the downturn in active cases is due to recoveries increasing.

More testing and multiple kinds of testing are being instituted. PCR testing of all students moving out of Massey hall was conducted and this week all students in Magnolia will be tested. They hope to get a more comprehensive view of the current situation after that data is gathered. Waste water from dorms and Greek houses is being tested. Wider-spread saliva tests are being used.

Knox County Schools Active Cases 9.15.2020 (Source: Knox County Schools)

Knox County Schools News:

The Knox County Schools are reporting 50 total active cases, including 39 students and 11 staff members. The numbers have slowly declined for several days, dropping from 55 yesterday. 163 students and staff have recovered from the illness. 986 students and staff are in quarantine, an increase from 863 the previous day. The number includes 917 students and 69 staff members.

No schools are closed at this time. According to the benchmarks, the primary concern system-wide, continues to be substitute availability and, to a lesser degree, custodial support.


  1. Concerned parent says

    One private school has closed their high school and switched to virtual learning starting today through end of this week. How are other private schools doing in Knox County?

  2. Thanks, Alan. You are the one reliable source of Covid information that we have in this city & county. Very much appreciated 🙂

  3. concerned parent says

    Alan, can you give us the Knox County positive percentage rate? And any idea what the minimum number of tests per day (total for the county or per capita for a given area is fine) is required to provide a reasonably accurate positivity rate?

    Also, anybody have any insight on whether Knox Co Schools is doing any randomized covid testing on students (doubt they can get this agreed to by enough parents) or staff and teachers? Pre-screening measures for covid – which trigger requirements for testing or quarantining – are likely to only identify a very small percentage of actively ill students, teachers, and staff given the high rate of asymtomatics and the iffy duration, time of presentation, and severity of symptoms in those who do show symptoms.

    Lastly, any data anybody has seen and can link that indicates rate of transmission of covid outdoors in high contact sports without masks versus indoors in eating establishments without masks (which seems to have the highest rate of transmission)?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I’m sorry, I don’t have that information. I understand that positive test rates may be on the state website by county, but I haven’t dug down to it. It was reported in last week’s Board of Health meeting and I included that chart, I believe.

      • concerned parent says

        Thanks for getting back, Alan.

        I can’t find positivity rate info for Knox Co or even the state on TN Dept of Health Covid Resources page and dashboard…

        From [] is the following:

        The WHO has suggested around 10 – 30 tests per confirmed case as a general benchmark of adequate testing.2

        This, however, appears to be an attempt to actually produce a positive rate of 3.3-10% and use the positive rate as a indicator of whether enough tests are being done…

        …rather than providing a minimum number of tests needed per capita and letting the positive rate fall where it may naturally – and thereby using the positivity rate to indicate the ratio of infected to uninfected people.

        The only place where I have seen county positivity rates provided consistently is at

        Unfortunately, they also provide their positivity rate as a method of indicating whether enough tests are being given rather than rate of spread of infection which appears to be their calculation for Infection Rate (Knox Co is 1.1 giving it the 4th highest Infection Rate in TN).

        Total numbers of new infections per day don’t quite match KUG’s numbers though…

        • The positivity rate for Knox County is reported every day in their Instagram post @knoxvillecity. For this week, it looks like 11.4%.

          • concerned parent says

            Thanks, Rachel. I obviously haven’t been checking Knox Co’s instagram feed. The 11.4% positivity rate you quote is very close to the 11.5% shown on the website.

  4. I echo John’s sentiments. Thanks for all you do. I like to send a shout out to Halls Football team as well. They’re situation took my thoughts back to my high school years. I remember how hard it was to have things you worked for jerked away from you by adults with an agenda. It’s not fair or right and forty years later I’m looking at this generation and saying “All they had to do was wear masks. What if this was going to be the Cinderella Halls team that was going to make a run at state?” Maybe it’s not too late. High school football standings can be funny things. Best of luck to everyone. Wear your masks. They work.

  5. Two questions popped up for me reading this:

    1. Have they started to include UT students from out of town in Knox County’s numbers? I don’t see how this approach is helpful to maintain consistent data.

    2. I saw you mentioned saliva tests. Are these available now at the health department? I don’t think I’ve been exposed to anyone so I shouldn’t be tested right now anyway, but a saliva test would make me a lot less anxious if it were to happen.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Anyone who currently resides in Knox County is counted as part of our data. That includes students who are from elsewhere, but are living in this county. I don’t think the Health Department is doing saliva tests, but I could be wrong. I think they are less accurate.

  6. Suburban Mom says

    Thank you again for your continued patience and efforts to communicate with a very level approach, Alan. We certainly hope that folks who think they have more answers find ways to provide them in as constructive a manner as you.

    You are leading by example, Alan. We’re grateful.

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