COVID-19: 10/15/2020 Update (Including Today’s Health Department Briefing)

Tennessee Daily Cases 10.15.2020 (Source:

Good Thursday. It’s a beautiful day outside, like the days we dream about when the weather is bad. Soon we’ll have cold and we’ll miss these days. Get outside and enjoy the emerging beauty of the natural world. The cycles of nature continue when all else in our human world betray us. Let’s not miss the joy for the pain.

State News:

Yesterday, the state of Tennessee reported 1,709 new cases of COVID-19, bringing our totals to 210,016 confirmed cases and 10,522 probable cases. 198,465 people have recovered and 8,723 remain ill. The state reported an additional 31 deaths, bringing the total number of Tennesseans who have died of COVID-19 in the last seven months to 2,828.

Tennessee Hospitalizations, ICU and Ventilator Patients (Source:

I’ve included the hospitalization chart from the state, so you can see what I’m looking at. I won’t include it every day. As I’ve mentioned before, it is a day ahead of the numbers on the front page of the state’s site, which they acknowledge there.

The good news is that it gives hospitalizations, ICU and ventilator numbers every day. The bad news is that it continually rolls off the oldest day of the six week period covered, preventing me from doing longer-term comparisons. The numbers on the left are actual patient numbers, on the right is patients per hospital reporting.

Yesterday, 62 additional people with the illness were hospitalized across the state, bringing the pandemic total to 9,371. There are currently 1,149 people hospitalized with the illness, including 354 in the ICU and 166 on ventilators. As you can see, the hospital census has gone up by over 50% since September 20. We know that during that time 610 people died, meaning, they were subtracted from those numbers, making the increase even more dramatic.

Tennessee Daily Testing and Positive Test Result Rate 10.15.2020 (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

As you might guess from the increase in case numbers yesterday, there was a day-over-day increase in the number of tests reported, from about 13,900 to about 18,200. It brings Tennessee’s pandemic total of tests to roughly 3,233,000. Of concern is that the state is reporting increased positive test results, pegging the number at 8.73% for yesterday’s test group. Johns Hopkins University reports a seven-day average positive test result of 7.2%.

The seven day average for cases in the state is 1,869 case per day. The seven day average for deaths is 27 deaths per day. Tennessee has now surpassed New Jersey in total cases and is currently ninth among the states. The state is also 8th in per capita cases. The comparative news is slightly better in deaths, with Tennessee ranking 21st for total deaths from the virus and 27th in per capita deaths.

Knox County Daily Cases 10.15.2020 (Source: Knox County Health Department)

Knox County News:

If there are slightly encouraging numbers today, they are in Knox County. Active cases dropped, for the first time in a week, we’ve gone two consecutive days with fewer than 100 new cases, hospitalizations dropped for the second consecutive day, and the county reported no deaths over night. The bad news for the day is in the positive test result rate which increased.

It will be interesting to see tomorrow’s numbers. If my current working theory is correct – that surges or drops in testing reported by the state are reflected by decreases or increases the following day in Knox County – we’ll be back over 100 tomorrow. I hope I’m wrong and, in any case, at least we have a better day today.

The Knox County Health Department reported 76 new cases today, bringing the pandemic totals to 11,310 confirmed cases and 531 probable cases. 10,556 people have recovered and 1,195 remain ill. Hospitalizations are now 57, which is an improvement over the last five days, but would have been a pandemic record prior to that point. The total Knox County residents who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 at some point now totals 407. The death total remains at 90.

In case you missed it in the Board of Health article prior to this report, the benchmarks were updated yesterday. Case numbers were changed from green to red, testing remained yellow, public health capacity remained green, hospitalizations remained yellow and deaths changed from yellow to green. The average positive test result percentage moved from 7.23% last week to a current seven-day average to a 9.76% positivity rate this week.

Knox County Health Department Briefing:

Dr. Buchanan chaired today’s meeting. She reported the above numbers and reviewed the benchmarks (noted above). Testing data has been shifted to utilize the state’s test reporting, which is where they draw their data for positive test result percentages. She implored people and businesses to cooperate with contact tracing.

She noted that hospital numbers are at their highest point since the beginning of the pandemic and expressed concern with looming flu season. She asked people to please continue the five core actions and to get a flu shot. Regarding deaths, she said it is green, but they anticipate increased deaths in coming days. She acknowledged the increased positive test rate.


  • Are there flu cases in Knox County, yet? It isn’t reportable to public health. We haven’t seen an uptick.
  • How many flu shots has the Health Department given and how does it compare to last year? We’ve given 1600 and it was less than 300 at this time last year – but we got it earlier this year.
  • Can flu shots give you the flu? No. There are two kinds of flu shots and neither will give you the flu.
  • How close do hospitals run to capacity in flu season? We don’t know, but it is a concern.
  • Do you think flu season will be lighter this year due to the five core actions? We’re not sure, but it’s possible.
  • Did you receive a copy of the latest White House Task Force report for Tennessee? Yes
  • With cases and hospitalizations up are you more concerned than two weeks ago? Yes, it is probably worse right now than it has been at any point in Knox County. Significantly, it is being fueled by people avoiding testing, not quarantining and not cooperating with contact tracers.
  • Explain PCR tests. It’s looking for viral DNA. A cycle threshold process is done to allow the DNA to be able to be seen. This PCR test is specific to COVID-19. The technology is the same as it is for many other tests, such as the flu.
  • Are surge plans still in place? We still have a committee looking at any needs and any plan would be coordinated with the state.

University of Tennessee Active Cases 10.15.2020 (Source: University of Tennessee)

University of Tennessee News:

Reported numbers from the University of Tennessee continue to be extremely low compared to their initial levels when school opened. The university is now reporting 61 active cases and 1,575 recoveries. The number of active cases has remained very steady and the university reported only three new cases today.

The number in quarantine or isolation, while dramatically lower than its peak, has continued to rise for the last ten days. There are now 343 in quarantine or isolation. Of these, 37 are employees, 98 are on-campus students, and 208 are off-campus students.

In case you missed the Board of Health article, Dr. Gregg had some interesting numbers regarding the pooled testing currently underway on campus. After low return rates on the “mandatory” testing, they reminded students that they are required to be tested and got a large follow-up group. He said 671 students were tested last week through pooled testing and 46 were referred for further testing. 11 ultimately tested positive. In make-up tests 455 students were tested and, of these, 12 were referred for follow-up testing.

If I am reading those numbers correctly, and assuming all 12 of those referred are positive, that is a positive test rate of about 2%. If that is accurate in a large pool of random testing, perhaps the low numbers on campus are truly reflective of the current disease burden. The gaping hole in testing is, however, those off campus.

Knox County Schools News:

The Knox County School System is not updating its site during fall break.


  1. Kathy Slocum says

    Thank you for these reports, you have done an amazing job. I’m very grateful for this well written and important information

  2. I still am concerned about the potential for spread with in-person voting (either early voting or on election day) if some people are not following the core actions. I was hoping the Board of Health would pass a mask mandate for polling sites.

    I was surprised at Dr. Buchanan’s response that flu is not reportable. Where do the data come from that get reported every flu season about number of cases and deaths? I have a friend (young and pregnant) who has been very ill from flu (although she was relieved that her COVID-19 test, which was done before being tested for flu) was negative. Obviously flu has started, so I hope lots of people get flu shots!

    • The board of health has no jurisdiction over polling place. They have power over businesses. That would probably require state action. I suppose the city could enforce it on thier property but someone screaming and causing a scene about being denied the right to vote is not something anyone wants playing out in the news right now.

  3. Safe site for in-person voting says

    We voted today at the County Assessor’s site downtown and felt very safe. All precautionary measures were in place and at no time did we feel at risk. Masks are required at this location and everyone was wearing them.

    • I’ve read on Facebook that some polling places don’t require masks, but wouldn’t the mask mandate for Knox County for all indoor, public places cover the indoor spaces used for polling? Or is the issue enforcement? I can see where that would be a problem.

      • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

        If I understand it correctly, the polling places are not subject to the local mandate. That said, the City County Building might be a special case of its own.

    • Oh, and I’m happy to hear that location was following the mask requirement. Thanks for the info!

  4. Leigh Loveday says

    We just voted at the Expo center on Clinton Highway and it could not have been a better experience. Everyone was wearing masks and social distancing. We went at 3 pm and it took 40 minutes. If you go later like 3:40 to 4 pm there was no wait to go inside. I was proud of Knoxville at least for this location.

  5. Pamela Schoenewaldt says

    Downtown West had an hour wait on Wednesday but everyone in line had a mask. I believe they allow people who have physical issues to get in without waiting. Good idea to bring your own black pen because I didn’t see that they were sterilizing them. It’s one out/one in, so the polling place wasn’t more crowded than usual and the line was mostly social distance.

  6. Kathy Williams says

    I was walking i to a business yesterday, properly masked. I saw a person walk in ahead of me without a mask. I asked the clerk “no mask?” She shrugged her shoulders. The unmasked person suddenly realized she had forgotten her mask. She covered her mouth with both hands and ran out to her car and returned with a mask. She was very apologetic. Two things here…..perhaps I could have asked her in the parking lot “Did you forget you’re mask?” She could then have the opportunity to show me some sign language or retrieved her mask. Secondly, the clerk could have done the same thing and gotten o e of the two reactions. My point is that I can take accountability for myself but also gently remind someone else of theirs.

    I might add that if I was a clerk in a store, I would probably get fired for running after people with a box of masks saying “Here! I’ve got your mask! Please take one!” Yes, I am very pro-mask as well as all the five core actions for COVID-19. I’ve been a nurse for 40 years and I KNOW they have probably saved my life.

  7. However, the Health Council has no obligation to monitor the election process and polling stations. This is more an administrative matter and concerns politicians. And members of society in general. Therefore it is not necessary to transfer all responsibility on someone one. In general, thank you for the article, a good selection of facts that are quite relevant in addition.

Leave a Reply to Safe site for in-person voting Cancel reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.