COVID-19: 11/17/2020 Update (State, Local, UTK, KCS and the Health Department Briefing)

Tennessee Daily Cases 11.17.2020 (Source:
Tennessee Daily Cases 11.17.2020 (Source:

Well, it has been an interesting morning on social media. On two separate posts, one on my personal page and one on the Inside of Knoxville Page, I’ve learned a lot.

On my personal page I was informed that the media doesn’t call elections, that President Trump will return to office for a second term in January and that massive voter fraud will sent people to jail. If you don’t believe that, I learned, you have “traded a lie for truth” and you are controlled by a media narrative.

On the Inside of Knoxville Facebook page, I learned that masks do not work, lock downs don’t work, and we can’t stop a virus. The mortality rate is low, so it does not matter. Science is being used to destroy businesses and schools. We are being kept apart to keep us from discussing the elimination of our rights.

It becomes a challenge simply to affirm our own grasps on reality. A large portion of the country believes President Trump won re-election and the virus either isn’t real, doesn’t matter or is a diabolical plot. No evidence – like 1/4 million dead Americans or a televised swearing in ceremony will change their minds. All we can do is take walks in the sunshine, limit our exposure to news and social media and spread kindness, love, and grace to everyone wherever possible in hopes of a better day.

In the meantime, COVID-19 is real, and cases, hospitalizations and deaths are soaring internationally, nationally, and at the state and local level. This is not the time to relax the care you take for yourself and others.

State News:

The state of Tennessee reported a record-shattering 7,951 new cases yesterday. The previous record, 5,919, lasted one week. There are now 296,654 confirmed cases and 22,234 probable cases in the state. 271,864 of those cases are now considered inactive, leaving 20,867 Tennesseans with an active case of COVID-19. For the day, the state ranked 4th in the U.S. for new cases and the seven-day average for cases is 4,446 per day.

The state reported 30 additional deaths yesterday, bringing the total to 3,923. For the day, Tennessee reported the 10th highest death total in the U.S. The state is now averaging 45 deaths per day, the highest that number has been since the beginning of the pandemic.

An additional 60 COVID-positive Tennesseans were hospitalized yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 11,201 Tennesseans hospitalized at some point with the illness. As of Sunday (the last day with complete information), 1,834 Tennesseans were hospitalized with the illness and, of these, 507 were in ICUs across the state and 223 were on ventilators. Each of the three numbers are pandemic records.

Tennessee Daily Testing and Positive Test Result Rates 11.17.2020 (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

Statewide hospital capacity appears to be adequate, but a word on how I reach that conclusion is worthwhile. The state reports the percent of capacity remaining for beds, ICU beds and ventilators and I am assuming that if 10% or more is available for each, we are OK. They operate at high percentages most of the time when we are not experiencing a pandemic.

If a category drops below 10%, I will report it as a concern. Also, these numbers are state-wide and do not preclude the possibility that one area or another of the state is in stress. If anyone reading this who knows more than I do about the topic wants to correct how I am looking at those numbers, I would welcome the information.

The state also set a record for number of tests reported in a day, with 60,862 tests administered. This is much to the state’s credit and it is why we discovered so many cases – it isn’t why we have so many cases. The real concern is that even at that staggering number, our positive test result rate, as reported by the state, was 13.06%. The more tests you give, the lower that number should go. And it didn’t. Johns Hopkins is reporting a seven-day average 13.3% positive test result rate. These numbers are most alarming.

Knox County Daily Cases 11.17.2020 (Source: Knox County Health Department)

Local News:

For the third consecutive day, Knox County has broken it’s single-day total for new COVID-19 cases, adding nearly 1,000 new cases in those three days (950). Knox County has had more cases in the last three days than in the first four months of the pandemic. We are also currently at highs for hospitalizations and deaths.

Today Knox County reported 373 new cases of COVID-19, a new pandemic high. It brings the county’s totals to 16,036 confirmed cases and 881 probable cases. 14,516 of the cases are now considered inactive, leaving 2,263 Knox County residents with active cases of COVID-19.

Hospitalizations also continue to set daily records, with 86 COVID-positive Knox County residents currently hospitalized, up from yesterday’s record of 84.

The saddest news of the day is that Knox County experienced its highest death toll for any single day since the beginning of the pandemic with 7 additional deaths reported today. Of these, five were among people aged 64 to 75 and two were among people over 75. 33 people have died in the first 17 days of the month of November, leaving it only 1 death short of the record of 34 set in July, with thirteen days remaining.

Knox County Health Department Briefing:

Charity Menefee chaired today’s meeting. Speaking in a very somber tone, she did not start with the usual moment of gratitude, but rather with an urgent plea to the community to follow the five core actions all the time. She noted that we’ve set records for three consecutive days, set hospital records for two consecutive days and today are reported the highest death total.

She showed a graph demonstrating that cases spike after holidays in the county. Showing the spike after Halloween has not diminished, she warned that with Thanksgiving on its heels, we are likely to see continuing increases in cases, deaths and hospitalizations. She asked people to consider not gathering given that these gatherings will likely spread the virus. She said following the five core actions, you are helping your community, the health care workers and your family.

She said it is becoming difficult for the Health Department to contact everyone quickly. She asked for anyone who is exposed to start their isolation immediately and contact your contacts as you can do so more quickly than they are able to at this time.

She confirmed the above numbers. She said testing is continuing daily with the exception of Thursday when they will be sponsoring two flu clinics. There will be no testing next Thursday and Friday. She suggested visiting the website for testing locations.


  • Are the currently far more cases. Is it the result of Halloween or is something else at play? It’s a little bit of everything, but the timing lines up with Halloween and everything that went with it in restaurants, bars and homes. We don’t have recovery time, this time.
  • On a scale of one to ten, how worried are you about the numbers? An eight or a nine. We have more holidays coming and we need people to consider how they celebrate.
  • Recently there was a major outbreak at Arbor Trace Nursing Home. Are you working with them? We work with all situations like that.
  • Can KCHD keep up with contact tracing? We’ve accepted help from the state. They will be helping us with the exponential increase. Nearly 400 people just need to be contacted today, each of them have at least three or four contacts. We can easily need to reach out to 1,200 daily, which is a tall order that would be repeated day-after-day. We need the community to help by isolating and contacting your contacts.
  • Early voting and election day were also about the same time. Did that contribute? Possibly, though we haven’t heard that. Mostly people wore masks and were distanced, whereas what we saw in neighborhoods at Halloween was large groups of unmasked people.
  • Is there any connection between the seven deaths? Were they related to the Arbor Terrace outbreak? I can speak about clusters. They are not all related to each other. (Ed note: They are likely not related, as five of the seven deaths were of people who were not typical nursing home/assisted living age.)
  • Are you currently expanding hospital space? That is a function of the hospitals and they currently feel they have enough capacity.
  • Which month had our highest death count? I’m not sure, but I think it is this month. (Ed Note: It is not this month – as of today. This information is above.)
  • Are you seeing an increase in health care workers falling ill? It’s about normal.
  • Has anywhere in the county hit herd immunity, yet? Nowhere near. We will get herd immunity through a vaccine. Also, current thinking is that immunity lasts three months or so, so people are now becoming vulnerable again.
  • Do you expect a surge in demand for tests as people want to travel? Yes, but that is only a snapshot in time. Also, return times are now running 4 to 7 days.
  • The latest White House Task Force says there is “aggressive, unrelenting, expanding, broad community spread” and new measures should be taken. Is that true for Knox County and what measures should we take? We are absolutely seeing robust community spread. We are at a loss for what more we can say for interventions. The five core actions are all we have. Ultimate decisions are up to the Board of Health.
  • Can you compare the risk of indoor and outdoor sports? A lot of variables enter, indoors is riskier in general than outdoor.
  • It seems like the safest thing to do for the holidays is to spend time with their home unit. Is that true? Yes. That’s what I’m going to do. We need to think as a community how we can support each other.
  • Should schools go all virtual? That is up to the school system.
  • Is there a firm time to wait from exposure to test? Five days is usually recommended, but it could be longer. Typically, 5 – 7 days.
  • What is the lag from cases to hospitalizations to death? About three weeks or more.
  • Have you been working with local colleges regarding returning to home for gatherings? People should remain separated, even returning home to family.
  • Do you have any idea how much higher the spike will go? Where are we on the curve? It is straight up right now. It will take time to come down. The trend is up to the community. Behaviors much change to change the trajectory.
  • Did you have input with UT regarding graduation? Yes.
  • A person getting sick at a Thanksgiving gathering could conceivably be dead by Christmas, is that correct? Yes.
  • Outdoor seating at restaurants was popular this summer. Are outdoor tents safer than indoor? Not if there isn’t better circulation. Consider carry-out and tip well.
University of Tennessee Active Cases 11.17.2020 (Source: University of Tennessee)

University of Tennessee News:

The University of Tennessee is reporting 90 active cases of COVID-19, up from 76 the day before. Of these, 75 are students and 15 are employees. Thirteen new positive tests were reported (this doesn’t add up to a jump of 14 active cases, so I presume cases from previous days were discovered).

70 employees, 129 residential students and 246 non-residential students, for a total of 445, are currently quarantined or isolated. The number is up significantly from yesterday (390), but is lower than a number of previous days. There are no new clusters reported.

Knox County Schools Active Cases 11.17.2020 (Source: Knox County Schools)

Knox County Schools News:

The Knox County School System is reporting a record 111 active cases, including 74 students and 37 staff members. The new high marks the third consecutive day the system has broken the previous high record.

693 students and staff have recovered, and 1,733 are currently in quarantine or isolation. The isolation number includes 1,520 students and 213 staff members. The total in isolation or quarantine is also a new high for the academic year. The metric measurements remain the same, with yellow for staff attendance, red for custodial support and for substitute availability and green for the others.

South Knoxville Elementary students returned to in-person learning, while Gibbs Middle School was added to the virtual-only list. The current list includes:

Whittle Springs Middle – November 23

Sam E. Hill Primary
(PRE-K ONLY) – November 23

Gibbs Elementary – November 30

Gibbs Middle – November 30

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