Happy Tuesday, everyone. For those about to have their students cut loose for a few days, I hope it is a great time for families to hold each other close and catch our collective breath. There are stresses in every direction, including for the little ones who often sense our stress and sometimes have worries of their own that we cannot anticipate.
In our home, we are trying to talk more about being thankful and less about the dark forces that beset us. Sorry, the last line is a Harry Potter reference. We are talking a lot about Harry Potter. Like constantly. The lines between reality and fantasy are as blurred in our household as they appear to be elsewhere.
Yesterday, the state of Tennessee reported 4,074 new cases of COVID-19. The new cases bring the totals to 318,428 confirmed cases and 26,122 probable cases. 296,592 cases are considered inactive and 17,535 Tennesseans currently have active cases of the virus. The seven-day average for cases is 3,666 per day. That rate has declined as the nearly 8,000 case day reported on November 16 dropped off the seven-day rotation.
The state also reported an additional 35 deaths, bringing that total to 4,301 Tennesseans who have died of COVID-19. The seven-day average for deaths in the state is 54 per day, the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic.
58 additional COVID-positive Tennesseans were admitted to the hospital yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 11,628 who have been hospitalized at some point. The state continues to set almost daily records for the number currently hospitalized and that number has reached 2,086 on the most recent day for which accurate records are available. Of these, 556 are in ICUs across the state, and 246 are on ventilators. ICU bed availability is at 10% for the state.
The state reported about 24.5 thousand test results yesterday, a drop from about 36.6 thousand the day before. It seems likely we’ll see a large drop in testing over the next five days, with an attendant drop in case numbers. The state reported a 14.06% positive test rate from the group. Johns Hopkins University is reporting a new post-April high seven-day average for the state at 14.9%.
The Knox County Health Department reported 162 new cases for the day, bringing county totals to 17,243 confirmed cases and 948 probable cases. 15,913 people are now considered to have inactive cases, while 2,125 remain active.
It must be a quirk of the numbers, somehow, but 380 cases were moved to inactive overnight. It’s odd because we haven’t had a day with that many cases to rotate off (assuming they rotate off more-or-less together). The only day that is close is 11/17 on which day we had 373 but, presumably, those cases would not rotate off for at least three more days.
106 COVID-positive Knox County residents are now hospitalized, setting a record by breaking the record of 99 from yesterday. It brings the total to 571 since the beginning of the pandemic. It is striking that nearly 20% (18.6) of all the people hospitalized since March are currently in the hospital. It is also additionally important, when considering the strain on local hospitals, to realize that Knox County hospitals also treat numerous patients from outlying counties. These numbers represent only county residents.
There was an additional death reported today, bringing the total since the beginning of the pandemic to 153. It brings the November total deaths to 48, meaning out of the nine months of the pandemic, so far, November deaths represent 31.3 % of total pandemic deaths in the county. With six days to go.
The state is reporting a 16.5% positive test result for the county over the last seven days.
Knox County Health Department Briefing:
Charity Menefee chaired today’s briefing, expressing thanks for the people planning a COVID-safe Thanksgiving celebration. She encouraged people to follow the recommendations supported by the Board of Health last night. She encouraged maintaining six feet of distance from anyone not in your household if you are eating, or better yet, eating with only people in your household. She said this is critical during the holidays and we all need to work together to change the trajectory of the disease.
She confirmed the numbers above. Benchmarks and other numbers will be posted this week.
How significant are the hospitalization numbers? Very significant. These hospitalization numbers are from cases reported two weeks ago. We know we have more hospitalizations coming.
We have heard people are waiting seven days for test results. Is that accurate? We’ll have updated numbers tomorrow on the benchmark. It had been running 5 to 7 days. We have brought a new lab on and hope that will help. It is an issue of volume and capacity. Please isolate while you wait for results.
We have heard that patients are waiting on beds in hallways of local hospitals. True? Good question for hospitals.
How is contact tracing now going? Is the state staff helping? They trace 150 a day for us. It’s helpful, but with the burden of disease we currently have, it is a struggle. Please isolate while you wait and contact your contacts.
When you switch labs is it a total switch or are you adding a lab to the mix? We switched completely to AL labs and hope it helps.
There was an exceptionally long line outside KCHD yesterday for testing. How many did you test? It was by far our biggest day, but we kept the wait to 45 minutes to an hour. 396 were tested for the day.
You just said results are taking 7 days. Does contact tracing do any good at that point? We’ve been talking about this and it is why we are encouraging people to contact others. We have known that if the disease burden reached a certain point, it would become difficult, if not impossible for us to do the contacting.
Are you going to add people for education and monitoring? No.
What do you say to people who got a test in order to travel? Isolate until you get results an understand that travel is risky.
What do you see as the consequence if people proceed with Thanksgiving as normal? Each person you are around is an increased exposure. Please take this seriously and be creative to find safer ways to celebrate the holiday. She said her family is staying together only with their household unit and having “Thanksgiving Pizza,” because her children don’t want turkey.
Please explain how flu numbers are being impacted this year. Flu is not recorded in the same way as COVID, so the reporting is a sample. It is still early, and we are not seeing much, but that would be true at this point in any year.
It was mentioned that 975 vaccines would come in by December. Is that enough for 975 people or a first dose? What is the timeline? It is only the first dose for them. We don’t know the timeline.
What are the best ways to improve your immune system? We encourage people to rest, eat well and exercise. Those are always recommendations.
Why would the board of health want to shut down health facilities? They don’t and didn’t.
Where do you see the situation in six months? I hope that we are vaccinating many people and moving toward the light at the end of the tunnel. We will still need to continue caution and I hope we will be kind.
How long will it take to vaccinate most of Knox County? If we had it all, we could do it in a week. We won’t have it all at one time and don’t know the time frame. Our commitment is to get it out as quickly as possible.
What are your thoughts on a new study showing that most of the workforce that has the illness is asymptomatic? That has been our concern and we’ll continue to follow the CDC recommendations.
Is a vaccine the only way to curb the spread of this virus? No. The five core actions can do so if we all practice them. We are also hopeful for treatment advances.
University of Tennessee News:
The University of Tennessee is reporting 63 active cases of COVID-19, up just two from the day before. 10 are employees and 53 are students. Twelve new cases were reported for the day, and 634 are in quarantine or isolation. Of the 634, 104 are employees, 178 are residential students and 352 are non-residential. There are no additional clusters.
Test data from the Student Health Clinic were released for last week. I’ve been interested to see if there would be a surge in testing. The university recommended that all students be tested before returning home, which should produce such a surge, though students can also get tested off campus. A surge did materialize, but not to a significant degree, given the total student population.
543 students were tested for the week, more than three times the total from the week before. While only representing a tiny fraction of students on campus, there was some encouraging news in the numbers. Of those tested, only 4.4% tested positive for the virus.
Knox County Schools News:
The Knox County School System is reporting 143 active cases of COVID-19, including 38 staff members and 105 students. As has repeatedly been the case in recent days, this number represents a new high for the schools. 808 are considered inactive, which is an increase of 59 from yesterday. Since active cases increased by four, we can assume that 63 additional students and staff got a positive diagnosis between Friday afternoon and Monday afternoon.
2,478 students (2,193) and staff (285) are in quarantine or isolation. The number is a new high for the academic year and breaks the previous high of 2,251 set on Friday.
The struggle facing in-person instruction in schools becomes more obvious when you add the various students who are not attending at any given time. As per above, 2,193 students are not attending due to quarantine or isolation at this moment. Additionally, just over 18,200 students are currently only participating virtually.
Add to this, five schools currently not attending in-person, whose student bodies total just over 4,000, and you get about 24,400 students not in in-person classes today. This represents about 40.3% of students not currently present for in-person instruction and it does not account for normal absenteeism, which no doubt continues. It also doesn’t account for the total numbers of teachers out for various reasons and the lack of substitutes.
Metrics remain at the same level, with yellow for teacher attendance and red for custodial and substitute availability, with green for student attendance, bus and cafeteria support.
The schools on virtual-only instruction remain the same as yesterday: