Well, a weird year just won’t quit, right? This appears to be as close a presidential election as we’ve ever seen as far as individual states deciding the electoral college are concerned. I know we’re all watching it and anxiety is high. That said, it is important not to behave as if this is the only story. There is also a virus afoot and it is rampaging across the country as we watch the vote counts. It has not slowed down and is, in fact setting records not seen in this country or any other since the beginning of the pandemic.
The state of Tennessee reported 3,445 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. Totals have now reached 254,058 confirmed cases, and 15,744 probable cases. 240,587 people now are considered to have inactive and 9,993 people currently have active cases. The total is the third highest single-day total for Tennessee since the beginning of the pandemic.
In an indication of how widespread the new cases are, this number only ranked 10th in the country for yesterday, whereas a few weeks ago it might have ranked at the top. The current daily average in the state is 2,226 per day.
24 additional deaths from the virus were reported bringing the total to 3,478 Tennesseans who have died of the illness since the beginning of the pandemic. The state is averaging 33 deaths per day.
77 additional COVID-positive Tennesseans were hospitalized yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 10,484 hospitalized. Based on data from 11/3 (the most recent updated data), the state continues to set records with COVID-positive hospitalizations, ICU and ventilated patients. The current numbers are 1,548 hospitalized, 461 in ICUs and 203 on ventilators. As a reference, a week earlier, the numbers were 1370, 409, and 182. A month earlier, they were 862 hospitalized, 270 in ICUs, and 131 on ventilators. Statewide capacity does not seem to be an issue at this time.
Testing reported for the day increased to almost double the day before, and more in line with previous testing levels. The state reported about 25.4 thousand new tests for the day, brining the total to about 3.74 million. The positive test rate continues at alarming levels and was reported for yesterday at 13.4%. Johns Hopkins reports Tennessee’s seven-day positive test average at 10.3%, the highest number they have reported for the state since early April.
The Knox County Health Department is reporting 182 new COVID-19 cases today, the fifth highest daily total of the pandemic for the county. The case totals for the county are now 13,741 confirmed cases and 698 probable cases. Of these, 12,881 are considered inactive and 1,447 are currently active.
For the day, there are 69 COVID-positive Knox County residents in the hospital, a number close to the high number for the pandemic and in the elevated range where it has stayed in recent week. The total hospitalized since the beginning of the pandemic in the county has now reached 491.
Two additional COVID-19 deaths were reported in the county. Each of the deaths were reported among the 64 – 75 age range. The state is reporting a seven-day average of 12.3% positive test rates.
Knox County Health Department Briefing:
Dr. Buchanan opened the meeting by recommending that families get outside while the weather is good. She is suggesting virtual cooking lessons to share family recipes with family members you may not be able to see in person. She urged people to get a flu shot. She noted that the Board of Health will meet this TUESDAY night. She confirmed the above numbers.
She reviewed the benchmarks, which I covered yesterday. All are yellow, except for public health capacity, which is green. She noted that the hospitals called their rating a “stable yellow,” meaning it is cause for concern, but is stable at this time.
Looking at the Knox County metrics, the colors are overwhelmingly yellow, meaning caution. At the same time, the White House Task force has rated Knox County red and the county most adversely impacted by the virus in the state. Understanding that the metrics in use in each measurement are different, what would you advise residents to follow in making decisions like returning their children to school, with the deadline looming for that decision? More generally, should we be cautiously concerned in Knox County or alarmed? The most recent White House report lists us as orange. We all need to assume it is around us and we need to follow appropriate behaviors. I don’t think we need to be alarmed, but we need to be careful.
You said we had a three-day trend of red flags in testing and numerous, though not consecutive red flags on others, but nothing is red. What does it take? We look at a lot of variables, including major variations and feel none are warranted at this time.
How did the election go relating to the virus? Very well, we think.
Why are the case numbers so high today? We have had a local lab that was not consistently reporting to public health as they are required to do so by law. They have changed and we got a significant number from that one provider and we think that impacted the number as they added several days of tests.
The White House has recommended that we not gather in cross-family groups. Will we do that? That would be up to the Board of Health but is hard to enforce in any practical way.
What should we keep in mind as the holidays approach? Be more careful as we move gatherings indoors, including wearing masks when around anyone not living with you.
There is a clear divide between people who do and do not take the virus seriously. Knowing that, how do you handle family gatherings? Be clear what the expectations for the gathering will be and allow people to make their own choice about attending.
University of Tennessee News:
The University of Tennessee is reporting 65 active cases among students and staff, which is in line with recent numbers. 1,770 in the university community have recovered. 8 new cases were reported for the day. There are 54 employees and 291 students in quarantine or isolation, the highest that number has been since September 26.
Knox County Schools Active Cases 11.5.2020 (Source: Knox County Schools)
Knox County Schools News:
The Knox County School System is reporting 74 active cases, including 51 students and 23 staff members. The number is down one from yesterday but remains on the high end of the spectrum for the year. 578 students and staff have recovered from the illness.
There is a total of 1,306 in isolation or quarantine, including 1,160 students and 146 staff members. This is the largest number in isolation or quarantine since the beginning of the school year. All metrics are currently green, except for custodial and substitute availability, both of which are red.
South Knoxville Elementary School remains the single school currently on virtual-only learning.