As we move through another week, the news continues hot and heavy on the COVID-19 front. Still, there are other things happening and a lot of them are exciting. I’ll keep covering those as much as possible going forward and here’s hoping that as next year moves along, the COVID-19 numbers are dropping as rapidly as they’ve risen and I’m writing about it less and less. That trend may not start for a couple of months or more.
In the meantime, get out and find some of the joy around us, look forward the good things to come and be thankful for the good things in our lives. If you missed it, I posted a look at some of the beautiful downtown Christmas windows earlier today and I’ll post another installment later this week. I also took time out to be interviewed by South of Scruffy‘s Ben Fields and you can give that a listen, if you like.
Yesterday, Tennessee reported 9,891 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the pandemic numbers to 474,343 confirmed cases and 55,235 probable cases. Of these, 438,036 are considered inactive and 85,406 Tennesseans currently have an active case of COVID-19. The number of active cases is a new state record and new records continue to be set each day. The state is averaging 9,280 new cases per day.
51 additional Tennesseans were admitted to the hospital yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 13,796 who have been hospitalized at some point during the pandemic. The number of COVID-positive Tennesseans currently in the hospital has dropped slightly over the last two days, pausing a months-long trend of setting new highs each day.
The state reported 65 additional deaths from the virus yesterday, bringing the total to 6,136 over the last nine months. The state is now averaging 85 deaths each day.
There are currently 2,771 hospitalized with the illness and 758 of these are currently in ICUs, while 396 are on ventilators. While the total number has dropped slightly, both the ICU and ventilator numbers are new records for the state. Current availability for hospital beds is now 16%, while ICU bed availability sits at 9%. A new level of hospital reporting provided by the state shows that in east Tennessee (our 16 county area), about 25.5% of hospital beds currently in use are being used by COVID-positive patients. In ICU beds, the percentage is 43.7%.
The state reported a 16.05% positive test rate for the day, while Johns Hopkins University has the state at a seven-day average of 19.2% positive test result rate.
The Knox County Health Department reported 478 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 and an additional 95 probable cases, bringing the pandemic totals to 27,761 confirmed cases and 2,330 probable cases. 24,657 cases are now considered inactive and 5,152 (just off yesterday’s record 5,181) are considered active.
There are currently 150 COVID-positive Knox County residents in the hospital, a new record. 712 have been hospitalized as a result of the illness at some point in the last nine months.
Six additional deaths were reported for the day. Over the last two days, nine deaths have been reported, including one person in the 18-44 age range, one person in the 45 to 64 age range, two people in the 64 to 75 age range, and five people over age 75.
The Knox County Commission voted affirmatively last night to disband the Board of Health and immediately replace it (intended to be with the same members) with a design that prevents the Board from issuing mandates and makes them advisory only. It moves the responsibility back to Dr. Buchanan from whom the same group removed responsibility earlier in the pandemic. The measure must pass a second reading, scheduled for January.
Knox County Health Department Briefing:
Dr. Buchanan began the meeting by thanking everyone involved in vaccine distribution. She said 2200 doses of the Moderna vaccine this morning at the health department. She said it is an exciting and historic moment. She said those vaccines will be used for priority groups which they are charged with addressing, including their mass-testing team. She said they will follow CDC and state deadlines.
It will be “a while” before the vaccine is available in the wider community. She said news has been very encouraging and she warned against getting information from social media as there is much information to be found there.
She confirmed the above numbers.
Do we have an update on the number of people who have gotten the vaccine? The state is reporting that on a dashboard and it will be broken down by county or region.
How are you? How was your illness? I am grateful to have had a mild case and happy to be back at work.
So many people at KCHD have worked so hard for so long for this day to arrive. How did it feel? It was very exciting. We have a great team at providing vaccines and they are ready to go. Please continue to be careful. This is going to take time.
What does the health department think about moving one step closer to having all the responsibility for handling the pandemic? I’m ready to do what I need to do. I wish the Board of Health would not be moved to advisory only, but we’ll continue to make the best decisions for the community.
With the vote last night, how will it impact public health in Knox County? I doubt it will impact public health. I have supported what the Board of Health has done.
At last night’s meeting, concern was expressed about this being on your shoulders only. Are you concerned? I’m prepared to do the job. It doesn’t matter who is making the decisions? We need to focus on the illness and following the science and the five core actions.
Will KCHD put out calls to subsequent priority groups? Yes. We are ready for the first group and making plans for the next groups.
Is there an increase in testing requests? Yes, since Thanksgiving, about 400 per day.
What should change to improve our situation? All of us need to do our part and not have social gatherings and follow the other five core actions. Our system cannot handle another surge like the one that followed Thanksgiving. Be creative. Find ways to make it meaningful. Make new traditions and memories.
What will happen if we celebrate as normal? Cases, hospitalizations and deaths will rise. Tennessee is the epicenter and Knox County is the epicenter of the state. Gatherings will potentially kill people. You don’t want that to be your Christmas gift. The same is true with New Year’s gatherings.
Statewide health departments are shifting to self-testing kits and less in-person testing. Are you doing the same? No. We don’t have the kits. We will curtail testing to make way for vaccinations. It’s the same teams involved.
How did Tennessee get to be number one? Is it tourists? I think we ended up in this situation is because we don’t have a consistent message from the state leadership on mask wearing. It’s inconsistent across the state. Traveling and social gatherings do increase the infection rate, as well. We hope next year we’ll have Christmas as usual.
Have you considered giving up this responsibility? I’ve had thoughts that this is hard, but I am committed to our community.