COVID-19: 12/29/2020 Update (State, Local and Today’s Health Department Briefing)

Tennessee Daily Cases 12.29.2020 (Source:
Tennessee Daily Cases 12.29.2020 (Source:

It’s that time of year when we’re usually moving from the sparkling lights of Christmas to the champagne and fireworks of a new year. This year feels more like moving from the dread of a virus to the promise of a vaccine. I think most of us are happy enough to be on that trajectory. Champagne and fireworks will always be there.

At least our quiet conversations are shifting from what we miss to what we’ll return to first in the new year. I honestly don’t see much reason for optimism regarding travel, parties, concerts until late summer or fall, at best, but meeting friends once we’ve all been vaccinated should be back on the table. Maybe a non-packed coffee shop will be up next. I think we’ll relish every tiny step.

State News:

The state and local data on cases continues to be skewed by the holidays, but the data on deaths and hospitalizations is returning to a level which makes a bit of sense given where we were before the holidays. I’ll keep reporting the numbers, but it seems to me that our true transmission situation may not become clear before then end of next week or the beginning of the week after.

The state of Tennessee reported 3,712 new cases, bringing the totals to 502,070 confirmed cases and 65,722 probable cases. Of these, 483,525 are considered to be inactive, while 77,679 Tennesseans are considered to have active cases. The average number of daily cases has dropped to 5,459.

Tennessee Daily Testing and Positive Test Result Rate 12.29.2020 (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

65 additional COVID-positive Tennesseans were admitted to the hospital yesterday, bringing the total to 14,156 since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitalization trends are resuming trends established before the holidays, with a record 2,990 COVID-positive Tennesseans hospitalized as of Sunday. Of these, 748 are in ICUs across the state and 454 are on ventilators. While there have previously been more in ICU’s, the number on ventilators is also a new high. 11% of ICU beds are currently available, as well as 13% of adult hospital beds.

76 deaths from COVID-19 were reported in the state yesterday, bringing the pandemic death toll to 6,588. After very low numbers reported last weekend (5 and 7), the last two days have seen numbers similar to those before the holiday. The seven-day average is moving back up and is now at 65 deaths per day.

The number of daily tests reported continues to be extremely low, with 13,344 reported yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to just over 5.5 million in the state. A 22.96% positive test rate was reported for the group of tests and Johns Hopkins University currently has the positivity rate at 21.3% over the last week.

Vaccination totals have not been updated for the state and remain at 53,258.

Knox County Daily Cases 12.29.2020 (Source: Knox County Health Department)

Local News:

The reporting seems to continue to have an impact on Knox County case numbers, with a total of 162 new cases reported yesterday, the lowest daily number since November 26 (147), not coincidentally Thanksgiving Day. The 162 cases bring Knox County’s totals to 19,743 confirmed cases and 2,956 probable cases. 27,119 cases are considered inactive, while 5,268 Knox County residents are considered to have an active case of COVID-19.

The current number of COVID-positive Knox County residents in the hospital has reached 163, a new record. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 750 Knox County residents have been hospitalized with the virus.

An additional six deaths were reported today, bringing the pandemic total to 312. Of these, one person was between ages 45 and 64, while five were over 75 years old.

Knox County Health Department Briefing:

Dr. Buchanan chaired the meeting and thanked those helping get the vaccine to the community. She noted that it will be months before the general public gets the vaccine and that the state has not received enough vaccines to cover phase one. She said that counties may have different paces for reaching each of the groups.

She cautioned that lower testing volumes over the last few days are the reason for the lower case numbers. She said she expects the numbers to rise after New Year’s Day. She pleaded for people to continue not to gather and to follow the five core actions. She asked that everyone celebrate with their household only.


  • Once the holidays clear what do you expect from the case numbers? We aren’t sure and it depends on whether people are following advice or not. We must act as if everyone has the illness.
  • Will there be a county count for vaccines? I think right now we are relying on the state for any information.
  • Roughly when will the general public in Knox County get the vaccine? There are too many variables to give an estimate at this time.
  • The snow on Christmas Eve led to canceled events. Could that be a saving grace? Maybe, but AAA reported high levels of travel, so I’m not hopeful.
  • Officers started getting vaccines today. How was that accomplished? We communicated with them and coordinated which staff members might need to be prioritized and then used a web-based sign up.
  • Are you concerned that members of the public may show up? It could happen and we’re prepared for that.
  • More of our rural hospitals have higher percentages of ICU beds in use, why? It may simply be because they have lower numbers of beds.
  • Are Tennessee hospitals equipped to handle the current surge? Locally we are meeting regularly and the hospitals could best answer for themselves.
  • KCS are schedule to re-open next week. Are you in touch with them? Do you have recommendations? We talk with them regularly.
  • What would you say to those who have reservations about the new vaccine? Please research and find reliable sources. The same procedures were followed with this vaccine as with others, but they began manufacturing during the trials which sped up the final approval.
  • How is KCHD preparing for the expected coming surge in cases? What can the public do? Please do not gather and follow the five core actions. The size of the surge is up to the community. Please keep up with your contacts so you can reach out to them if you test positive.
  • Where is the vaccination being given? At a location outside the Health Department.
  • Is the site being kept confidential to keep the public showing up? We are simply using locations to provide the vaccine to front-line workers.
  • Can you quantify lower testing around the holidays? It has picked back up this week. A lot of offices were closed last week. We always see a decrease over weekends. The disruptions could continue due to this week’s holidays.
  • Is KCHD involved in administering vaccines at long-term care facilities or is that directly through CVS and Walgreens? It is a separate operation. Any who are unable to get into that pool would be helped by the KCHD.