This will be my final COVID update for the year. I never imagined being a health reporter and I certainly never imagined writing this many articles about a pandemic. I’m hoping I write far fewer articles about it in the new year. I’m hoping that by May or June, we will be on a smooth road to recovery and resumption of celebrating life and our city.
Happy New Year. Celebrate Safely. Let’s put 2020 in the rearview. Bad joke alert: Then hindsight will really be 2020.
The state continues to report very low test numbers as we wind our way through the holidays. The result is predictable: Lower case numbers at the state and county level and soaring positive test result rates. The numbers to watch until this reporting lapse clears are the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
The state reported 4,797 new cases yesterday, bringing the totals to 504,543 confirmed cases and 68,046 probable cases. Of these, 493,743 are considered to have inactive cases, while 72,136 Tennesseans currently have active cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average for new cases is 5,510 per day.
120 additional COVID-positive Tennesseans were hospitalized yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 14,276. After setting a record the day before, Tennessee topped that number with 3,068 people in the hospital, the first day more than 3,000 COVID-positive patients have been in the hospital at one time. 766 COVID-positive Tennesseans are currently in ICUs across the state, while 435 are on ventilators, both numbers just below records set in recent days. Hospital bed capacity is at 88% and ICU capacity is at 91%.
122 Tennesseans died of COVID-19 yesterday, bringing the total to 6,710 for the state. The number is the third highest single-day number for the state since the beginning of the pandemic. Each of the top five days for deaths in the state have occurred in the last two weeks.
The state reported 11,429 tests yesterday to bring the pandemic total to just over 5.5 million. Prior to the holidays, testing repeatedly crossed 60,000 reports per day. As predictable as the low case numbers, given the low level of testing, the positive test result rate climbed to 22.57% for the day yesterday. Johns Hopkins puts the state’s seven-day positive test average at a pandemic high of 22%. The goal for any reasonable level of control is 5%.
The state updated the number of vaccinations given to 79,282 total, 14,205 for the day and 49,146 for the last week. The total equals a bit over 1% of the state’s population. Also released (I think today), was a chart showing the goals for when the various groups might hope to be immunized in our state. If I’m reading it correctly, the goal is to vaccinate healthy people under 45 years old by the fourth quarter. This is going to be a long haul. I also wonder if the first people to be vaccinated won’t need to be revaccinated by that time.
The Knox County Health Department reported 129 new cases of COVID-19 today, to bring the totals to 29,872 confirmed cases and 2,662 probable cases. The number is the lowest daily total for new cases since November 20 (92). 27,758 cases are considered inactive, while 4,901 are considered active.
The county has broken the hospitalization record three times in the last four days. 177 COVID-positive Knox County residents are currently in the hospital, topping yesterday’s record number, and bringing the total hospitalized since the beginning of the pandemic to 758 county residents.
Three additional deaths were reported, bringing the pandemic total to 315. Of the the three, on person was between ages 45 and 64, while the others were over age 75.
Benchmarks were updated yesterday, and every single indicator remains red, from cases to deaths, from testing capacity to public health and hospital capacity. Updated hospital numbers reported with the benchmarks indicate there are 15 available ICU beds in our 16 county region. The state is reporting a 22% positive test rate for the county.