A year ago, today I made my first mention of COVID-19 on this blog. I wrote about the city council meeting in which Dr. Buchanan (it was also the first time I’d ever mentioned her) spoke to the council about the potential threat. There were no cases reported in Knox County at that time, but she said she expected it to arrive soon. I also bumped in to Ashley Capps that night and he implied that Big Ears was doubtful and by the next afternoon, it was canceled.
The Big Ears news was huge. It was the first time I realized how big an impact we were about to experience. I published both articles on the same day, with no idea that rare exception would become my norm for a year. I published a couple of non-COVID articles for the next two days, but on March 16 of last year I wrote my first full article on the virus. I think it has held up pretty well. Within days I began the daily reports.
That it has been a long year, I think we all agree. That some light has entered the picture, I think we can all celebrate.
Yesterday, the state reported 1,355 new cases of COVID-19, bringing pandemic totals to 656,682 confirmed cases and 129,915 probable cases. 762,464 cases are considered inactive, while 12,744 state residents are currently COVID-positive, the lowest number since June 25 (12,187). The seven-day average for new cases is 1,278, a number that has been roughly stable since February 19 (1,199).
An additional 48 COVID-positive Tennesseans were admitted to hospitals in the state yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 18,955 Tennesseans who were hospitalized with the virus at some point. Hospitalization numbers continued their decline with twenty fewer hospitalizations than the previous day, at 701. ICU numbers remained the same at 205, and the number of ventilated COVID-positive patients increased by five to 122.
COVID-19 deaths in the state were reported at 18 for the day, bringing the pandemic total to 11,606 since the beginning of the pandemic. The seven-day average for deaths in the state is 21. It has remained close to that number for the last week.
19,614 tests were reported yesterday, relatively in line with post-holiday testing levels. Just over 6.9 million tests have been administered since the beginning of the pandemic. The state reported an impressive 5.19% positive test result rate for the group. Johns Hopkins University is reporting an 8.1% positive test rate average for the last seven days in the state.
1,743,392 vaccination shots have been given in the state, including 233,547 over the last seven days, roughly in the low end of the range where we’ve stay for over two weeks. 15.34% of state residents have gotten at least one shot, while 618,651 are fully vaccinated, an increase of about 17,000 from the day before. In the most recent update, the New York times reports Tennessee is in a three-way tie for 47th in administering the first shot and it has the 48th best completion rate in the U.S. out of the 50 states.
The Knox County Health Department reported 60 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing county totals to 40,510 confirmed cases and 7,371 probable cases. 46,225 inactive cases are reported, along with 1,063 active cases, up 32 from yesterday. 40 COVID-positive Knox County residents are currently in the hospital, bringing the county pandemic total to 1,283 who have been hospitalized at some time. The current 40 reflects an increase of one over yesterday.
Two additional deaths from the virus were reported today, but 46 deaths were added to the county’s totals. The other 44 deaths were reported by the state in December, January, or February, but were not included in county totals at the time. As a result, it is impossible to determine from the KCHD website the ages of those who died today. For the pandemic, the age breakdown of those who have died is 18-44 (10), 45-64 (80), 65-74 (139), and 75+ (364).
The state is reporting an 8.1% positive test rate for Knox County. Vaccination numbers have not been updated since the previous report and continue to indicate 116,660 shots have been given in the county. 32,901 county residents have gotten their first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna series and 15.86% of county residents have gotten at least one shot. 41,697 Knox County residents are fully vaccinated, up 671 from the previous report.
Knox County Health Department Briefing:
Charity Menefee led today’s meeting encouraging people to stay nearby for the upcoming spring break. She clarified that 44 deaths in Knox County which occurred in Knox County in the last three months and was reported at the state level, but not at the local level, so they have been added with today’s numbers. A similar discovery recently happened in Davidson County.
She said the Broadway site will open tomorrow, they expect supplies of vaccines to increase in coming weeks and remain optimistic regarding the possibilities in coming weeks. She also expressed encouragement at the declining hospital rates. She pleaded with everyone to continue practicing the five core actions.
She discussed the benchmarks, which were updated today. Regarding cases, she said new cases dropped to about 58 over the last two weeks, though they have leveled off. The benchmark will remain green. Regarding testing, she said the figure continues to trend downward and is now around 750 tests per day. The benchmark will remain yellow. Regarding public health capacity to distribute vaccine, she said it will remain yellow as there is more demand than supply. The hospitalization metric remains green. Regarding deaths, 14 people died in the last two weeks, down from 20 before. It will remain yellow.
How many are currently on the wait list? 34,600
Tomorrow marks one year since our first county COVID case. Did the KCHD understand what was about to happen? We are pleased with our response, but it has been beyond our anticipation.
How are you feeling after the investigation into missing vaccines was closed finding no criminal activity? I just found out about that and can’t comment further.
What is turnover like on the wait list? Are people calling to cancel? Some are calling and we need more to do so.
How close are we to having enough vaccine? We aren’t there but hope to be closer in coming weeks.
How do you think the vaccination campaign has gone so far? We think well for a task of this magnitude. We hope by June to have enough vaccine for all adults in the county.
We are hearing that some rural counties are having trouble filling slots. Is it ok for Knox County residents to go elsewhere? Yes, but you’ll need to get your second one there, as well.
Knox County Schools News:
For the second consecutive day, the Knox County School system reports 75 active cases among its students and staff, remaining in the 50-100 range for a seventeenth consecutive day. 3,397 students and staff have recovered from the virus, while 917 (843 students and 74 staff members) are in quarantine or isolation, marking the seventeenth consecutive day this number has ranged between 500 and 1000.
Metrics for the school system remained unchanged, with staff and student attendance, cafeteria and bus support all rated green and custodial and substitute availability rated yellow. Four schools are currently on virtual-only learning, though only one, Maynard Elementary is in that position due to COVID-19.
Maynard Elementary – March 22
Sarah Moore Greene Magnet – March 22
Vine Middle Magnet – March 22
Austin-East Magnet High – March 22
University of Tennessee News:
The University of Tennessee is reporting 39 active cases, up from 35 the previous day. 2,984 students and staff have recovered from the virus and seven new cases were reported for the day. 257 students and staff are currently in quarantine or isolation, including 27 staff members, 136 residential students, and 94 non-residential students.