Welcome to the weekend and, for those of us with school kids about, spring break. I’m sure a number of people will travel for spring break, just as they’ve always done. Many of us will not. So, it means more unstructured time at home with a rain-filled week. Still, ours are excited for the break and, virtual or in-person, all the kids need some down time. And so do teachers.
It is hard for us who are not in a classroom to imagine how difficult this year has been for them. Thank a teacher. Do something nice for them. They lost their raise at the beginning of the hardest academic year they will ever experience. They have been required to innovate, create and adapt like never before. They deserve so much more than they receive in return.
The latest report from the state indicates 1,512 new cases of COVID-19, bringing state totals to 657,721 confirmed cases and 130,388 probable cases. 763,970 cases are considered inactive, and 12,516 Tennesseans are currently COVID-positive. The number positive dropped by just 11 from the day before but is the lowest the state has recorded since June 25 (12,187). The seven-day average for new cases dropped by just 1 from the previous day to 1,237. After precipitous declines, new cases have plateaued for the last three weeks and active case counts appear to be doing the same.
An additional 42 COVID-positive Tennesseans were admitted to the hospital yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 19,064. The downward drift in current hospitalizations continues, with a drop of 14 from yesterday, to 683 statewide. COVID-positive ICU patients (201) and ventilated patients (112) also continue to slowly drop.
The state reported 18 deaths from COVID-19 yesterday, with the seven-day average hitting 17. This marks the lowest the seven-day average has reached since September 23, when it also was reported at 17.
The state reported 20,958 tests yesterday, about average for the post-holiday testing level. The state has reported over 6.9 million tests and the positive test rate from this last group is 5.65%. Johns Hopkins University has the positive test rate for the state at 8.1% over the last seven days.
The state is reporting 1,795,720 vaccinations have been given to Tennesseans, including 246,155 in the last seven days. 15.85% of state residents have gotten at least one shot and 633,885 are fully vaccinated. About 15,200 finished their vaccinations in the preceding 24 hours.
The Knox County Health Department is reporting 59 new cases of COVID-19 for the day, bringing county totals to 40,569 confirmed cases and 7,389 probable cases. 46,296 cases are inactive, while 1,069 county residents currently test positive for COVID-19.
36 COVID-positive Knox County residents are currently in the hospital, down four from yesterday, and bringing the total hospitalized to 1,285. The number hospitalized has remained in the upper 30s to low 40s for over a week and is similar to the numbers last seen in late September and early October.
No additional deaths were reported today, leaving the total in the county dead from the virus at 593.
The state is reporting a seven-day average 8.4% positive test rate for Knox County. Local vaccination numbers have been updated and indicate 126,640 shots have been given to Knox County residents. 17.31% of county residents have received at least one shot and 45,151 are fully vaccinated.
Knox County Schools News:
Active cases in the Knox County School system dropped to 72 from 75 the previous two days, marking the 18th consecutive day the number has remained between 50 and 100. 3,406 students and staff have recovered and 918 are currently in quarantine or isolation. The number quarantined or isolated has held between 500 and 1,000 for eighteen days and currently includes 843 students and 75 staff members.
Metrics for the school system remain the same, with teacher and student attendance, and cafeteria and transportation support all green, while custodial support and substitute availability remain yellow. Four schools remain on virtual-only instruction until after spring break, though only one of the four is due to the virus:
Maynard Elementary – March 22
Sarah Moore Greene Magnet – March 22
Vine Middle Magnet – March 22
Austin-East Magnet High – March 22
University of Tennessee:
The university is reporting 43 active cases among students and staff, remaining well below 100 as it has virtually all semester. 2,987 students and staff have recovered from the virus and 6 new cases were reported today. 242 students and staff are quarantined or in isolation, including 22 staff members, 128 residential students, and 92 non-residential students. The number has remained between 200 and 400 for the last six weeks.
Dr. Zomchick led today’s briefing. He discussed the announcement, made yesterday, that everything will return to normal next fall on the campus. Full capacity will be allowed in classrooms, dining halls, at athletic events and campus programming, which will return to a regular schedule.
Dr. Gregg discussed why the University is comfortable making the change. He noted the sacrifice so many have made. He said they continue to hear from staff and students how important a return to regular instruction will be. He said with the declining cases and increasing vaccinations, they feel confident they can do so safely.
He made clear that if the situation changes for the worse, they will be prepared to shift their response. He said this summer they will continue to monitor local hospitalization data, positive test rates, and vaccination rates.
Regarding vaccination distribution, Dr. Gregg noted he was at a clinic this morning at which they have administered 1,000 second doses in last 24 hours. The University has given a total of around 5,000 vaccinations. Dr. Gregg said he was particularly excited that next Friday up to 1,100 J&J vaccines will be available for administration.
Dr. Zomchick discussed the two clusters reported this week. Of the one reported at Alpha Delta Pi house, he said there was 1 positive case and 23 close contacts, all of which resulted from the living situation. He stressed that all residents had been very helpful and were simply victims of the living situation.
He said the other cluster occurred when 67 students attended a ministry retreat organized by an outside group specifically for U.T. students. The result was 10 new cases of COVID-19 and 74 close contacts who had to quarantine. He said it is the largest cluster identified this semester, but they are confident they have helped mitigate the spread through contact tracing.
He said this cluster is an illustration of why it is important to continue to follow all current safety guidelines. He pled with all to limit social gatherings, wear masks, and maintain social distance. Stressing how close we are to gaining control of the pandemic, he said this is no time to let up.
As for testing over the last week, the University tested 3,050 samples and ultimately only found 4 positive students, three residential and 1 non-residential drop. He said the participation rate, which continues to drop, has been disappointing. He called it “not acceptable,” and reminded students it is not an option. He implied some students have been disciplined for non-participation and others may expect the same. Dr. Gregg stressed that participation must be higher in order to have confidence in the data and feel confident in relaxing restrictions.