The gist of the following report is that the race continues. On the positive side, we have vaccine distribution increasing and some continued adherence to the guidelines to mask, distance, and so on. On the negative, we have a determination in many states and among many people to return immediately to party mode. We also have faster spreading variants.
Cases and deaths are increasing world-wide. Cases are now increasing in the U.S. While much of the Europe has entered serious lockdowns, we are celebrating spring break, disbanding boards of health and removing emergency powers from mayors and governors who want to impose restrictions. We are vaccinating faster than they are. Will it save us?
Just over 130.3 million people across the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and about 22.5 million cases are currently active. Over the last week, the number of currently active cases has increased by about 900,000. While over 105 million have recovered, about 4.1 million cases have been added over the last week. The current seven-day average for new daily cases is 585.7 thousand per day, up by over 61,000 per day from the average a week ago. The pace of new cases has been rising for about six weeks and is now similar to the pace last seen in late January.
About 2,843,000 people have died of the virus, including about 74,000 in the past week. The upward trend in deaths, which resumed in mid-March after some decline, continues. On average 10,212 people are dying each day, up about 1,800 from the number I reported a week ago. The rate of deaths is now like mid-February, but still lower than the high of 14,470 set on January 26.
Looking at yesterday for a single-day snapshot comparison, 11,770 deaths were reported, up from about 10,400 on the same day a week earlier. Brazil is now leading the world in daily deaths and the gap between that country and ours, which remains second, is growing. The country is beginning to have numbers that dwarf the other countries, much as the U.S. did for months. For the day, the five countries leading in deaths from COVID-19 remain the same as a week earlier, with Poland surpassing Mexico: Brazil (3,673), the U.S. (952), Poland (624), Mexico (577) and Italy (501).
701,061 new cases were reported yesterday, up from about 622,000 cases on the same day a week earlier. Thirteen countries reported more than 10,000 for the day and 64 countries reported at least 1,000 cases. Last week, these numbers were nine and 58, respectively. The ten countries reporting the most cases are largely unchanged from last week, though the order shuffled a bit.
The U.S. increased in cases reported week-over-week but was still surpassed by India: Brazil (89,459), India (81,441), the U.S. (76,786), France (50,659), Turkey (40,806), Poland (35,246), Germany (23,802), Italy (23,649), Ukraine (17,569), and Argentina (14,430). Nearly half of the countries reporting 1,000+ cases for the day are in Europe.
The New York Times reports the following shot rates per 100 people for each of the continents: North America (29, but for the U.S., it is 46), Europe (17), South America (9.1), Asia (5.6), Oceana (1.8), and Africa (.8). While all continents have reported increases over the last week, the gap between the U.S. and most of the rest of the world is very large. Israel leads the world with 59% of its population fully vaccinated, while the U.S. ranks tenth in per capita vaccines, but first in number of vaccines distributed.
The U.S. has reported a world-leading 31,246,420 cases of COVID-19, an increase of about 470,000 cases over the last week. Just under 23.8 million cases are considered inactive, while just over 6.9 million Americans still have the virus, though active cases have declined by about 100,000 since the last report. Yesterday, 76,786 new cases were reported, an increase of about 9,700 per-day compared to the same day last week.
After sharp declines in new cases in January and February, April begins with an average of 66,814 new cases per day, roughly 2,500 lower than the beginning of March, but increasing. After bottoming out at 55,511 on March 16, the average has risen since and is about 8,000 per day higher than it was a week ago.
A total of 566,616 Americans have officially died of COVID-19, including about 6,900 in the last week. The current seven-day average is 902 deaths per day, compared to 968 a week ago. The rate has continued to decline, though the rate of decline seems to have slowed. The daily average for deaths is the lowest it has been since November 2 when it was 883. Yesterday, 952 deaths were reported from the virus, down 213 from the same day the previous week.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in total cases (31.2 million to Brazil’s 12.8 million) and deaths (566.6 thousand to Brazil’s 325.6 thousand), though Brazil’s current rate is higher in each category. As it has for some time, the U.S. remains third worst in the world for per capita cases among populous countries, behind only Czechia and Slovenia.
Among the same countries, the U.S. remains 11th in highest deaths per capita. The U.S. continues to rank first in total testing and has dropped from ninth to tenth in per capita testing over the last week. Since the last report, the U.S. rose from sixth to fifth among countries in percent totally vaccinated, with an increase from 14% to 17%.
For the day yesterday, twelve states reported multiple thousands of new cases, while twenty-one reported at least one thousand new cases. The states reporting the largest number of new cases included New York (9,144), Michigan (7,098), Florida (6,790), New Jersey (5,606), and Texas (3,877). States reporting the most COVID-19 deaths for the day included California (137), Texas (136), New York (82), Florida (69), and Georgia (64).
The top five states in per capita cases (pandemic totals) remained the same, though Iowa surpassed Utah: North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Iowa, and Utah. Tennessee remained sixth. The same five states lead in per capita deaths, though Massachusetts surpassed Rhode Island on the list: New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Mississippi. Tennessee remained 20th in per capita deaths.
The U.S. is now averaging about 2. 9million doses per day of the vaccine, up about 400,000 per day from a week ago. New Mexico holds the top spot for first vaccinations given (39%) and in those fully vaccinated, at 24%. Tennessee (26%) is in a five-way tie for 43rd in first vaccines (up from 48th a week earlier). For those fully vaccinated, Tennessee (14%) moved from a tie for 47th to a tie for 45th in the percentage fully vaccinated.
Questions are being raised about the true level of spread in the U.S., as testing numbers across the south and mid-west are much lower than other parts of the country. “Kansas, for example, is now testing about 60 people a day for every 100,000 in population, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and Alabama only a bit more. The picture is similar in Iowa, Mississippi and elsewhere. By contrast, New York is averaging 1,200 tests a day per 100,000, and Rhode Island 1,677 per 100,000.”
Yesterday, the state of Tennessee reported 1,772 new cases of COVID-19, bringing state totals to 675,154 confirmed cases and 138,460 probable cases. The state is currently averaging 1,086 new cases per day, down from 1,341 just a week ago. The rate is like late June or early July of last year.
788,215 cases are considered inactive, while 13,484 Tennesseans are currently positive for the virus, down about 290 from a week earlier on the same day. The number of active cases has stabilized since March 8 in a range from the low 12,000 to mid-13,000 range.
An additional 70 people with the virus were hospitalized across the state yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 19,917 hospitalized at some point during the pandemic. After sharp declines to around 650 currently hospitalized two weeks ago, that number has risen to 836, 23 higher than the same day the previous week. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs increased by 10 to 254, with 103 on ventilators.
The state reported 11 deaths from COVID-19 yesterday, bringing the total deaths from the virus in Tennessee to 11,915. The average number of daily deaths in the state is now 10, down from 16 a week ago and just above the average of 8 from two weeks ago. Interestingly, state data for last week was altered dramatically to the low side for March 23 and 24. The two days had previously been reported to have 34 and 45 deaths and now read 9 and 3 respectively.
Testing has stabilized between 10,000 and 20,000 per day, with 20,370 reported yesterday. The positive test result rate for the day was 6.06%, far better than last winter and slightly better than last week. Johns Hopkins University is reporting a seven-day average of 8% positive test results for the state, down from 8.6% a week earlier.
While comparisons to other states do not shed a favorable light on Tennessee, the news, nonetheless, is encouraging on the vaccination front. The state broke the 300,000-barrier last week and is now reporting 339,372 vaccinations given in the last seven days. The rate is nearly 100,000 more per day just two-to-three weeks ago. 2,783,929 total shots have been given and 22.78% of Tennesseans have been given a first shot, while the state reached the 1,000,000 point this week for completely vaccinated residents. 1,024,527 (15%) are now fully vaccinated.
The Knox County Health Department did not report COVID-19 numbers today, due to the holiday.
Yesterday, the health department reported 35 new cases, bringing county totals to 41,604 confirmed and 7,907 probable cases. For the six days since the last report, the county has averaged 43 new cases per day, a drop from 64 last week. 47,918 cases are considered inactive, while 979 Knox County residents currently have an active case of the virus, down from 1,017 last week at this time.
Over the past seven days, the number currently in the hospital has risen as high as 42, but has dropped to 34, five fewer than last Friday. 1,332 Knox County residents have been hospitalized with the virus at some point during the pandemic.
Five additional deaths from the virus were reported yesterday, bringing the total to 9 since last Friday. Of these, five have been in the 45-64 age range, one was in the 65-74 age group and three were 75+. The total for the week is more than twice the four reported the previous week.
The state is reporting a 9.2% positive test rate for Knox County, higher than the state average and up from last week’s 8.6% rate. The county is reporting 204,774 vaccinations have been given, an increase of 24,515 in six days. 28.8% of county residents have gotten at least one shot, up from 25.41% six days earlier. 73,598 (15.6%) have been fully vaccinated, up from 13.7% six days earlier.
Three east Tennessee counties have discontinued mask mandates, while the Knox County Commission voted to remove powers from the Board of Health and re-constitute it as an advisory-only body. Dr. Buchanan now has the power to make decisions regarding COVID-19 interventions. Ironically, conservatives in the county, in the form of the Law Office, removed her power earlier, saying it rightfully rested with the Board of Health. Since that move, a vocal minority of country residents have protested the power vested in unelected officials.
Also announced this week, the wait list maintained by the Knox County Health Department is being phased out in order to make way for an appointment reservation system. The shift has been made possible by a more predictable, and increased, supply of the vaccinations.
Regarding the benchmark for cases, the metric has been shifted from green to yellow, as the recent declines have shown signs of reversal. Test turnaround time remains below two days and test volume increased slightly, leaving that metric yellow. Regarding vaccinations, 27,000 were given in the past seven days, up from 25,000 the previous seven days. The number is increasing each week and the benchmark remains green. Dr. Buchanan emphasized we are not near herd immunity.
Hospitalizations of COVID patients has plateaued, but the benchmark remains green as the hospitals report much lower numbers than previous months. Regarding deaths, she said there have been 30 deaths from the virus reported in March. The benchmark will remain yellow.
Dr. Buchanan had this to say at yesterday’s press briefing:
Over the years when we’ve planned for pandemics and large-scale responses to infectious diseases, I never anticipated the rhetoric and politicization to be as considerable and, quite honestly, as dangerous as it has been over the past year.
So many opinions, decisions and frustrations have been born from misinformation. Though we are certainly not perfect, we’ve tried our best to clarify so much of this inaccurate information, but at times it seems there is just too much of it from too many different, powerful, and loud voices for the facts to stand a chance. The adage that a lie can travel half-way around the world, while the truth is still putting its boots on, seems to have more meaning now, perhaps, than any other time in recent history.
While it is incredibly disheartening, we remain committed to continue to work every day to do what’s right to share accurate information so the public can make informed decisions and work diligently to protect our community. So, as we head into what is, for me, a very personal holiday, I encourage everyone, on all sides of the debate to seek first to understand, to pause before making assumptions, to show kindness to fellow community members, and to remember there is no “us and them,” there is only “us.”
She acknowledged that Dr. O’Brien has resigned from the newly constituted Board of Health. She said the board continues to be the same for fifteen days after the council decision. She says she must get together with the law office to understand what comes next. She anticipates levels of vaccine to level-off for the next few weeks. She pleaded with everyone to continue observing the five core actions.
She encouraged more people to volunteer as their volunteer numbers have dropped. When asked, she said laminating your vaccination card may be a good idea. She said she feels we are past the half-way point in the pandemic.
The Knox County Schools are reporting 48 active cases at the end of this week, three fewer than the same day last week. All schools are offering in-person instruction.
The University of Tennessee is reporting 89 active cases among its students and staff members, down from 108 last week and in line with numbers from the previous five months.