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?
Ditto that. This week we learned that just over half of Knox County teachers have said they are or wish to be vaccinated. It is about the same rate as Republicans have responded when surveyed nationally. We have filled a baseball stadium in Texas with a mostly unmasked crowd of 40,000 people. Market Square is packed on the weekend. Air travel is sustaining in the U.S. at over 1,000,000 people per day. If we keep doing what we are doing and if we don’t vaccinate well over that 50% mark, we’ll still be talking about this next year at this time.
We are so close. Get your shots. Wear your masks for a bit longer. Please.
About 134.7 million people across the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and over 23.3 million people currently have active cases of the virus. The number of active cases continues to increase, up about 800,000 from the end of last week. While over 108 million people have recovered, about 3.4 million additional people became ill this week. The current seven-day average for daily cases is over 619,000 new cases per day, up about 33,000 per day from a week earlier. The pace of new cases continues to rise and is now like that of late January.
Deaths have reached over 2,918,000, including about 75,000 in the past week. After a slight dip, the upward trend in death rate continues this week, with a current average of 10,373 deaths per day. The number reflects roughly 160 more deaths per day than the same day last week. The rate of global deaths is now like mid-February.
Looking at yesterday for our snapshot comparison, 13,882 new COVID-19 deaths were reported, the highest number since February 10 (14,159). The number is about 2,100 higher than the same day the previous week. Brazil continues to lead the world in daily deaths and the gap between that country and ours (which is second) is wide. The five worst death tolls for the day are like last week, with India replacing Italy in the group: Brazil (4,190), the U.S. (1,009), Poland (954), India (802), and Mexico (596).
747.1 thousand new cases were reported yesterday, up about 46,000 from the same day the previous week. Twelve countries reported more than 10,000 new cases for the day (down from 13 last week), while sixty-eight countries reported over 1,000 cases each (up from 58 last week).
The countries with the worst new case numbers for the day remains the same with the exception of Iran replacing France on the list. New cases in India surged by over 60% this week, driving it to the top of the list: India (131,893), Brazil (89,293), the U.S. (80,161), Turkey (44,941), Poland (27,899), Germany (24,257), Argentina (23,683), Iran (22,586), Ukraine (19,419), and Italy (17,221). India’s case number yesterday was the highest single-day number it has reported since the beginning of the pandemic.
The New York Times reports the following shot rates per 100 people for each of the continents: North America (33, but for the U.S., it is 53), Europe (20), South America (11), Asia (7.1), Oceana (2.5), and Africa (.9). The gap between North America, driven by the U.S., and the rest of the world continued to widen. Israel continues to lead the world with 55% of its population fully vaccinated (last week I reported 59%, but that should have been the number at least partially vaccinated), while the U.S. ranks 6th in percentage fully vaccinated (20%) but has given more vaccinations than any other country in the world.
Brazil recorded its highest death total for a single day this week, while its senate and courts begin investigations into how President Bolsonaro has handled the pandemic. He continues to insist there be no restrictions imposed. India currently has its highest rate of new cases since the beginning of the pandemic and deaths are rising rapidly. At the same time, they are suffering a continuing shortage of the vaccine. With the continuing struggles regarding the Astrazeneca rollout in Europe, Germany has announced intentions to seek the Sputnik vaccine from Russia, bucking the European Union.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in total COVID-19 cases, with 31,721,688, up about 480,000 over the last week. Just under 24.3 million cases are inactive, while just under 6.9 million Americans currently have an active case of the virus, a decline of about 57,000 in the last week. Yesterday, 80,161 new cases were reported, an increase of about 3,400 over the same day last week.
An average of 66,677 new cases have been reported daily over the last week, about 200 per day lower than the number reported one week ago. The new cases rate is wavering between holding steady and rising slowly and has remained in the mid-60,000 range for the last two weeks. The average peaked on January 11 (256,270) and hit its recent low March 16 (55,552).
A total of 573,894 Americans have died of COVID-19, including over 5,400 in the last week. The daily average for deaths in the U.S., now at 775 deaths per day, has continued to decline, dropping by 127 in the last week. The rate is the lowest it has been since October 19 (763). Yesterday, 1,009 new COVID-19 deaths were reported in the U.S., up by 57 from the same day a week earlier.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in total cases (31.7 million to Brazil’s 13.3 million) and deaths (573.9 thousand to Brazil’s 345.3 thousand), though Brazil’s current rate is currently 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 but dropped from tenth to eleventh in per capita testing over the last week. Since the last report, the U.S. dropped from fifth to sixth among countries in percent totally vaccinated, though the percentage increased from 17% to 20%.
For the day yesterday, twelve states reported multiple thousands of new cases, while twenty reported at least one thousand. Last week the numbers were twelve and twenty-one, respectively. The five states reporting the largest number of new cases remained the same, except for Pennsylvania replacing New Jersey: New York (8,823), Michigan (8,539), Florida (7,939), Pennsylvania (4,466), and Texas (4,437). The states reporting the most COVID-19 deaths for the day included California (143), Texas (98), Florida (78), Michigan (77), and Georgia (69). Michigan replaced New York among the top five.
The top five states in per capita cases (pandemic totals) remained the same: North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Iowa, and Utah. Tennessee remained sixth. The five states which have lead in per capita deaths remained the same: New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Mississippi. Tennessee remained 20th in per capita deaths.
New Hampshire now holds the top spot for first vaccinations given (45%), while New Mexico leads in those fully vaccinated, at 27%. Tennessee (28%) is tied with Georgia for 48th in first vaccines. For those fully vaccinated, Tennessee (17%) is in a four-way tie for 44th highest rate among the U.S. states. The rate of vaccine hesitancy or refusal may be starting to show, as all southern states except for Virginia are grouped near the bottom for first vaccinations. Six of the bottom ten states are from the south.
A new Kaizer Family survey holds the encouraging news that the percentage of Americans who are currently vaccinated or intend to be vaccinated is increasing and is currently at 61%. 13% say they will not get the vaccine under any circumstances and 7% say they will do so only if forced by an employer. Republicans and white evangelicals (groups that overlap) report the highest resistance to being vaccinated. 29% of Republicans say they will not be vaccinated, while among white evangelical Christians, 28% say they will not get the vaccine.
For those who question whether another surge is possible, Michigan may be of interest. Michigan is ahead of Tennessee in vaccinations with 33% having received at least one shot and 20% fully vaccinated, but they are experiencing a steep climb in cases and increasing numbers of deaths. The state is now averaging over 7,200 new cases per day, approaching its pandemic high of about 7,600 last November, after dropping to just over 1,000 in February. The point? We are still in danger. This could be us.
Yesterday, the state of Tennessee reported 1,460 new cases of COVID-19, bringing state totals to 680,334 confirmed cases and 140,631 probable cases. The state is currently averaging 1,051 new cases per day roughly the same as a week earlier (1,086). The rate remains like late June or early July of last year.
795,885 cases are considered inactive, while 13,083 Tennesseans currently have an active case of the virus, down about 400 from a week earlier. Active case numbers have plateaued in the 12,000 to 14,000 range in the state since late February.
Hospitalization numbers have slowly increased in the state since mid-March, though they remain far off previous highs. 45 additional Tennesseans were hospitalized yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 20,214 who have been hospitalized at some point. There are currently 852 COVID-positive Tennesseans in state hospitals, sixteen higher than the number reported one week earlier. Three weeks ago, the number was around 650. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs increased by 1 to 255, with 109 on ventilators, an increase of six over one week ago.
The state reported 21 additional deaths yesterday, bringing the pandemic total to 11,997 COVID-19 deaths. The state is averaging 12 COVID-19 deaths per day, up from 10 a week ago.
Testing continues to run between 15,000 and 20,000 most days, with occasional days below 10,000. The positive test rate has remained in the 5% to 7% range for weeks, with the state reporting a 6.73% rate for yesterday. Johns Hopkins University also reports relative stable rates for the state, but has it a bit higher at 8.1%, up .1% from last week’s number.
The rate of vaccinations has slowed slightly for the state over the last week, from just over 300,000 per week to just under that number. For the last seven days, the state reports 283,887 shots have been given. 3,114,335 total shots have been given since December and 29.2% of state residents have been given a first shot (up about 6.5% in a week), while 1,187,706 (17.4%) Tennesseans are fully vaccinated.
The Knox County Health Department reported 52 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing totals to 42,014 confirmed cases and 8,091 probable cases. The county has averaged 47 new cases per day over the last week, up by 4 cases per day over the previous week. 48,619 cases are considered inactive, while 866 remain active, down 133 from the same day last week. Active case numbers have remained between roughly 840 -1060 since March 10.
There are currently 35 COVID-positive Knox County residents in the hospital, with the pandemic number at 1,353 hospitalized at some point. Over the last week, the number dropped as low as 34 and went as high as 40 but has remained in the 30s for most of the last month.
Two additional Knox County deaths from COVID-19 were reported today, bringing the pandemic total to 620 for the county. Six people have died in the last week, including one person in the 45-64 age group and five in the 75+ age group. The six deaths are down from the total of 9 reported the week before.
The state is reporting a 7.9% positive test rate for Knox County, an improvement from 9.2% reported a week earlier. The county is reporting 242,815 total vaccinations have been given in the county, an increase of 38,041 in the last eight days (there was no report last Friday). 33.77% of county residents have gotten at least one shot (up 5% from the last report). 90,814 (19.3%) county residents are fully vaccinated, up from 15.6% eight days earlier. The county is significantly ahead of state averages in both categories.
The Knox County Health Department updated its metrics and the only change related to vaccination rates, which declined slightly for the previous seven days and the metric shifted from green to yellow. The other metrics remain the same: Cases (yellow), Testing (yellow), hospital capacity (green) and death rate (yellow). For another way to measure where Knox County stands, see the New York Times page for our county. Our risk level has dropped from unspeakable (really, it had no name, it was just beyond bad), through extremely high down to very high risk of COVID exposure.
In yesterday’s press briefing Dr. Buchanan strongly encouraged anyone hesitant to take the vaccine to have a conversation with their medical provider. She said the reduction in vaccines over the last week was likely due to the holiday weekend. She said her understanding of local regulations is that she must issue new orders as the others expire. She said she will continue the mask mandate but will consider the restaurant limitations after the 22nd based on local data and conversations with the Board of Health.
She said she has spoken to Mayor Jacobs. She acknowledged his concerns regarding regulations and said they will continue conversations. Regarding open vaccine appointments, she said she can only speak to their supply, but isn’t concerned about the risk of expiring vaccinations. She said the new system seems to be working well and they are filling appointments. She repeated what she said to the School Board last night that masks should be worn in schools as long as the CDC recommends it, which they currently do.
She said we may get more vaccinations as rural counties reach a point where they cannot use all they receive. She acknowledged vaccine hesitancy and said they are actively working to overcome that. She stressed they are all safe and effective and that 30% of Knox Countians can attest to that fact on a personal level.
The biggest local news over the last few days has been the work session with the Knox County Board of Education, where a vocal group of parents, many of them the same ones who have loudly encouraged the Knox County Commission to remove powers from the Board of Health, have now turned their attention to removing the mandated masks for students in schools. There seems to be some support of the idea on the school board, though it is unclear if it is a majority. The group spoke for several hours in the public comment period of the meeting.
Additional information related to schools and how they will function next fall was also discussed. The deadline to determine whether to have your child in virtual school or in-person next fall was dropped and will be set later. This appears to be because the superintendent is beginning to acknowledge that decision will likely not be left to local officials. The governor has already put a cap of 4,500 (1,500 at each of the elementary, middle, and high school levels) virtual students for the county. There are currently 17,000 students participating virtually.
Perhaps most discouraging and surprising, to me, is that the superintendent’s office reported only 55% of teachers have indicated the have gotten or intend to get the vaccination.
The Knox County School system is reporting 33 active cases of COVID-19. The University of Tennessee continues to see low reported active cases numbers, with just 41 reported today. Quarantine numbers for both the public schools and the university have plummeted to near record low levels for the year.