Here’s the return to my Tuesday reports. I’ve moved to twice weekly reporting as the surge worsens, news proliferates beyond what can easily be assembled for one article a week, and the Knox County Health Department has begun updating their data each Tuesday. Publication time may vary, as I wait for the KCHD data to be released, and they are no longer adhering to the 11:00 am timeframe they used before.
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The statistics referenced below, unless otherwise linked, are largely based on numbers from these sites:
The state of Tennessee has confirmed 1,042,123 cases of COVID-19 and 13,429 deaths. Over the last seven days, new cases are averaging 6,402 per day, down from 6,695 reported on Friday. The drop is due to the aging out of August 22, a day in which 9,818 new cases were reported. Is it possible this represents a peak? It is too early to know, but we can hope. The state now has the fifth worst rate of spread in the U.S. behind Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky. The rate of spread has increased by 42% over the last two weeks. The current rate of spread is like mid-January.
The state is averaging 34 deaths from COVID-19 each day, up from 31 reported on Friday. This represents the highest the seven-day average has climbed since early March. Twenty deaths were reported yesterday. Testing has rising dramatically to over 30,000 reported yesterday, but the positive test rate is still extremely elevated at 18.72%.
Hospitalizations have continued to rise rapidly and are nearing pandemic records overall, while breaking records for ICU and ventilator use, and pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations. There are currently 3,272 COVID-positive Tennesseans hospitalized, up from 3,030 reported on Friday. 939 are in ICUs and 645 are on ventilators, up from 886 and 564, respectively, on Friday. 79 COVID-positive children are hospitalized, with 16 in ICUs and 9 on ventilators, up from 67, 16, and 6 on Friday. Statewide ICU availability is at 7% for adults and 15% for children.
Reports range from 80% to 90% of those in hospitals are unvaccinated.
The rate of vaccinations continues to move upward but appears to be hovering around 140,000 to 150,000 a week. 142,700 Tennesseans received a first or second shot in the last seven days, up from 137,200 reported Friday. While the increase is encouraging, the rate is not adequate to move Tennessee past the 70% mark until 2022.
Full vaccination rates are 22.1% among 12-16-year-olds, 29.5% among those 16-20, 31.8% among those in their 20s. The three groups represent about 1.1 million eligible, yet unvaccinated, Tennesseans. Just 6,400 in each of the first two groups were vaccinated this past week, and 13,600 20+ year old state residents were vaccinated. Vaccination rates increase with each age group up to those in their 70s at 76.8%.
Overall, 49.4% of Tennesseans have gotten at least one shot, up from 48.8% reported on Friday. 41.7% are fully vaccinated, up from 41.6% reported on Friday. Tennessee ranks 45th in first vaccinations and 42nd in full vaccinations among the fifty states. For the second consecutive report, the state dropped a spot in first vaccinations.
After reporting 229 new cases on Friday, the health department reported 455 on Saturday, 371 for Sunday, 219 on Monday and 479 today. Today’s number of new cases is higher than any day this year, most recently topped last December 31 (517). It is the 8th highest number of any single day during the pandemic. As you can see from the trendlines on the chart above, not only have cases continued to rise, they have risen faster in the last week than the last two weeks. An additional 527 probable cases were added since Friday. Totals for cases in the county have now reached 49,835 confirmed cases and 11,331 probable cases.
As of today, there are 4,654 active cases of COVID-19 in Knox County, up 985, or 26.8%, in the last five days. This represents the highest number of active cases since January 14 (4,754). The positive test rate in Knox County has soared to 23.1%.
In the nineteen-hospital regional area, 635 COVID-positive patients are hospitalized, compared to 567 reported five days earlier. 169 are in ICUs and 112 are on ventilators, up from 154 and 101 five days ago. Seven of the 317 ICU beds represented are currently available. As reported more specifically below, the percentage of those hospitalized with COVID-19 who are unvaccinated is around 85-86% in our area.
The most recent report from the University of Tennessee Medical Center indicates 149 COVID-19 hospitalizations, up from 130 reported on Friday. 85% of the current COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. The average age for ICU patients is 54. Covenant Hospitals in the area are reporting 307 COVID-19 patients with an average age of 60 in the ICU and 86% unvaccinated. The ET Children’s Hospital information has not been updated since the last report.
After reporting ten COVID-19 deaths in the previous week, the KCHD is reporting 17 deaths in just the last five days. As stated in previous reports, the deaths are increasingly not among the oldest residents in the county. The age distribution for deaths in the last five days included 18-44 (1), 45-64 (4), 65-74 (8), 75+ (4). Deaths from COVID-19 in Knox County now number 701.
Knox County’s vaccination number improved over the last four days to 54.15% with one shot and 48.7% fully vaccinated. About 17,000 shots were given in Knox County in the last four days. Partial or full vaccination rates for the various age groups are better for Knox County than for Tennessee: 12-15 years (47.2%), 16-20 (52.4%), 21-30 (46.2%), 31-40 (59.2%), 41-50 (63.2%), 51-60 (70.2%), 61-70 (78.1%), 71-80 (82.2%) and 81+ (73.1%).
The University of Tennessee updated its dashboard Monday morning and reported 265 active cases of COVID-19, up from 116 the week before. The new number includes 228 students and 37 employees and represents a one-week increase of 128%. The current number is like that of late September 2020, higher than any numbers from spring semester, but still well below last September’s peak of 680.
Knox County Schools are reporting 923 active cases of COVID-19, up from 712 last reported here. That number increased to 905 Friday afternoon, before the current number was reported yesterday afternoon. The number is close to four times higher than the peak reached last year.
ORNL is requiring all its employees to be fully vaccinated by October 15.
Hamblen County Schools took an unusual approach, saying school will be open on Friday, but students will not be counted as absent if they stay home. The hope is to slow the spread of COVID-19 with a longer break – while still holding school.
Knox County Schools reported an attendance rate of just under 82% on Monday. It is impossible to know how much of the absentee rate was due to illness and quarantine and how much was due to the planned protest.