I called last week’s numbers a “peak moment,” with the caveat that it could get worse. It did. By every measure, our local and state situation is worse than last week. Even as global and national numbers are showing some sign of decline, we haven’t gotten there, yet. We will and it will probably be soon and rapid when it happens. Be very careful for just a bit longer and I think we’ll get a break.
At this time, however, there are more known active cases in Knox County than ever and we all likely know people who have COVID-19 or are just getting over it. For the sake of your own health, for others, and to keep our schools and businesses open, please wear your KN95 mask. Please get vaccinated if you haven’t.
Over the last week, about 23.3 million new cases of COVID-19 have been reported across the world, an increase of 9% over the previous week. While the rate of increase slowed from the previous week, this marks a new high in daily averages for new cases at about 3.3 million per day. The 69.9 million active cases is the largest pandemic number, as well, about 10 million higher than the record from last week. There have been roughly 361 million known cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
After increasing by 9% last week, deaths increased by an additional 12% this week, rising to 57.8 thousand for the week, for an average of 8,300 confirmed COVID-19 deaths per day. The current death rate is about 56% of the peak reached in January 2021. Over 5.6 million people have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Forty-four countries have now vaccinated more than 70% of their population (up from 43 last week). Four countries have vaccinated fewer than 1% of their population, and 27 (down three from last week) have vaccinated less than 10%.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. leads the world in total cases with just under 73.5 million and in total deaths with over 895,000.
The United States is also leading the world in new cases, with an average of about 652,300 new cases per day, which reflects a drop of 14% over the last two weeks. There are currently about 27.4 million active cases in the U.S., a number that both leads the world and represents the most active cases reported in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic.
COVID-positive hospitalizations in the U.S. now total 154,897, down from 156,894 last week, but up 9% in the last two weeks. National hospitalizations appear to have peaked, though they continue to rise in specific areas like our own. An average of 2,362 U.S. residents are dying of COVID-19 each day, up from 1,889 a week ago and up 35% in the last two weeks. The number of deaths each day has now surpassed the high we reached last fall in the Delta surge, but remains well below the peak of 3,600 per day we recorded in January 2021.
The U.S. has a 63% vaccination rate, ranking 61st in the world (up one from last week). The U.S. ranks 16th in per capita cases in the world (among countries with at least 1 million in population) and 16th in per capita deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Tennessee has reported 1.77 million cases of COVID-19 and 22,151 deaths from the illness. The state ranks fifth in per capita cases in the U.S. (Alaska passed us) and seventh in per capita deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
The state is reporting an average of 16,968 cases per day over the last week, up from 16,262 cases per day the previous week, for an increase of 4.3% from one week to the next. This continues a trend of slowing increases and may indicate we are near our peak for this surge. The most recent record for new cases reported in a single day was set January 13 at 21,196. This was broken with 22,190 cases reported on January 19.
According to the new state data published yesterday, an average of 65 Tennesseans died each day from COVID-19 last week, down from up from 86 the week before, for a decrease of 24%. This seems at odds with data reported elsewhere, though differing reporting periods may account for some of the difference. Hospitalizations increased by a net of 36 each day last week, though the increases seem to be slowing. Just over 31,000 tests per day were reported last week, which is similar to last week and the positivity rate of 43.16% was up from 41.19% last week. The goal is 5%.
Hospital data was only updated to 1/18 and showed 3,125 COVID-positive patients hospitalized in Tennessee, up 8.5% from the week before (2,879). Of those in the hospital, 666 were in ICUs (up 4.2%), and 374 320 were on ventilators (up 16.9%). The latest pediatric report indicated 108 COVID-positive patients (up 54.3%), with 12 in ICUs (up from 7) and two on a ventilator (up from one).
About 61,000 vaccinations were given over the last week, down from 82,000 the week before. Tennessee’s 52.1% vaccination rate earned 44th best out of the 50 states this week, a drop of one place as we were surpassed by Georgia.
Bottom line locally: We have more daily cases and more active cases than ever. Hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise.
Data reported through 1/22 indicates 84,720 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,130 deaths in Knox County.
Over the seven days included in this data, the KCHD reported 6,680 new cases, for a daily average of 955 per day, up 13.4% from last week’s 5,892 new cases and daily average of 842. The rate of increase was slightly less than the previous week. Prior to this surge, the largest number of cases reported in a single day was 933 reported on September 6, 2021. We exceeded that four times in last week’s report. Last week’s record of 1105 for a single day was broken three times in the most recent data release, with the new daily record of 1,423 set on January 20.
Active cases records continue to tumble each week by large margins. Two reports ago, the record was established at 6,766. Last week the record was broken by nearly 100% at 12,188. Yesterdays report, which covers through last Saturday reported a new pandemic record of 14,630, up by 20% over the previous report.
Hospitals in the 19-hospital region are reporting (as of 1/22) 556 COVID-positive patients, up 18% from the previous week’s 471. 120 are reported in ICUs (up from 104), and 72 are on ventilators (up from 53). While ICU and ventilator numbers have risen more slowly in previous reports, in this report, hospital cases didn’t increase as rapidly, ICU cases roughly matched the increase, and ICU numbers (up 35%) led the others.
UT Hospital reports 168 COVID-positive patients (up from 138 the week before), with 79% unvaccinated and an average ICU age of 58. Covenant Hospitals are reporting 292 confirmed COVID-19 patients (up from 241) at their various area hospitals, with a median ICU age of 65. 64% of their COVID patients are unvaccinated, but 78% of those requiring ICU support are unvaccinated.
Area hospitals consider the situation to be dire enough that they released a joint statement yesterday afternoon. It read:
To the Communities We Serve,
As we prepare to face a third year of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities are still in an emergency. Health care systems continue to be under unprecedented strain. We remain committed to delivering the medical services needed by our communities, but we need your help.
The Omicron variant is racing through East Tennessee with lightning speed, spreading easily from person to person, increasing infections and hospitalizations. This year we are also seeing large numbers of patients with respiratory illnesses such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), pneumonia, and post-COVID-19 complications, in addition to heart attacks, strokes and other
emergent care needs. Our emergency departments are overflowing with these cases and other medical emergencies, leading to longer-than-usual wait times as we work to deliver care to all who are counting on us.
Health care workers are not immune to viruses. Many of our team members are absent because of their own illness, impacting the number of health care workers available to provide care.
Our hospital organizations are adapting as best we can to these circumstances, and we need your help. The safety of our patients, visitors and team members is always our top priority, and we encourage you to seek health care when and where you need it. Do not postpone regular screenings or appointments. If you have a serious injury or life-threatening illness or condition, don’t hesitate to seek emergency treatment. If you are asymptomatic or experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms, visit a community testing location prior to seeking care at the emergency department. Follow the core actions: Wash your hands frequently. Wear a mask and socially distance. Follow hospital visitation guidelines designed to keep you, your loved one, and health care providers safe. Stay home if you are sick. Get vaccinated and boosted.
As they have done at heroic levels since the beginning of the pandemic, our teams are continuing to work diligently and selflessly to care for our communities. We are here for you when you need us. We ask for your patience and kindness to our health care workers and to one another during these challenging times.
To our health care community, we are immensely grateful for the sustained hard work all of you are doing every day. You have been in it for the long haul, serving nobly, and we sincerely thank you for your unwavering dedication to our patients.
An additional thirty-nine COVID-19 deaths were reported in the county in the week ending January 22. The health department clarified:
Please note that 10 of these deaths are from previous months and will be added to the chart according to date of death. This comes as a result of a review announced last month from the Tennessee Department of Health. Through this review, TDH has identified additional COVID-related deaths, which are added to our charts when they are reviewed and categorized by KCHD. The remaining 29 deaths occurred in January 2022.
I asked for a further breakdown and was told 20 of the deaths occurred in the current seven-day reporting period, or about 2.9 deaths each day.
Of the 39 deaths added today, two were age 18-44, ten were age 45-64, ten were age 65-74, and seventeen were 75 or older. For the duration of the pandemic, the current demographic breakdown for deaths by age group are 50/4.4% (age 18-44), 241/21.3% (age 45-64), 271/24% (age 65-74) and 578/51.3% (age 75+)
Test demand remains high, and test availability continues to be a challenge. The state reports a 46.6% positive test rate as of the end of last week. 58.46% of Knox County residents are fully vaccinated, up from 58.27% last week.
As students have returned to campus (classes started Monday), UTK is reporting an increase in their active case numbers. They currently report 164 active cases, up from 72 a week ago. The trajectory of the data can be more fairly assessed next week.
After reporting increasing case numbers for the only full week students have attended so far, Knox County Schools cancelled classes last week and so did not produce data. This week all schools with the exception of Emerald Academy and Austin East High School reopened to in-person instruction, while the other two began virtual instruction. After reporting 494 active cases on the last day before the week off, the school system reported 147 known cases on Monday, 252 on Tuesday, and 261 yesterday.