As of Monday, it has been 40 days since the last case of coronavirus was confirmed in Scott County.
During that time span, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 illness has increased in 94 of Tennessee’s 95 counties — with Scott County being the only exception.
Twice during that time there has been a 12th case of coronavirus reported in Scott County. But each time that report was determined to be a data error at the state level.
On April 15 — the date that Scott County’s last case of coronavirus was reported — there were 6,079 cases of the virus statewide. At least 135 people had died.
As of Monday, those numbers have tripled. There have now been 20,607 case s of the virus statewide, and 338 people have died. Yet, Scott County remains at 11 total cases.
On April 15, there had been 126 people tested for coronavirus in Scott County. Nearly 9% of those tests — almost 1 in 10 — had returned positive. As of Monday, there had been 596 people tested in Scott County. The percentage of positive results had slipped to 1.8%. There had been 470 tests conducted since the last test returned positive in Scott County.
Even as restaurants, hair salons and tanning salons have re-opened in Scott County, and even as many churches have resumed in-person worship services, new cases of the virus have not emerged — seeming to blow a hole in earlier theories that Covid-19 was probably present within the community but going undetected.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the lack of new cases in Scott County is the virus’s relatively light impact in Knoxville — which serves as Scott County’s pipeline to urban America. As of Monday, there were only 27 active coronavirus cases in all of Knox County, and only one person was hospitalized there with Covid-19 illness. Not only is Knoxville the least impacted urban area in Tennessee, but — as has been the case in Scott County — an influx of new cases have not emerged as the economy has been rebooted.
Still, those who track the numbers on a daily basis know that each test that is conducted is an opportunity for a new trend to emerge, and that it is probably only a matter of time before new cases make their way to Scott County. After all, new cases have been discovered in every surrounding county — though they have been relatively few, and Campbell County, like Scott County, has been without a single active case for weeks.
But Scott County’s good fortune has not been reflected across the state as a whole. Active cases in Tennessee have crept back above 7,000, standing at 7,196 on Monday. There had been more than 7,800 cases just a week ago before inmates at state prisons with massive outbreaks began to be declared recovered. That drove the number of active cases under 6,500 temporarily, but it has been steadily increasing since. With the prisons largely free of coronavirus now, and nursing home outbreaks at a plateau at the moment, there are more active cases within the communities of Tennessee — outside controlled environments like prisons and assisted living facilities — than there has been since the pandemic began.
There are growing hot spots for the virus in East Tennessee, too. Outbreaks have been tied to immigrant workers on farms in Rhea and Loudon counties, undisclosed factors have caused new cases to spike in Putnam County, and the number of cases is actively growing in Chattanooga.
Hamilton County is now up to 382 active cases of coronavirus. That’s an increase of just 25% in the last 48 hours. Officials there continue to shrug off the rise of active cases as a symptom of increased testing. But Hamilton County is testing at a lesser rate than much of the rest of the state. According to data provided by the TN Dept. of Health, Hamilton County has tested only 23 per 1,000 residents. By comparison, Knox County has tested 30 per 1,000 residents. Even in Scott County, there has been more testing per capita than in Hamilton County — 27 per 1,000 residents.
In Putnam County, another emerging trouble spot, the number of active cases has increased a much smaller 8% in the past 48 hours. There are now 212 active cases in Putnam County.