Even as coronavirus cases are spiking in many parts of Tennessee, Scott County has managed to buck a trend, and was one of just a handful of counties without an active case of the virus being monitored by the TN Dept. of Health as of Monday.
Scott County was one of just seven counties out of 95 across the state that did not have an active case of coronavirus as of Monday, after the county’s 14th case was declared to have recovered over the weekend.
The number of Scott Countians who have been tested for coronavius is nearing 1,000. As of Monday afternoon, 963 people had been tested for Covid-19 illness locally, or 438 per 10,000 people.
The trend across the rest of Tennessee was not the same. While there was once optimism that the arrival of summer heat would stave off the virus, that is proving to not be the case. The state topped 10,000 active cases for the first time on Sunday, and that number continued to increase on Monday, up to 10,615 active cases.
Additionally, last week saw a total of 62 coronavirus-related deaths in Tennessee — making it the deadliest week so far, after the previous week saw 56 deaths recorded. However, 21 of those deaths — or about 33% — are “probable” deaths that have occurred since the pandemic began, all reported for the first time on Friday, when the Dept. of Health began including probable cases with confirmed cases. Absent those 21 cases, there would have been 41 deaths last week — 27% fewer than the previous week.
Much of Tennessee is experiencing a growing number of active coronavirus cases, with some new hotspots emerging. Nowhere is that clearer than Hamilton County, where the number of active cases has blossomed to over 1,000. Other areas are seeing coronavirus cases grow at a smaller but still concerning rate. In Knox County, which is the nearest metropolitan area to Scott County and a major commerce link with the local community, the state health department now reports 174 active cases, and in Sevier Couny, East Tennessee’s tourism hub, there are 116 active cases.
However, the Knox County Health Department — which operates independently of the state health department — is reporting only 94 active cases. It is reporting far more of its cases recovered than the state is. There are currently four people hospitalized with Covid-19 illness in Knox County. The number of hospitalizations was double that at one point over the weekend.
To be sure, most of Tennessee’s 10,000-plus active cases of Covid-19 illness are restricted to the state’s largest metro areas. Nashville and Memphis alone account for more than 4,500 active cases — or nearly half of the state’s total.
By contrast, the virus remains a minor issue in the Upper Cumberland region, the northern Cumberland Plateau region, and upper East Tennessee.
In Scott and surrounding counties, there are only 23 active cases — though there are 14 in Anderson County, a number that is slowly increasing. In the Upper Cumberland region there are only a handful of cases outside Cookeville and Putnam County, and even there the number of active cases is on the decline. Putnam County once looked like an emerging hotspot for coronavirus, but the number of active cases there is down to 151. Neighboring Cumberland County is seeing its number of active cases decrease as well, down to 15.
In Upper East Tennessee, there are only 31 active cases, including only 16 in the Tri-Cities. Neighboring Greeneville doesn’t have any active cases at all.
Still, a map of the state’s active cases shows a sea of activity in the greater Nashville area — a mix of suburbs and more rural areas. Murfreesboro and Rutherford County are closing in on 1,000 active cases, and were likely to have surpassed that milestone on Tuesday. Sumner County, where the virus has proved a stubborn presence since an early outbreak at an assisted living facility in Gallatin, there are now more than 600 active cases. The outbreak is slowly growing in Williamson, Wilson and Bedford counties, as well. That region of Middle Tennessee seems to underscore just how difficult it becomes to eradicate the virus once it has become established and community spread begins. That could be a concern for areas that are showing coronavirus growth — including virtually every county along Tennessee’s southern and western borders, as well as counties like Knox and Sevier in East Tennessee.
The virus continues to prove a minor sickness for the vast majority of people who contract it. Most are asymptomatic, or develop only mild symptoms. Only 2,100 out of 31,000 people who have been diagnosed with the illness have required hospitalization. That is 6.8%, a number that is dropping. At its highest point, more than 11% of people who were known to have been infected with coronavirus were eventually being hospitalized, and the number had hovered just above 7% for several weeks.
In some people, though, coronavirus is deadly. For those who become ill enough to require hospitalization, the prognosis worsens considerably. Tennessee’s 483 Covid-19 deaths equates to nearly 1 in 4 people who have been hospitalized.
Still, the state’s case fatality rate is low; fewer than 1.6% of those known to have contracted coronavirus have died — and that percentage is dropping. The virus is most deadly in the elderly. In Tennessee, 1 in every 3 deaths have occurred in people over the age of 80, even though that age group makes up only 2% of the total cases. Another 1 in 3 deaths have been in people in their 70s, a group that accounts for just 4% of the total number of cases. Only about 17% of deaths have occurred in people younger than 60, and most of those were in their 50s. The vast majority of younger patients who have died of coronavirus have had underlying health problems.
Although the number of people being tested for coronavirus in Tennessee has declined in recent days, part of the reason for the increased number of active cases is a relatively high number of people being tested. The Volunteer State continues to test more per capita than most other states. On Monday, for example, the Dept. of Health reported 728 new infections — a relatively high number, but a number that represented just under 5% of the nearly 15,000 new test results reported that day.
Overall, 4.9% of people tested for coronavirus in Tennessee have tested positive, a percentage that is lower than just about any other state in the nation. Nationwide, about 9% of tests that have been conducted have returned positive.
A model developed by the University of Washington’s famed Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation projects that about 2,000 Tennesseans will have died of coronavirus by October 1. However, the model’s data has been heavily criticized and is highly suspect. It has been drastically altered from update to update. Prior to Monday, for example, it showed as many as 100 Tennesseans dying per day by early fall. On Monday, it updated to show only about one-fifth of that amount dying per day by October.