As recently as Thursday, July 23, the outbreak of coronavirus that had finally reached Scott County appeared to be stable.
There were no new cases of the virus reported locally on Thursday, the first time there had been no cases reported by the TN Dept. of Health in 12 days. There were 15 active cases of the virus — a number that had hardly budged in 10 days.
All of that has changed.
The Dept. of Health has reported 11 new cases of the virus in Scott County in the past 72 hours — the most in a 3-day period since the pandemic began. Even as Scott Countians suffering from the virus continue to recover, the number of active cases has surged from 15 on Thursday to 25 on Sunday, just three days later.
After reporting no new cases of the virus on Thursday, the state health department reported four on Friday, three on Saturday and four on Sunday.
Local authorities have been reticent to say that there is community spread of the coronavirus in Scott County, but the increase in cases has a growing number of people taking new precautions. On Sunday, hours before the health department released the latest report of four additional cases, New Haven Baptist Church at Coopertown held its Sunday morning worship service virtually. The church made the decision last week to go back to where churches were at in April: temporarily halting in-person services. New Haven is just the latest — but the largest — Scott County church to make that move.
There have now been 50 cases of coronavirus diagnosed in Scott County. Half of them have recovered.
To be clear, the rise in active cases is no surprise. The coronavirus surge has been closing in on the local community for weeks — and, for weeks, some local health care workers have been indicating that there were a growing number of people in Scott County who were ill, but the demand for testing is overwhelming laboratories, leading to delays in results being returned. In some cases, doctors are waiting well over a week for their patients’ test results to come back. In one case, a person who was suffering from relatively mild sickness waited 10 days before their test results came back: positive for coronavirus.
Overall, the vast majority of tests being conducted in Scott County continue to be negative. Of more than 1,800 tests, less than 3% have been positive. Statewide, the positivity rate is well more than double that: 6.8% of 1.4 million tests in Tennessee have been positive, dating back to the first of March.
Meanwhile, there are nearly 200 active cases of the coronavirus as nearby as Anderson County, which adjoins Scott County to the southeast. Campbell County is up to 75 active cases of the virus. And Knox County — the nearest metropolitan area, with a significant economic link to Scott County — now has nearly 1,800 active cases.
Hospitalizations appear steady
One positive, even as the number of coronavirus cases have continued to surge across Tennessee, has been that the number of people in the hospital has, for the most part, held steady — even though the state recorded three consecutive days last week where more than 100 people were hospitalized each day. According to the Dept. of Health’s data, there were 1,024 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in facilities across the state as of Saturday. One week earlier, that number ticked over 1,000 for the first time.
In Knox County, there were 44 residents hospitalized with coronavirus on Sunday, a number that had not budged in days.
Since June 1, the percentage of coronavirus cases that have required hospitalization in Tennessee is 3.5%. Prior to June 1, the percentage was more than double that: 7.5%. Since July 1, the percentage of hospitalizations has been even lower, at 3.1%.
A deadly week
The TN Dept. of Health reported three new coronavirus-related deaths across the state on Sunday, bringing the total number of people who have died from Covid-19 to at least 967. It was the lowest single-day death toll in two weeks — but the weekend likely had much to do with that. The Dept. of Health typically reports fewer deaths and fewer hospitalizations on Saturdays and Sundays. In fact, the last time only three deaths were reported in a single day was on July 12, also a Sunday. A week later, on July 19, only five deaths were reported.
Overall, though, there were 124 deaths reported from July 19 to July 26, making it the deadliest week of the pandemic in Tennessee. A week prior, 102 deaths were reported. A week before that, the total was 95.
As a percentage of total cases, however, the numbers aren’t keeping pace. Since June 1, Tennessee’s case fatality ratio has slipped to 0.9%. Since July 1, that number has dipped to 0.7%.
The latest age demographics
The TN Dept. of Health reports two fatalities in the 11-20 age group. A week ago, it was reporting none. In total, there have been five deaths in people under the age of 20 in Tennessee. But there have also been nearly 15,000 diagnosed cases of coronavirus in the same age group. The case fatality rate is 0.03%.
Overwhelmingly, Tennessee’s oldest residents remain the most at risk from coronavirus. One in every three deaths in the Volunteer State — 315 in total — have been people in their 80s or older, even though that age group accounts for only 2% of all diagnosed coronavirus cases in the state. The case fatality ratio in that demographic is 15.4%.
More than another one in four deaths — 274 total — has been people in their 70s, a group that makes up only 4% of the total diagnosed cases of the virus. The case fatality ratio for that age demographic is 7.4%.
Younger people — especially the middle-aged — aren’t out of the woods. For example, people in their 50s account for 111 of Tennessee’s coronavirus-related deaths. However, that age group is also responsible for 12% of the total diagnosed cases, giving it a case fatality ratio of a little less than 1%.