There have now been 18 new cases of the virus reported in Scott County in the 96 hours since the Dept. of Health reported no new cases Thursday, for the first time in 12 days.
The number of active cases has ballooned to 29 as a result, almost doubling in that four-day period.
While Scott County remains in relatively good shape compared to much of the state — where new cases of coronavirus are soaring — the rise in new cases is pronounced, and could threaten the planned start of school next week. Oneida Special School District Director of Schools Dr. Jeanny Phillips said Sunday morning that she is monitoring the trends, and adjustments to the school system’s reopening calendar might be warranted.
Local authorities have been reticent to say that there is community spread of the virus in Scott County; earlier this month, Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals urged local residents to use extreme caution when out and about, even locally.
The Independent Herald reached out to local health authorities on Monday to inquire about potential sources of the surge of new cases, but that contact was made after business hours.
There have now been 57 cases of coronavirus diagnosed in Scott County. Half of them have recovered.
To be clear, the rise in new cases is not exactly a 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, with coronavirus-like symptoms, but the demand for testing is overwhelming laboratories and 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 — a trend that is being seen across Tennessee, though hospitals are being given priority and are getting results back more quickly, including in scenarios where patients are being tested as a precaution before medical procedures. In one case, a person who was suffering from relatively mild sickness waited 10 days before their test results came back: positive for coronavirus.
As a result of those testing delays, it’s impossible to say that the surge of new cases are people who have developed symptoms in just the past few days, as the state’s reports would seem to indicate. Instead, it seems likely that the increased levels of the virus have been circulating in the community for some time.
Overall, the vast majority of tests being conducted in Scott County continue to be negative. Of more than 1,800 tests that have been performed, 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.
But testing positivity is rising in Scott County. In a 72-hour period from Friday to Monday, 9.3% of the tests returned in Scott County were positive. That places Scott County perilously close to being labeled a “red county,” where testing positivity is among 10%.
Tennessee is getting close to that same point. In the past seven days, the state’s testing positivity rate is 8.5%. That’s what led Dr. Deborah Birx, who leads the White House’s coronavirus task force, to visit Nashville on Monday, where she urged Gov. Bill Lee to implement a statewide mask mandate and, upon his reluctance, called on each of Tennessee’s county mayors to implement mask mandates.
Neighboring Anderson County went over 200 active cases for the first time on Monday. There are now 219 active cases in the county, which includes the cities of Oak Ridge and Clinton. There were 76 active cases in Campbell County, 29 in Fentress County and 21 in Morgan County. Even tiny Pickett County hit double-digits for the first time Monday, with 11. Prior to Monday, Pickett County was the last of Tennessee’s 95 counties with fewer than 10 active cases.
In Knox County, there were 1,847 active cases as of Monday. And with more than 140 more probable cases, Knox County is pressing close to the 1,000 active case threshold. Hospitalizations are holding steady in the county, however. There are currently 45 hospitalizations there, a number that has hardly budged in the past week.
Likewise, the cumulative number of hospitalizations statewide is holding steady, despite three consecutive days last week that saw more than 100 people hospitalized each day. According to the Dept. of Health, there were 1,046 people hospitalized across the state on Sunday. That was up from 1,024 on Saturday, but had hardly moved at all over the course of one week.
The state reported an additional 11 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, bringing the total number of Tennesseans who have died from Covid-19 illness to at least 978. It is likely that the Volunteer State will surpass both 100,000 total cases of coronavirus and 1,000 fatalities later this week.