On the same day Wednesday, Tennessee surpassed two dubious coronavirus benchmarks: 100,000 confirmed cases of the virus, and 1,000 deaths caused by it.
Those two benchmarks came on what was a good day, as numbers go. The state reported 1,778 new cases — a lot, but one of the lowest single-day totals in the past three weeks — and 2,369 recoveries.
In fact, Tennessee surpassed a benchmark in that regard, as well: more than 60,000 people have now recovered from coronavirus in the Volunteer State. It is a category that is quickly growing; the TN Dept. of Health has reported more than 2,000 recoveries for three consecutive days.
As a result, the number of active cases has dropped to 37,673 — the fewest in four days.
Not all of the numbers were positive on Wednesday. While the number of new cases was one of the lowest in weeks, so was the total number of test results that returned. There were nearly 20,000 new test results reported by the Dept. of Health on Wednesday, but just over 9% of them were positive. Tennessee’s testing positivity rate continues to creep slowly upward, which is a concern for health experts, including Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force, who visited with Gov. Bill Lee on Monday.
Also, the Dept. of Health reported 110 new hospitalizations on Wednesday — the most in a single day thus far. As of Tuesday, there were 1,133 people hospitalized with coronavirus in Tennessee. In the East Tennessee region — which consists of 13 counties surrounding Knoxville, including Scott County — there were 185 people hospitalized with coronavirus on Tuesday, the most since the pandemic began. Sixty-six of those patients were in ICU, and 47 were on a ventilator.
The first 100,000 cases
Tennessee’s first case of coronavirus was reported on March 5 — a Williamson County man who had contracted the virus while out of state for business. Soon after, the virus began to gain a foothold in Nashville, and it hasn’t let up in that region. A nursing home in Gallatin, a medium-sized city northeast of Nashville, saw 23 of its residents die in an outbreak that remains the largest among Tennessee’s assisted living facilities, and the coronavirus spread soon began to impact the entire Nashville metropolitan and suburban areas.
Nashville remains the state’s hardest-hit area by coronavirus, with the state’s most active cases. But the focus has shifted. Knoxville and Chattanooga are the state’s urban areas experiencing the fastest growth of new cases, and several smaller towns — like Gatlinburg and Morristown — are experiencing concerning spread, as well. Most recently, the virus has moved into rural parts of the state, and many counties that are relatively far from urban centers are experiencing exponential growth of the virus.
It took Tennessee 146 days to go from its first case to its 100,000th case. Everyone hopes the state won’t have to find out how much time it takes to get to 200,000. But, sadly, if the virus were to continue spreading at its current rate, that could happen in fewer than 50 days — or about seven weeks. The quickening spread of the virus is illustrated by the fact that more than half of the cases — just over 55,500 — have occurred during the month of July.
The statistics of the first 100,000 cases:
• Tennessee has tested 1,455,120 people for coronavirus, or 214 per 1,000 people. That’s a lot of people, but the number is even more impressive when you consider that Tennessee has tested more than 1 million people in the past two months alone — and more than 630,000 people in the month of July.
• Of those tests, 6.9% have returned positive. But that doesn’t tell the entire story of Tennessee’s testing positivity. Prior to June 1, only 5.3% of the tests had returned positive. Since June 1, testing positivity has jumped to 7.7%. Since July 1, it is 8.7%.
• Of the state’s first 100,000 coronavirus patients, 4.4% have required hospitalization. That number seems low now because it was once higher. In fact, in the early days of the coronavirus, the hospitalization rate was in the double-digits. It has steadily dropped, and is 3.5%, and since July 1 it is 3.2%. That’s the good news. The bad news? Of the 4,482 people who have been hospitalized, about one in every four — 1,133 in all — are currently in the hospital.
• Not surprisingly, most of Tennessee’s coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in Nashville and Memphis. In fact, Davidson and Shelby counties make up 38% of the state’s first 100,000 cases of Covid-19 illness. No other county makes up more than 6%. But what might be surprising is which counties rank closest to those two largest metropolitan areas. Rutherford County, for example, has had more cases (5,682) than either Hamilton County (5,344) or Knox County (3,444).
• One thing that hasn’t changed since the beginning of the pandemic: people in their 20s are the likeliest to contract coronavirus in Tennessee. That age group makes up 24% of the first 100,000 cases — nearly 1 in 4. The next likeliest age group to get the virus is people in their 30s, responsible for 18% of the cases. People in their 40s are responsible for 16% of the cases, and people in their 50s are responsible for 12%. The most at-risk age group, people in their 80s, are responsible for just 2% of the cases. People in their 70s aren’t far ahead, at 4% of the total cases. There’s been a lot said about how hard it is for children to contract coronavirus, but 16% of all cases involve people under the age of 20. Just 5% are people under the age of 10, but to put that in perspective: there have been more children under 10 infected with coronavirus in Tennessee (4,713) than there have been seniors in their 70s (4,057).
• For reasons researchers still don’t clearly understand, men are far more likely than women to die from coronavirus (more on that below). But, in Tennessee, men and women contract the virus at an almost even rate. Of the cases that have been assigned a gender, it’s an almost even race: 49,829 have been men and 49,773 have been women.
• White people make up just 43% of Tennessee’s coronavirus cases, even though 74% of the people in Tennessee are white. On the other side of the equation, Hispanics make up 17% of the cases in Tennessee even though they’re only 5% of the population.
The first 1,000 deaths
Tennessee’s first coronavirus-related death was reported on March 23. There were actually two deaths reported that day, some 18 days after the first case of coronavirus was diagnosed in Tennessee. At the time, there had been a total of 110 Covid-19 cases diagnosed.
In the early days of the pandemic, there were quite a few fatalities in Tennessee, relatively speaking. It took the state just 19 days for Tennessee to go from one death to 100, and at the time 2.5% of the known cases of the virus were ending in death.
It took 20 days to go from 100 deaths to 200 deaths, and at that point the case fatality rate had dropped slightly, to 2.4%.
Tennessee didn’t reach 500 deaths until June 18 — nearly three months after the first death was reported. By that point, the case fatality ratio had dropped sharply, to 1.6%.
Of course, the next 500 deaths came relatively quickly, as the number of coronavirus cases has skyrocketed. It was 105 days from the time of Tennessee’s first case of coronavirus until its 500th death. It has taken just 41 days for the next 500 deaths to be reported.
Here is what is known about the first 1,000 deaths:
• Tennessee’s case fatality ratio — the number of known cases of the virus that have ended in death — is one of the lowest in the nation. Rudimentary math would suggest that if the state reached the 100,000 case benchmark and the 1,000 death benchmark on the same day, the case fatality rate is about 1%. And, indeed, it is: 1.01%. As noted above, that is a rate that has fallen steadily. Since June 1, Tennessee’s case fatality rate is 0.8%. And, since July 1, it is 0.7%.
• As with total cases, Nashville and Memphis account for a large chunk of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths. In fact, those two cities account for almost half the deaths so far: 47% of them, in fact (273 in Shelby County and 194 in Davidson County).
• While people over the age of 80 make up just 2% of Tennessee’s coronavirus cases, about 1 in 3 deaths have occurred in that age group. In fact, the case fatality rate for people over the age of 80 is 15%. Contrast that with the case fatality rate for people under the age of 20: just 0.02%.
• Overall, people over the age of 60 make up nearly 4 out of every 5 coronavirus-related deaths in Tennessee, with most of the remaining 20% of deaths occurring in people in their 50s. But people under the age of 50 are susceptible — usually if they have underlying medical conditions, but rarely when they’re otherwise healthy. There have been 92 deaths among people younger than the age of 50. Most of those —58 — have been in people in their 40s. People in their 20s and 30s account for just 3% of the coronavirus-related deaths in Tennessee.
• Men are more likely to die of coronavirus than women. While the two genders represent a 50/50 split of coronavirus cases that have been diagnosed, 57% of those who have died have been men, while 43% have been women.
• Race plays a huge role in coronavirus cases, for reasons that aren’t completely clear. The biggest disparity is in black people. They make up 16% of the population in Tennessee, but 19% of cases and 34% of deaths. That helps explain why Memphis and Nashville combine for a larger share of the state’s coronavirus deaths — 47% — than its cases, at 38%. Both have larger black populations than the state as a whole. And Memphis is responsible for disproportionately more deaths than Nashville — and just happens to have a larger black population. Black people make up 64% of the population in Memphis, and 28% of the population in Nashville. White people make up 56% of the coronavirus-related deaths in Tennessee thus far.
• As has been the case across America, residents of assisted living facilities are particularly susceptible to coronavirus. However, as a percentage of the state’s coronavirus deaths, it is falling — perhaps because Tennessee, like other states, is strictly controlling who can enter a nursing home. About 20% of Tennessee Covid-19 deaths — or 1 in every 5 — have occurred among nursing home residents. Nationwide, the rate is double that; about 40% of coronavirus deaths have been thought to occur in nursing homes. The deadliest nursing home outbreak occurred in Memphis, where 33 of 160 residents died at Quince Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. In Gallatin, 25 of 173 residents died at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation & Healing. In Antioch outside of Nashville, 16 of 99 residents died at Good Samaritan Health & Rehab Center. At Nashville’s Bethany Center for Rehabilitation & Healing, 14 of 142 residents died. And at Life Care Center of Athens in McMinn County, 14 of 97 residents died of the virus.