A disturbing conclusion from a data analysis by the University of Tennessee is that coronavirus is spreading at a higher rate in Scott County than almost anywhere else in Tennessee.
The data shows Scott County’s coronavirus transmission rate at 1.41 as of Thursday, the third-highest of Tennessee’s 95 counties. The transmission rate is a measure of how effectively a virus is spreading. At 1.41, the data suggests that every Scott Countian who is infected is spreading the virus to, on average, 1.41 people. Any number higher than 1.0 means the viral outbreak is growing; any number smaller than 1.0 means it is shrinking.
Scott County’s coronavirus case count is still low overall: 80 total cases and 46 active cases. But the number of cases has grown rapidly, with 41 new cases in the past seven days. During that time, the number of active cases has grown from 15 to 46.
The only counties with higher transmission rates, according to UT’s data, are Henry County at 1.50 and Unicoi County at 1.49. Close behind Scott County is Johnson County, at 1.40.
Tennessee’s transmission rate as a whole is currently 1.05. It was as high as 1.7 in the early days of the pandemic, but has since settled to near 1.0 with occasional spikes. The state’s largest and hardest-hit areas — Memphis and Nashville — have seen their transmission rates drop to below 1.0 in recent days, an encouraging sign that efforts to control the spread of the illness in those locations might be paying off.
In rural Tennessee, however, the same cannot be said. Long spared from the pandemic, the state’s rural counties now feature its highest transmission rates. Tiny Pickett County has a transmission rate of 1.38, while Campbell County is at 1.26 and Morgan County at 1.24.
With the surge of new coronavirus cases in Scott County, there are currently 2.1 active cases per 1,000 residents within the county. Statewide, there are 5.5 active cases per 1,000 people. However, one week ago there were 0.7 active cases per 1,000 people in Scott County and 5.0 active cases per 1,000 people statewide. The growth of new cases in Scott County is where the higher transmission rate shown by UT’s data comes into focus.
Over the past week, there have been 1.9 new cases per 1,000 residents in Scott County. Statewide, there have been 2.3 new cases per 1,000 residents.
As of Thursday afternoon, there had been a total of 2,067 coronavirus tests performed in Scott County, with 4.1% of those — 85 — returning positive. That’s a positivity rate that is quickly rising; at one time, Scott County’s testing positivity was below 2%. In the past seven days, the positivity rate has been greater than 11%. According to the CDC and the World Health Organization, testing positivity above 10% is an indicator that there isn’t enough testing being conducted to catch all of the illness within a community.
Statewide, testing positivity also continues to creep up, and is at 8.6% for the past week. The Trump administration has labeled Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana as states where slowly rising positivity rates could signal a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak.