The TN Dept. of Health reported the 200th case of Covid-19 illness in Scott County on Sunday.
The county’s 200th case was one of three new cases of novel coronavirus reported by the Dept. of Health for the day. There have been 12 new cases reported in the past three days, and 17 new cases in the past five days. As a result, Scott County’s active coronavirus cases have climbed to 26, the highest since the Dept. of Health shortened the recovery window from 21 days to 14 days at the beginning of September.
Scott County recorded its 100th case of the virus on August 2.
It isn’t clear what is driving the flux of new cases, though many have posited various theories. However, there is one factor that stands out: As the number of positive cases has increased, so has the number of people being tested.
On Sunday, for example, the Dept. of Health reported 98 test results in Scott County. That’s one of the highest number of test results in a single day in Scott County. For the Sunday-to-Sunday period of September 13-20, there were 390 test results reported locally. For the week before that, there were 257. And, for the week before that, there were 228.
While there have been 17 new cases of coronavirus reported in the past five days, testing positivity during that stretch was less than 7%.
The Dept. of Health reported a new hospitalization in Scott County on Friday. The patient was the first person from Scott County to be hospitalized with coronavirus in nearly three weeks. There have been 13 people hospitalized overall, or nearly 7% of the total cases. That’s a hospitalization rate that’s higher than the statewide average. Across Tennessee, just over 4% of coronavirus cases have required hospitalization. There are currently 662 people hospitalized with the virus in Tennessee.
There have been two people die of coronavirus in Scott County.
One thing that is striking about the rise in cases in Scott County is the number of school-age children who are beginning to test positive for coronavirus in recent days. As of Sunday, there were a total of only 25 children aged five to 18 who had tested positive, or 12.5% of the 200 overall coronavirus cases. However, that number had climbed from 19 to 25 in three days. Prior to Friday, there had only been two school-age children test positive in more than three weeks.
In terms of percentages, half of Scott County’s new cases reported in the past three days have been children ages five to 18. Prior to Friday, only 10% of all cases in Scott County had involved school-age children.
Since both school systems began fall classes in early August, there had only been five school-aged children test positive in Scott County prior to Friday. In fact, the Independent Herald reported Friday that Scott County’s rise in cases did not involve school-aged children. That was before the last two days of data were ingested into the state’s report.
Both the Scott County School System and the Oneida Special School District operated on a phase-in schedule through Labor Day. In Oneida schools, about half of students were at school each day, based on alphabetical order. In the county schools, about a fourth of students were in school each day, based on grade level. All students who haven’t opted for virtual learning began reporting for class together after Labor Day, on September 8.
Given the delay in the return of test results, it is possible that the full return to school two weeks ago has helped trigger the six new cases in school-aged children reported since Friday. However, medical experts aren’t sure to what extent younger children are contagious. While it is well-documented that young children are super-spreaders of many viruses that make the rounds in school — like strep throat and gastrointestinal illness — there is some evidence suggesting that they may not spread Covid-19 as easily. Researchers have cautioned that more study is needed on the subject.
Another factor that could be spurring new cases overall is a lax in precautions. Several Scott County residents have reported seeing fewer people wearing masks in public places. Late last week, Walmart — Scott County’s largest retailer — removed signs detailing the mask policy that had been in place for shoppers.
Since the new surge in cases in Scott County began on September 16, six of the 17 new cases involve patients between the ages of 11-20, while two have been in the 21-30 age group, two have been in the 41-50 age group, two have been in the 51-60 age group and two have been in the 81+ age group. There was one new case in several other age groups: 0-10, 31-40 and 61-70.
Overall, there have been 33 cases in Scott County involving people in their 50s, 31 cases involving people in their 40s, 31 cases involving people in their 30s, 30 involving people in their teens, 22 involving people in their 60s, 21 involving people in their 20s, 14 involving children younger than 10, 11 involving people in their 70s, and 7 involving people in their 80s or older.