“It’ll disappear when the election was over” was a common refrain uttered about the coronavirus pandemic during the late summer and early fall months — sometimes intended in jest, sometimes seriously as a point that the virus, or at least the reaction to it, is politically-motivated.
But four days past the presidential election, and even as the results of that election remain in dispute, new cases of the virus are surging — in Scott County, across Tennessee and throughout the nation.
On Saturday, a daily record for new cases was set in stunning, alarming fashion in both Scott County and Tennessee. Locally, there were 26 new cases reported by the TN Dept. of Health on Saturday. Across the state, there were 5,071 new cases.
It marked the fourth time in less than a week that Scott County set a new record for new cases in a single 24-hour period, as the spread of the virus continues to escalate. There were 14 new cases on Monday, 16 on Wednesday and 18 on Thursday.
There have been signs for the past couple of weeks that Scott County — which had been one of the least-impacted counties in the state prior to October — was on a trajectory to experience the same type of outbreak as had been experienced earlier in Fentress and Campbell counties. Active cases have since begun to decline in both of those neighboring counties, but the red flags have proven accurate locally.
There have now been 92 new cases of the virus reported in Scott County in the past six days. For perspective, nearly one in five of the 515 coronavirus cases that have been diagnosed in Scott County have been reported during that six-day span.
And while the number of “probable” cases has greatly increased during that six days, almost all of Saturday’s cases — 22 of the 26 — were confirmed by testing. In fact, Saturday saw the most tests in a single day reported in Scott County. There were 174 in all, with 12% of them positive.
If there’s good news to take away from the latest numbers, it is that only one hospitalization has been reported in the six-day span of increased coronavirus surge in Scott County. There have been 23 hospitalizations locally since the pandemic began, or 4.5% of all cases. Also, the last fatality related to coronavirus in Scott County was reported more than on October 23, though at least one more is expected to be reported soon.
Statewide, the more than 5,000 new cases reported on Saturday shattered the previous record for new cases in a single day. Prior to Saturday, there had never been as many as 4,000 cases in one day.
Three of the new cases in Scott County on Saturday involved school-aged children, between the ages of five and 18. There have been a total of 71 youth in that age group infected since the pandemic began, including 16 — or nearly one in four of that total — in the past six days. School-aged children have made up 17% of the new cases in Scott County in the past six days. That’s up slightly from the pandemic as a whole, which has seen about 14% of cases involve school-aged kids.
As the Independent Herald reported this week, only about 1% of students in the Oneida and Scott County school systems have tested positive for coronavirus since the semester began in early August, and only nine of the 46 cases have been determined by contact-tracing to have been passed from student to student in a school setting.
However, quarantines are a different story. Health department guidelines require anyone who is within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes during the course of one day to quarantine for 14 days, and a growing number of students and staff members are being quarantined as a result of students going to school sick.
Burchfield Elementary School is preparing for the second week of a two-week phase-in schedule, with students attending class only one day each week according to grade level. Meanwhile, Scott High School will remain on a phase-in schedule through at least Thanksgiving break, with students attending classes two days each week according to grade level.