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A ‘very bad’ week: Scott County exits the weekend with nearly 250 active cases of Covid-19

HUNTSVILLE — Daily coronavirus updates from Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals almost seem like a never-ending loop of bad news.

“A very bad past five days for Scott County,” the mayor wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. That was followed Thursday by “A very bad past six days…” and Friday by “A very bad past seven days…”

By Sunday afternoon, Tibbals’ afternoon update bore the unfortunate news that Scott County’s surge of coronavirus cases has continued for nine consecutive days. In that span, there have been a whopping 232 new cases, and active cases has soared from just over 100 to nearly 250.

The TN Dept. of Health reported 29 new cases on Sunday. At one time, just over a week ago, that number would seem shocking. Instead, it seemed almost relieving on Sunday that it wasn’t higher. Total active cases increased to 242, after the health department reported just four recoveries from the previous day.

There have now been 721 people sickened by coronavirus in Scott County, 473 of whom have recovered and six of whom have died.

There have only been 24 hospitalizations in Scott County. That’s actually good news, all things considered. Statewide, around 5% of Covid-19 cases have resulted in hospitalization since the pandemic began. The same was true locally, until the most recent surge of new cases. There have only been two hospitalizations in Scott County reported by state health officials since the start of November — less than 1% of the total new cases reported during that time.

Of course, that statistic can be somewhat misleading. Hospitalizations lag behind diagnoses by several days, on average, meaning an uptick in hospitalizations could be coming.

According to data tracking by the University of Tennessee, the transmission rate in Scott County has soared to become the state’s second-highest, at 1.28. The highest transmission rate is Lake County’s 1.41. That means that, on average, each infected person is passing the virus on to about 1.3 people.

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One thing that sticks out about the new coronavirus cases in Scott County is the number of cases that are listed as “probable,” meaning they have not been confirmed with laboratory tests. Positive antigen tests are counted as probable cases rather than confirmed cases, while exposed persons who show symptoms are in some cases counted as probable cases, as well.

Since November 2, when the surge of new cases began, there have been 111 “probable” cases reported in Scott County. That’s nearly 40% of all new cases during that time frame. Prior to the start of November, 90% of Scott County’s coronavirus cases were confirmed cases.

A definitive reason for the increased number of probable cases has not been given.

Another thing that stands out is the number of school-aged children being infected. As recently as the end of October, nearly three months after the start of the semester, there were only a few kids in the 5-to-18 age group being diagnosed with Covid-19 each week. That number has ticked up drastically in the days since.

In the first 15 days of November, there have been 48 kids between the ages of five and 18 diagnosed with coronavirus in Scott County. That’s well over the total of 29 kids who were diagnosed in the entire month of October. For the past eight days, there have been an average of four school-aged kids reported with the virus each day.

Those numbers are being reflected in the age breakdown of Scott County’s coronavirus cases, as well. While people in their 40s are still making up the highest number of local Covid-19 cases, their share of the cases is declining. As of Sunday, 16.8% of all coronavirus cases in Scott County were among people in their 40s. On November 1, that percentage was 18.5%.

Meanwhile, 15.4% of coronavirus cases are people between the ages of 11 and 20, while 6.3% are children younger than 10. As of November 1, those percentages were 14.9% and 5.7%, respectively.

The percentage differences are subtle, but notable. Meanwhile, they’re shrinking for most other age groups — not just people in their 40s. People in their 20s make up 13.5% of Scott County’s Covid-19 cases, down from 14.4% as of November 1. People in their 30s make up 13.4% of the covid cases, down from 15.6% on November 1.

The share of cases is also increasing for Scott County’s elderly residents. People over the age of 70 make up 10.2% of the local coronavirus cases. As of November 1, they made up 8.5% of cases. The actual number of people over the age of 80 who have contracted coronavirus has more than doubled in November, from nine to 20.

Testing positivity remains very high in Scott County, an indicator that there’s even more coronavirus circulating within the community than is being detected. In the past week, there have been 741 new tests performed locally and 131 have been positive, for a positivity rate of 18%. The CDC says that anything above 10% is an indicator that not enough testing is being conducted to catch all cases of the virus.

Statewide, there are 36,953 active cases of Covid-19, after more than 5,800 new cases were reported Sunday. Hospitalizations have increased to nearly 1,800.

This story has been updated to reflect that there were 29 school-aged kids in Scott County diagnosed with coronavirus during the month of October 2020, not 21 as originally reported.
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