Even as the number of active coronavirus cases continues to grow slightly, and fatalities increase, the number of hospitalizations related to Covid-19 in Knox County continues to decline.
On Sunday, the Knox County Health Department reported that 27 residents in the county of more than 470,000 were hospitalized with coronavirus. That’s the lowest total in weeks.
Hospitalizations are one of the most important metrics for measuring the severity of the coronavirus pandemic within a community, health experts say. While not all cases of coronavirus are discovered through testing, hospitalizations are a more consistent indicator, capturing the number of people with serious illness and serving as a forecaster of deaths within a community.
In Knox County, the number of active hospitalizations associated with coronavirus were once surging as the outbreak of the virus grew. However, after topping out at 45, the number of people hospitalized with the virus at any one time has since been steadily decreasing.
The number of active cases, meanwhile, isn’t decreasing in Knoxville, but continues to stabilize. As of Sunday, there were 2,233 active cases of the virus.
Knox County is the last of Tennessee’s four major metropolitan areas that has not seen its number of active coronavirus cases begin to decline. However, according to data compiled by the University of Tennessee, the county’s transmission rate is currently 1.02 — close to dropping to the desired sub-1.0 category. A viral transmission rate measures the number of new people infected by every person who has the virus. Transmission rates of 1.0 mean the viral outbreak is growing. As long as the transmission rate is under 1.0, the outbreak is shrinking.
As of Sunday, according to UT’s data, the transmission rate was just under 1.0 in Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga. Perhaps more importantly, almost the entire Nashville metropolitan area — including Sumner, Williamson, Rutherford and Wilson counties — showed a transmission rate of less than 1.0.
While hospitalization rates have stabilized, fatalities are still increasing in Knoxville. There were 45 deaths reported in Knox County as of Sunday, and that number has steadily increased. The case fatality rate has grown from 0.9 to 1.0 in the past two weeks. It still remains slightly less than the statewide case fatality rate and significantly less than the national case fatality rate.
As has been the case statewide and elsewhere, most of those who have died in Knoxville have been elderly. As of Sunday, 21 of the 45 deaths had occurred in people over the age of 75. In fact, a whopping 25% of people in that age group who had tested positive for coronavirus had been hospitalized, and more than half of those hospitalized had died.
The overall case fatality ratio for people over the age of 75 in Knoxville has been 12.5%. Perhaps surprisingly, the case fatality ratio is only slightly less for people between the ages of 45 to 64 (1.4%) than for people between the ages of 65 to 74 (2.0%).
There have only been four deaths in Knoxvillians under the age of 45, a case fatality ratio of 0.1%.
The number of Knoxville hospitalizations accounts only for residents of Knox County. The actual number of people hospitalized with coronavirus in hospitals in Knoxville is higher than that, and includes residents of Scott County.
As of August 4, the last day for which data was available, there were 152 coronavirus patients hospitalized in the 13-county East Tennessee region. The busiest of the region’s 19 hospitals are in Knoxville, Maryville and Oak Ridge.