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Positive signs: Covid-19 transmission rates are in decline across growing swaths of Tennessee

First it was Nashville, then Chattanooga, then Memphis. Now it’s most of the greater Nashville metro area, most of the greater Chattanooga metro area, and a sprinkling of rural counties, as well.

The communities across Tennessee with a coronavirus transmission rate below 1.0 are growing, according to data from the University of Tennessee. It’s an important metric for measuring the spread of any virus, and it literally indicates the number of people that are being infected by each person who is carrying the virus. A transmission rate above 1.0 means each person with the virus is passing it on to more than one other person, and the viral outbreak is growing. A transmission rate below 1.0 means each person is passing it on to less than one person, and the outbreak is shrinking. As long as transmission rates remain below 1.0, the virus’s days are numbered; it is living on borrowed time.

Knox County is not on the list of Tennessee’s counties with a transmission rate of less than 1.0; for now, it is the only major metropolitan area in the Volunteer State not painted green by UT’s data. But it isn’t far away, and could join the other three major metro areas in the days to come.

In the meantime, Anderson County is on the list. So is Hawkins County farther into East Tennessee, as well as several rural counties along the state’s southern and northern borders to the west of Nashville.

Scott County is still a “red” county, with a transmission rate that is among the highest in the state. But, even here at home, the transmission rate is dropping.

As of Monday, UT’s data measured the transmission rate here at 1.11. That’s tied for 16th-highest in the state — a far cry from just a little more than a week earlier, when the local transmission rate was the state’s second-highest.

The TN Dept. of Health did report three new cases of coronavirus in Scott County on Monday, but the agency also reported four new recoveries, dropping the number of active cases to 68. To begin the work week, the number of active cases in Scott County had grown by just 8% over the course of the past week.

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Statewide, the upward trend of active cases was even lower. There were 39,511 active cases in Tennessee on Monday, just 2.2% higher than a week earlier. 

The numbers are among the encouraging data that is starting to show up a bit more pronounced across the state.

Hospitalizations in decline

As of Monday, the Dept. of Health reported 970 people were hospitalized with the virus across Tennessee. It marked the first time since July 20 that there were fewer than 1,000 people in the state’s hospitals to be treated for Covid19.

What’s more, the number of pending hospitalizations — cases where a patient who has been admitted to the hospital has been tested for suspected coronavirus but the results have not been returned — plunged to 197 on Monday, the lowest in weeks. As of Monday, the total number of confirmed and suspected coronavirus hospitalizations stood at 1,167 — down almost 30% from five days earlier.

That trend has been seen in Knox County, as well. As of Monday, there were 27 residents of the county of more than 470,000 people who were hospitalized with coronavirus. That number was once rising quickly, but it plateaued in the mid-40s and has since been in decline.

As of August 4, the last day for which data was available, 19% of ICU beds in the 13-county East Tennessee region — which includes Scott County — were available. Nearly the same amount, 18%, were available statewide as of Monday. Both of those numbers have trended upward in recent days.

Sports season is still a go

Amid concerns that a decision by the SEC — which includes member schools Tennessee and Vanderbilt in the Volunteer State — to cancel or postpone its 2020 football season would prompt TSSAA to do likewise with the high school sports fall season, the sanctioning body’s executive director, Bernard Childress, put the brakes on that talk Monday.

“Of course we’re very well aware of what the college conferences are doing but the challenges they face at that level are totally different than what we’re dealing with,” Childress told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “That’s a completely different environment. For us, we’re continuing to stay in touch with the governor’s team and the CDC for guidance.”

Childress iterated that coaches should stress to their players that they have “a responsibility off the field” to not congregate in large groups or attend parties and large gatherings, which would increase their chances of contracting coronavirus and spreading it to their teammates.

“The reports we have gotten back from teams who have had cases tell us that through contact tracing, those cases were linked back to group gatherings of kids away from the team,” Childress told the newspaper. “A major part of whether we have a full season will depend on how everyone follows the social distancing and other guidelines to avoid cases from spreading through their team.”

The high school soccer team begins on Monday, when Oneida will travel to Knox Webb. Scott High will open its season against Oliver Springs on Tuesday. The high school football season begins on August 21, with Oneida traveling to Oliver Springs and Scott High traveling to Cumberland County.

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Independent Herald
Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
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