While the news has been mostly positive of late on the pandemic front in Scott County, with only two new cases of Covid-19 illness reported locally in the past week, the same is not true everywhere — even close to home.
Fentress County, which once had one of the lowest numbers of positive coronavirus cases in the entire state, now has Tennessee’s second-highest transmission rate for the virus, at 1.17. The highest transmission rate is in Van Buren County, at 1.2.
As the Independent Herald reported Friday, Scott County’s transmission rate was once the third-highest in the state, but has since settled beneath 1.0 and is among the state’s lowest transmission rates.
A virus’s transmission rate is a measurement of how fast the virus is spreading. Specifically, it estimates how many people will be infected — on average — by each person carrying the virus. A transmission rate above 1.0 means the viral outbreak is growing; a transmission rate below 1.0 means the viral outbreak is shrinking. As long as a transmission rate is below 1.0, any viral outbreak is on borrowed time.
Taken literally, a transmission rate of 1.17 means that, on average, 1.17 people are being infected by every person who is sick. Or, in whole numbers, 117 people are being infected by every 100 who are sick.
For reasons that haven’t been publicly speculated on, Fentress County’s coronavirus numbers are quickly rising. As of Sunday, there were 127 active cases in the county of just over 18,000, or 7.1 cases per 1,000 people. That’s more than double the infection rate in Scott County when the virus was at its peak here two weeks ago.
To put Fentress County’s numbers in perspective, there are currently fewer than five cases per 1,000 people in Knoxville, and just over three cases per 1,000 people in Memphis.
As recently as August 4, there were only 35 active cases of Covid-19 in Fentress County, and as of August 12, there were only 45 active cases.
Now, however, Fentress County’s total number of positive Covid-19 cases has soared to more than 200.
Fentress County is part of the Cookeville-Crossville micropolitan area where cases are rising across the board. As of Sunday there were 649 active cases in Putnam County, while Cumberland County has seen its number of active cases more than triple in the past two weeks, to 355 as of Sunday. In Overton County, a county of 22,000 people that borders Putnam County to the north, there are more than 200 active cases of the virus.
Pickett County, which borders Scott and Fentress counties, also has a Covid-19 transmission rate above 1.1, with five active cases per 1,000 people.
Meanwhile, Campbell County has seen its transmission rate creep back above 1.0 as its active cases begins to rise. The number of active cases was up to 96 there as of Sunday.
Knox County is also seeing its active cases rise. There were more than 2,200 active cases there as of Sunday, and there are 45 people hospitalized there with the virus. That’s an increase of more than 40% in the past four days, and ties the largest number of people hospitalized at any one time since the pandemic began.
Joining Van Buren, Fentress and Pickett counties with transmission rates above 1.1 as of Sunday were, in order: Sullivan County, Marshall County, Meigs County, Houston County, Wayne County and White County.