White House rates Knoxville region worst in country for COVID-19 burden for second week in a row

The Sevierville region is now second-worst in the country in its population group.

For the second straight week, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said that the Knoxville region was the worst in the nation for new COVID-19 cases and the percentage of positive tests in areas of its population size. 

The White House said nearly 7,500 people tested positive for the coronavirus last week across the Knoxville region. Nearly 24% of all tests came back positive, the report said. 

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The data represents an 8% increase over the previous week, which placed the Knoxville region worst in the nation among areas with a population of 250,000 - 1 million people. 

The Sevierville region ranked second-worst in the country in its population category, behind Yuma, AZ. One in every four tests in the Sevierville region came back positive and more than 1,200 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past week, the White House said. 

Johnson City (#3), Cleveland (#4), Cookeville (#6) and Morristown (#9) regions of the state were also ranked in the top ten worst in the country for populations of 50 thousand people to 250 thousand people. The Chattanooga region was the fifth-worst in the same population group as the Knoxville area.

The Knoxville region is defined as a "core-based statistical area" which includes Knoxville, Knox County, and several surrounding counties, according to the Census Bureau. It encompasses nearly 870,000 people.

The entire state of Tennessee was again listed in the "red" zone. On Thursday, the CDC reported it was worst in the nation for new COVID-19 cases as a proportion of the population.

Across the state, more than 61,000 people tested positive for the virus in the past week. One in every five tests for the coronavirus came back positive, the report said. There was also a double-digit increase in hospital bed admissions across Tennessee compared to the previous week.