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'We are very concerned' | More people are being hospitalized for COVID-19 in East Tennessee

New data released by the Knox County Health Department shows concurrent hospitalizations rose steadily since Oct. 1.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — On Thursday, the Knox County Health Department had a clear message.

"We are still seeing real consequences to this disease in our community," said Charity Menefee, director of environmental and communicable disease for KCHD. "Please stay the course, even if you're tired."

Knox County is reporting fewer daily cases than it did during the surge in July and August, but health leaders are watching other trends. The health department reported that 51 Knox County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday and Thursday.

"We have the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began," said Menefee. "We're worried that the burden of disease in the community is higher than what our rates are showing."

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Regional data provided weekly by KCHD showed a similar trend. As of Oct. 6, 192 people were being treated for COVID-19 in East Tennessee hospitals. 

Of those, 55 were in intensive care units and 24 were on ventilators.

In Hamblen County, 12 people have been hospitalized since the first of the month. Loudon County has seen seven new hospitalizations; Sevier, Grainger and Campbell County have all reported six additional hospitalizations for COVID-19.

"The hospital trend is not going in the right direction, and we are very concerned about it," Menefee said. "On the plus side, we are not seeing the ICU and ventilator usage go up at the same rate as the hospitalizations and so hopefully that's a good sign."

Since August, Menefee said KCHD has seen a decline in COVID-19 testing. That makes their job more challenging.

"We really need people to get tested," Menefee said. "[Then] we can have quick rapid response, turnaround for contact tracing, all of those things fit together."

The 19 acute care facilities included in the East Tennessee region are as follows: East TN Children’s Hospital, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, Parkwest Medical Center, Turkey Creek Medical Center, North Knoxville Medical Center, University of TN Medical Center, Big South Fork Medical Center, Blount Memorial Hospital, Claiborne Medical Center, Jefferson Memorial Hospital, Jellico Medical Center, LaFollette Medical Center, LeConte Medical Center, Fort Loudon Medical Center, Methodist Medical Center, Morristown-Hamblen Medical Center, Newport Hospital, Roane Medical Center and Sweetwater Hospital.