KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — With cooler weather approaching, the Knox County Health Department had a clear message Thursday.
"We're very concerned about what's going to happen as we enter flu season, with COVID-19 still increasing at this point," said Charity Menefee, director of environmental and communicable disease for KCHD. "Everyone should continue to practice the five core actions and get a flu vaccine to ensure our hospitals aren't overburdened."
As of Oct. 15, the East Tennessee region was reporting 250 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 74 were in the intensive care unit and 35 were on ventilators.
The upward trend is continuing across the state, too.
"Those hospitalization numbers are now up over 50 percent since October 1," state Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey told reporters on Tuesday. "Our rural populations have more concentrations of older and sicker individuals who are more likely to need hospitalization if they become ill."
As of Wednesday, the Tennessee Department of Health said there were 1,300 people hospitalized with the virus — a new daily record for the state.
The Tennessee Medical Association issued a statement shortly after.
"We are taking care of more and more hospital patients who are seriously ill and too many are still dying of COVID," said Dr. M. Kevin Smith, president of the TMA. "Our ICU bed capacity is starting to be limited and more of our vulnerable elderly patients are contracting the virus now compared to earlier in the pandemic."
After weeks of increasing hospitalizations, the state is beginning to see more deaths from COVID-19.
In the last 10 days, Knox County reported 13 deaths. In that same time frame, the other 15 counties in East Tennessee reported 28.
"With an increase in hospitalizations, we expected to see the increase in deaths," said Menefee. "Unfortunately, it's what we are starting to see."