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Your guide to understanding COVID-19 data in Tennessee

Every day, 10News reports new COVID-19 data from the Knox County Health Department, Tennessee Department of Health and the University of Tennessee.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — For nearly six months, COVID-19 has spread across the state of Tennessee. And every day, public health officials tell us what the situation looks like.

There are a lot of different numbers, and we know it can get confusing. 

Below are definitions for the terminology used by the Knox County Health Department (KCHD) and the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH).

TOTAL CASES — This is the total number of people who have had a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19. Each person can only be counted as one case. 

CONFIRMED CASES — This is the total number of people who have had a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic test reported to TDH. Each person can only be counted as one case. This does not include people who test positive for antibodies (serology test) or using a rapid test (antigen test). 

PROBABLE CASES — This is the total number of people who have had close contact (within 6 feet and for over 10 mins) to a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case during the 14 days before or after illness onset. Each person may only be counted once. This individual may have no testing results, a negative PCR result or any antibody test result. This number, per TDH, also includes people who test positive on rapid (antigen) tests. 

RECOVERED — This is the total number of people who have recovered from either a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19. There are two ways to be listed as recovered. (1) The person is at least 21 days beyond the first test confirming their illness. (2) The person has been confirmed to be asymptomatic by their local or regional health department and completed their required isolation period. In Knox County, the required isolation period is 10 days plus 24 hours of no symptoms. After that point, you will be listed as recovered.

ACTIVE — This is the total number of people with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 who have neither recovered nor died from the virus. Each person may only be counted once. 

HOSPITALIZED — This is the total number of people with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 who are hospitalized for COVID-19. The state says this data “may be incomplete.” It is a cumulative total and not reflective of how many people are currently in the hospital for COVID-19.

CURRENTLY HOSPITALIZED — For the Tennessee Department of Health, this is the number of COVID-19 positive patients (confirmed cases) currently hospitalized. 

DEATHS — This is the number of people who are reported as having a coronavirus-related death. On the state level, this category does include individuals with ‘probable’ cases of COVID-19. On the county level, only confirmed deaths are included in this category, per TDH.

CONFIRMED DEATHS — This is the number of people who are reported as having a COVID-related death. This category is only reported on the state level and only includes those who have a confirmed case of COVID-19. 

POSITIVE TESTS — This is the total number of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that have been reported as positive to the Tennessee Department of Health. This number does include multiple positives per person if they test positive more than once. 

TOTAL TESTS —  This is the total number of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests reported to the Tennessee Department of Health. It is meant to provide “a rough estimate of testing volume.” This number does NOT include rapid tests (antigen) or antibody tests (serology).

POSITIVITY RATE — This number is calculated by taking the number of positive tests and dividing it by the number of total tests. In May, the World Health Organization recommended that the percent positive remain below 5% for at least two weeks before governments consider reopening.