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KCHD daily briefing: Remember to practice social distancing, hospitals have plan in place if they need to ramp up treatment

Charity Menefee said Tuesday so far only one person in Knox County has died from virus complications.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Keep practicing social distancing. But remember to love your neighbors and stay in touch with loved ones, because we all need to maintain relationships for good mental health.

That was the message Tuesday from Charity Menefee, director of communicable and environmental disease and emergency preparedness for the Knox County Health Department, during the department's daily briefing with local media.

As of Tuesday morning, the county reported 63 cases of confirmed COVID-19, with 24 of those people having now recovered. Eleven people have been hospitalized at some point.

"We've not had any more deaths due to COVID-19 at this time," Menefee said.

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Menefee said the county supports stricter statewide orders from Gov. Bill Lee imposed Monday that it's safer for Tennesseans now to stay at home than go out. The county already was following that approach.

She said the county doesn't anticipate bucking the state if it thinks conditions are improving.

She said the county also can impose even stricter requirements if it sees fit.

Going out only when necessary and avoiding close contact with people are best, she said. Keeping at least 6 feet away is the guidance, wherever you are, including in a food truck line waiting to get food.

Menefee said area hospitals are working with government officials and health care leaders to ensure they can respond if and when it becomes necessary to ramp up treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Credit: KCHD
The March 31 COVID-19 case count for Knox County.

She said she didn't have a firm number on specific equipment such as ventilators now available or needed. When necessary, she said, there's a resource that hospitals can tap.

Hospitals plan for crises -- and they've been doing that in this case, she said.

For example, "There’s plans in place to be able to conserve (personal protection equipment) as needed so that they have what they need." 

Plans also are in place if a hospital decides it needs more bed space, she said.

Recent figures released by the Health Department show an uptick in patients aged 51 to 60 who are testing positive for the coronavirus. Before, the positive case count was dominated by younger ages.

Menefee said it's too early to say what if any trend might be at play. Testing data still is too small, she said.

Also, if anyone is concerned about detecting the difference between normal springtime allergies and COVID-19, Menefee reminded Knox Countians to think about the virus's known symptoms: They include fatigue, fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

"That fever is a key piece," she said.

Menefee also said there's been no sign yet that any inmate in the Knox County jail system has tested positive for the virus.

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