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KCHD says public health measures still critical for continued positive trends in benchmarks

Dr. Martha Buchanan said mask mandates and the five core actions need to stay in place in order for the numbers to continue a downward trend.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The Knox County Health Department updated its five benchmarks as it tracks COVID-19 on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

The rate of new cases over the last 14 days is at yellow. There are more recoveries but more new cases. During Thursday's update, Dr. Martha Buchanan said there were no flags, which indicates a stable or decreasing trend. However, the county is still seeing about 88 new cases a day.

The death rate is at a yellow light, sitting at 1 to 2 percent during the last 14-days. Buchanan said this is the mark of a Sustained or decreased COVID-19 related death rate.

The health care system capabilities are also yellow with about 73 percent of hospital beds being used across the region. Buchanan said health care system capabilities remain within current and forecasted surge capacity, but hospitals asked for this benchmark to remain yellow at this time.

Knox County is at a green light for testing turnaround time. During Thursday's COVID-19 updated, Buchanan said the current lab turnaround is consistent at 2 days or less. 

Public health capability, which includes contact tracing, was also given a green light. Buchanan said the health department's team has the resources to manage the caseload. However, she wanted to remind people to be patient if they receive a contact tracing call and need to answer a health questionnaire. 

"The one thing we ask is that people understand the questionnaire for contacts and cases is long, and new staff is getting used to it. Be patient," Buchanan said.

Buchanan also took time to remind everyone about the mask mandate and the five core actions and their important role in bringing down the county's numbers, reiterating a point made during Wednesday night's Knox County Board of Health meeting.

RELATED: Health Department stresses 'Five Core Actions' critical to reducing COVID-19 spread

"Those are the things that are going to help keep our numbers down and bring them down. When people get lax with that don't follow them, that's when we see an increase in our cases," Buchanan said. "Just like anything else we put in place to reduce risk, we can't just take it away because the risk is still there. The risk of COVID-19 still exists so we have to keep the five core actions in place, the mask mandate in place. It's working. COVID-19 is still here and we need to keep those things in place in order to keep those numbers lower."