Breaking News
More () »

Knoxville Breaking News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | WBIR.com

Knox County Health Dept. reminds people to wear masks as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations increase

The community remains red for new COVID-19 cases and deaths. Hospitalizations and testing is still on yellow. Contact tracing capacity is still green.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — There were no changes in the Knox County Health Department's community benchmarks for the week of July 22-28. 

The community remains red for new COVID-19 cases and deaths. Hospitalizations and testing is still on yellow, and contact tracing “public health” capacity is the only benchmark still at green.

New Cases

Knox County reported the highest number of new cases ever reported in a week with 980 cases. Each day was over 100 new cases, which has not happened in the community since the start of the pandemic. For context, the last benchmark week reported a total of 646 new cases.

Testing Capacity

Testing lag times decreased during this benchmark week, but KCHD kept this benchmark at yellow due to the lack of stability in lab capacity overall.

Charity Menefee said KCHD's efforts with its own internal testing vendor has produced positive results to improve testing capacity.

RELATED: Knox County begins using new lab, expects progress on finding new local testing site

RELATED: After exposures at counties' commission meetings, KCHD says stay home until results return

Public Health Capacity/Contact Tracing Capability

This benchmark remains green as the health department still has sufficient resources for contact tracing. However, KCHD officials said this benchmark is harder to reach with the increase in cases. 

Menefee said 39 people have been cross-trained and added to the contact tracing team to meet demand this week. 

Health Care System Capabilities

KCHD kept this benchmark at yellow due to the increases in hospitalizations and ICU patients. There was not a statistically significant increase in ventilator numbers.

Concurrent hospitalizations for the 16-county East Tennessee region hit a record high at 185 on July 28. The previous record high was 150 on July 18.

Knox County’s hospitalizations are pretty steady, around 38-48. That means the growth is in our surrounding counties with which Knox County shares hospital resources. 

COVID-19 Deaths

The death rate continues to increase in Knox County leading KCHD to keep this benchmark on red.

There were six deaths reported in this benchmark week, following six deaths from the previous week.

RELATED: Birx: TN should have statewide mask mandate & close bars to stop spread of COVID-19

KCHD said the rising numbers indicate COVID-19 is still present in the county. Officials said they need the buy-in of the community to stay vigilant in practicing the five core actions and wearing masks anytime social distancing is not possible.

"For this order to work, everyone must participate. We don’t just mean wearing a mask running errands. You should be wearing a mask at all times when at least six feet of physical distancing can’t be maintained. We all need to practice five core actions all of the time," Menefee said.

For more information on the benchmarks, go to the Knox County Health Department's website.

RELATED: Does your East TN county require a mask?

RELATED: VERIFY: Face mask facts vs. falsehoods