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'This is not just about COVID-19' | Doctors warn of limited hospital capacity

For the fifth day straight, KCHD reported a record number of people hospitalized with COVID-19. Doctors worry that could impact care for other medical conditions.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — On Friday, the Knox County Health Department reported its second-largest increase in COVID-19 cases. KCHD said five more people had died from the virus and that a record number of people — 119 — were hospitalized.

"We're expecting it might get a lot worse in a couple of weeks after we see the effects of Thanksgiving," said Dr. Kevin Smith, president of the Tennessee Medical Association. "Doctors who are working in the hospitals and the ICUs continue to tell me that the hospitals are filling up."

He said they're concerned about having enough resources to treat everyone — not just patients with COVID-19. 

"One of our biggest concerns is that we're going to be pushed to have appropriate beds for people who have other medical conditions," Dr. Smith said. "This is not just about COVID-19. This is also about the hospital systems being able to manage and staff the hospitals."

Credit: WBIR Data Team

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Ahead of the holidays, the Tennessee Medical Association released a "prescription" for slowing the spread of COVID-19. It includes social distancing, wearing masks, and making a COVID-19 Code of Conduct.

"The biggest thing is to try to match your level of safety with those who you might be gathering with over the holidays," Dr. Smith said. "If everybody's wearing masks, everybody's staying distant, everybody's avoiding large gatherings, then that makes the risk of transmitting coronavirus less."

If you traveled or saw people outside your household for Thanksgiving, there are a few precautions you can take now. 

"Probably the most important thing to do is to monitor yourself for symptoms," Dr. Smith said. "Try to quarantine as much as you can for the next 14 days so that if you did pick it up during the holidays, you're not giving it to someone you love when you get back home."

If you want to get tested for COVID-19, the health department recommends waiting until next week for more accurate results. The virus can take up to 14 days to develop in your system.

Additionally, the Tennessee Medical Association is asking people to get their flu shots and eventually, the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We'd like for people to focus on not catching this virus while we're waiting on the vaccine to become available," Dr. Smith said. "If we do this right, we're all going to be able to really celebrate greatly in 2021 as we look at the virus in the rearview mirror."