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Knox Co. Advisory Board of Health meets for first time since Dr. Buchanan announced resignation as health director

In March, the Knox County Commission voted to transfer the board's regulatory powers to the Knox County Health Department.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — UPDATE: The Advisory Board of Health met in Knoxville Wednesday evening to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

There, they discussed data collected about hospitalizations, monoclonal antibody treatments and new cases. Health leaders said after around a month of steeply rising hospitalizations, they are starting to taper off and potentially slow down.

Dr. James Shamiyeh said that they have seen the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations slow down recently, but he did not identify a specific reason for the drop-off. He also said that the number of monoclonal antibody treatments given at the University of Tennessee Medical Center spiked since August.

That month, he said they gave 723 treatments. In September so far, they have given 975 treatments. Yet, in December 2020, they only gave 270 monoclonal antibody therapies.

He also discussed how the pandemic is impacting other operations in medical facilities and the resources they need to treat patients. For example, he discussed teams examining their supply of dialysis. Many times, patients who are critically ill need dialysis to help their kidneys function.

They are working to meet both regular demands for it, as well as new demands from COVID-19 patients.

He said that the facility has seen around a death per day on average due to COVID-19.

Dr. Martha Buchanan also discussed how her responsibilities would be handed off after she steps down as the director of the Knox County Health Department. They will be divided between two people in the department.

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Around two months have passed since the Knox County Advisory Board of Health met to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, Dr. Martha Buchanan announced that she would resign as director of the Knox County Health Department.

She made the announcement in early August, informing Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs that she would step down as director on Oct. 1. She will also step down as the county's health officer on Dec. 31.

The meeting comes as members of the Tennessee National Guard are continuing to fill hospitals across the state, helping them manage an influx of COVID-19 patients. Medical facilities across the state, and in East Tennessee, have reported shortages of space and staffing to help patients.

Health leaders have repeatedly said that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to prevent the pandemic from worsening. However, they also said demand for vaccines is dwindling and more doses are going to waste as they are not being used.

Officials also recommended that monoclonal antibody treatments, used to prevent severe symptoms among people diagnosed with COVID-19, be used for unvaccinated and immunocompromised people. shortages of the treatment have been reported nationally.

The treatment is generally used to prevent symptoms from developing to such severity that people need to be admitted to a hospital. That way, health leaders hope to have space available for patients who cannot get the treatment and have critical symptoms.

The meeting with the Advisory Board of Health will start at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Watch it live here: