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People recommended to mask up in Knox County again after CDC places more East TN counties under 'high' COVID risk

The CDC placed Knox County at "high" COVID risk on Friday as the county reported more infections and hospitalizations this week.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending people in Knox County and across most of East Tennessee to wear masks again after the area reported another increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections this week.

The CDC on Friday placed Knox, Blount, Sevier and other counties back at "high" risk for community impact from COVID-19 for the first time in roughly five months.

Cocke, Cumberland, Fentress, Greene and Hancock counties are the few that remain at "medium" risk.

Per the CDC's recommendations, counties with "high" community levels are recommended to wear masks in public when indoors and should take extra precautions needed to protect people at high risk of developing a serious illness.

The CDC gauges impact and risk by comparing the number of COVID cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days with the number of hospitalizations and available hospital beds. When the average number of new infections over the past seven days exceeds 200 per 100,000 people, counties are considered "high" risk when hospitalizations exceed 10 admissions per 100,000 people.

Credit: CDC

As of Friday's update, the CDC said Knox County had 10.4 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people over the past seven days -- placing the county in the "high" risk category.

On Wednesday, the Knox County Health Department reported 961 new COVID-19 cases between the last reporting period of July 17 and July 23. However, experts believe the true number of new infections is much higher because many more people are using at-home tests to check if they are infected.

As of July 23, a total of 117 people across the region were hospitalized for COVID-19 -- up by 8 hospitalizations from the previous week. The number of people in the ICU for COVID-19 dropped from 22 to 17 in the past week.

Two subvariants of COVID-19 are responsible for most new COVID-19 cases, according to health leaders — the BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants. The BA.5 subvariant accounts for around 65% of all cases in the U.S. Knox County health leaders also said that they expect BA.5 to be the most common variant in the area, consistent with the rest of the state.

Health leaders warned that symptoms can fall under the same umbrella as the Omicron variant. However, they can vary depending on a person's vaccination status, age, prior infection, medication, and other health factors. The most common symptoms of the subvariant mimic the common cold, with sore throats and runny noses. However, it is still possible for worse symptoms to develop.

Health leaders said people should make sure to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and receive boosters. A new version of the vaccine made by Novavax also uses more conventional technology to teach people's immune systems how to fight the coronavirus. It was recently endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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