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Sevier County's COVID-19 cases are rising. What does that mean?

In just eight days, Sevier County's confirmed cases of the coronavirus doubled from 190 to 382.

On Saturday, Sevier County was bustling with activity. The parking lot at Tanger Outlet Mall was nearly full and traffic was moving slowly on the Parkway.

Dozens of families were enjoying the water at the Sevierville Family Aquatic Center. Just across the parking lot, dozens of kids — some local, some from Ohio — were playing in a baseball tournament.

No one was wearing masks; hardly anyone was social distancing. Meanwhile, the confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped by 23 on Saturday to a total of 382. 

"The people who aren't wearing masks, they're risking their lives and ours," said Betty Holms of Sevierville. "You've just got to stay away from the public and be smart."

We've heard from a handful of you with questions about the rising numbers in Sevier County and what they mean. Here's what we've learned from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Q: Are these numbers just Sevier County residents?

A: Yes, the 382 confirmed cases represent people who live in Sevier County. Visitors who test positive would be counted in the statewide "out-of-state" category. On June 5, there were 402 confirmed cases of COVID-19 for out-of-state residents. As of June 20, there were 560 confirmed cases for out-of-state residents. The state health department does not report where the out-of-state residents were tested.

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Q: How many people have been hospitalized? How many people have died?

As of June 20, the Tennessee Department of Health is reporting 14 people in Sevier County have been hospitalized since the beginning of the pandemic. That is an increase of 8 hospitalizations since June 4. TDH has reported three deaths in Sevier County.

Q: More testing means more cases, right?

A: Not exactly. From June 13 to June 20, TDH data shows there were 952 tests for COVID-19 processed in Sevier County. About one in five came back positive, or 190 total. 

From June 1 to June 11, TDH data shows there were 979 tests for COVID-19 processed in Sevier County. About one in ten came back positive, or 97 total. 

That means more people are testing positive. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center says "if a positivity rate is too high, that may indicate that the state is only testing the sickest patients who seek medical attention, and is not casting a wide enough net to know how much of the virus is spreading within its communities."

Credit: Tennessee Department of Health

Q: Where are the Sevier County positives located?

A: We don't know exactly; however, the Tennessee Department of Health provided 10News with a map showing where COVID-19 is most prevalent by zip code.

Both 37862 and 37863, which are home to Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, are ranked in the highest category with more than 45.76 confirmed and probable cases per 10,000 people, per the Tennessee Department of Health.

The 37738 zip code, which is home to Gatlinburg, ranks in the second highest category with between 25.10 and 45.76 confirmed and probable cases per 10,000 people.

The remaining zip codes in Sevier County have fewer cases on a per capita basis.

Q: Are there clusters tied to any businesses or attractions?

A: The Tennessee Department of Health won't say. "The only facilities for which we are providing information on COVID-19 cases are long-term care facilities," a spokesperson for TDH told 10News. "[We] can tell you there is ongoing community transmission."

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