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Cumberland Countians lined up in the turn lane of Hwy. 127 S. to wait their turn entering the Cumberland County Health Department for COVID-19 testing Monday around 9:30 a.m. As numbers of positive tests grow locally, the lines become longer but health department officials have fine-tuned the testing process and waits are not long.

Cumberland County has 364 active cases of COVID-19, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health. 

That has led the school system to move to its “medium spread” protocols as active cases in the community rise to between 303 and 606 cases.

Thirty students have tested positive for the virus, and 461 students are quarantined due to exposure, according to Friday’s schools update. There are 13 active cases among staff, with 38 staff members quarantined due to exposure.

Like many areas of the country, the county has seen an uptick in cases. On Friday, Cumberland County had 313 active cases. There were 179 active cases on Nov. 1.

Last week, the U.S. hit a record for the number of coronavirus hospitalizations and surpassed 1 million new cases in just the first 10 days of November.

While the new wave of infections appears bigger and more widespread than surges during the spring and summer, experts say there are reasons to think the nation is better able to deal with the virus this time around.

“We’re definitely in a better place” when it comes to improved medical tools and knowledge, William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious-disease researcher told the Associated Press.

Deaths are climbing again, reaching an average of more than 930 a day.

Hospitals are getting slammed. And unlike the earlier outbreaks, this one is not confined to a region or two.

“The virus is spreading in a largely uncontrolled fashion across the vast majority of the country,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University.

Tennessee added 5,817 new cases on Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 310,937 since mid-March. To date, 3,893 Tennesseans have died from the virus, including 31 Cumberland Countians —an increase of four since Nov. 1.

While deaths are still well below the U.S. peak of about 2,200 per day back in April, some researchers estimate the nation's overall toll will hit about 400,000 by Feb. 1, up from about 240,000 now.

But there is also some good news.

Doctors now better know how to treat severe cases, meaning higher percentages of the COVID-19 patients who go into intensive care units are coming out alive. Patients have the benefit of new treatments, namely remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody drug that won emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. Also, testing is more widely available.

In addition, a vaccine appears to be on the horizon, perhaps around the end of the year, with Pfizer this week reporting early results showing that its experimental shots are a surprising 90% effective at preventing infections.

While the first surge in the Northeast caught many Americans unprepared and cut an especially deadly swath through nursing homes, the second crest along the nation's Southern and Western rim was attributed mostly to heedless behavior, particularly among young adults over Memorial Day and July Fourth, and hot weather that sent people indoors, where the virus spreads more easily.

The fall surge similarly has been blamed largely on cold weather driving people inside and disdain for masks and social distancing.

Even in parts of the country that have been through coronavirus surges before, “you see people breaking out of it” and letting their guard down, Schaffner said.

“There really is COVID fatigue that is blending into COVID annoyance,” he said.

The short-term outlook is grim, with colder weather and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's ahead. Generations of family members gathering indoors for meals for extended periods “is not a recipe for anything good,” Hanage said.

Monday, cars were lined up outside the Cumberland County Health Department, where free testing is available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday. The Health Department will not offer testing on Thursday this week due to its flu shot clinic.

Cumberland County Mayor Allen Foster continues to urge everyone to help slow the spread of the virus by wearing masks, though no mandate has been issued for Cumberland County.

“Masks/face coverings can help to slow the spread by slowing or stopping the droplets that carry the virus,” he said in his most recent “County Mayor’s Notes” email update. 

The Health Department offers free cloth masks Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

 

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