Statewide cases of COVID-19 rose slightly from Monday to Tuesday, but state health leaders caution that doesn’t mean the state is “flattening the curve” of infections.
“We cannot prematurely back off of our social distancing efforts,” Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health, said during a press briefing Tuesday.
Instead, Piercey said the daily increase had slowed due to a growing turnaround time for test results.
“I think very soon you will see a very significant pick-up in that number,” she said. “That’s not to frighten anyone, but to caution against a false sense of reassurance.”
Wednesday, cases again increased to 784 statewide, with three deaths and 53 hospitalizations. Piercey said there may have been more deaths, but the verification process requires documentation from the medical examiner for the official state report. The same is true for cases requiring hospitalization.
“Often patients present with respiratory symptoms or perhaps pneumonia,” she explained. Patients are tested, but current tests requires several days to complete. She said new technology would come on line next week that could speed testing at the point of care to under one hour.
Currently, the state is reporting a 10% hospitalization rate, but the state has also reported a disproportionate number of positive cases in younger populations.
“I want to take this opportunity to call out that 20 to 40 age group and raise the bar on social distancing,” Piercy said. “I understand it’s easy to think, ‘I’m young. I’m healthy. This may not affect me as badly.’
“But you’re still at risk, and you’re still putting others at risk.”
There have been three confirmed cases in Cumberland County, as of Wednesday afternoon.
Logistics and warehousing company CoLinx announced Tuesday they were informed Sunday an employee at the Crossville location had tested positive for the virus.
A statement from Eric Lynch, CEO and president, said the company implemented their COVID-19 action plan. This included quarantining the employee and cordoning off the work area, with a deep cleaning of the area scheduled using a professionally certified cleaning company. The company also asked about other employees the impacted employee may have had prolonged exposure to and close contact with.
Crossville employees were notified of the positive test, as well.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S., we have taken multiple steps to safeguard the health of our employees by preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities,” Lynch said. “Some of these include increased self-cleaning of work areas before and after each work shift, increasing the cleaning of common areas provided by a third-party service provider, staggering break and mealtimes to limit the number of employees, reducing gatherings to a small number of employees, practicing social distancing, increased signage in the facility promoting good hygiene practices and screening visitors.”
The state is reporting community spread of the virus in Tennessee, and the Tennessee Department of Health urges all Tennesseans to take steps to reduce the spread of the illness.
Statewide, about 11,000 tests have been conducted. Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday he was mobilizing approximately 250 personnel with the Tennessee National Guard, including 150 personnel with medical training, to assist with testing at 35 remote testing sites primarily located in rural areas.
“We do know that our numbers will climb as we increase testing across the state, and we have a tremendous ahead of us that we are structured to meet,” Lee said.
Lee said the call for donating personal protective equipment had been answered by dental and surgical clinics across the state.
“The outpouring of personal protective equipment … to the national guard armory has been significant, and I want to thank them for it,” Lee said.
Statewide, 30% of hospital beds are open should they be needed for patients who are seriously ill. About 70% of the state’s ventilators are available for patients, not including new units the state ordered last week.