Knox County’s coronavirus benchmarks show signs of improvement, except for deaths

Knox County’s benchmarks — which are visual cues representing the community’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — are showing some signs of improvement. 

Now there is only one red warning, the one that marks a statistically significant increase in deaths.

The benchmark tracking the number of COVID-19 cases was downgraded to yellow this week. The number of active cases in the county on Wednesday was 2,261 in relation to 5,035 cases detected over the course of the pandemic. 

Regional hospital capacity remains at yellow. Contract tracing capability and test capacity remain at green. 

“New cases appear to be stabilizing, which is encouraging,” Charity Menefee, Knox County’s director of emergency preparedness, said during a press conference Wednesday.

“We hope the stability and new cases we’re seeing translates into a downward trend. But there is a great deal of activity shifting in our environment in the next month, including school and extracurricular activities, as well as the Labor Day holiday, which will have an impact. So we will continue to watch this local situation very closely.”

Knox County Health Department gathers the data and determines the benchmarks with input from community partners like hospital administrators. The county uses a traffic light rating system — green for good, yellow for caution and red for worrisome — to measure new cases, testing, contact tracing capability, regional hospital capacity and deaths. 

“We cannot let off the gas,” Menefee said. “Having a little a few days of encouraging trends is good and we need that I think everybody needs to hear it but that doesn’t mean that the virus is gone. It’s absolutely still here in the community and we don’t want things to spike back up so we want everybody to continue to practice the five four actions everywhere to help prevent the spread of infection.”

The Knox County Board of Health meets Wednesday night to consider establishing a limit for in-person gatherings. Much of the spread in Knox County is attributed to family and friendly parties. 

The board, over the past month, closed the county’s bars, only to reopen them a few days later with a 10 p.m. curfew.

This week, the county topped 5,000 coronavirus cases over the course of the pandemic. Of that number, many of them are active cases right now (2,261 as of Wednesday). Forty-five people have died of COVID-19, and the vast majority of them died since July 1. 

The region is facing a huge new challenge in slowing the spread: School is back in session in person in several communities surrounding Knox County. Knox County Schools are slated to open in person on Aug. 24. 

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