The Knox County Board of Directors hosted the course on Wednesday evening after discussing whether to tighten restrictions on nightlife even as cases have skyrocketed and in-person classes are balanced on a rope steep in Knox County schools and at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
There will be no change for at least another week until 10 p.
m. The curfew began about a month ago, despite growing frustration among some board members over the lack of action and warnings from UT Chancellor Donde Plowman that the situation is dire.
The number of cases among college students has doubled in a week and the number of students needing isolation due to contact with those who have fallen ill is skyrocketing.
“We have 616 cases now, last week that number was 303,” Plowman said. “We have almost tripled the number of students in need of isolation.”
“This is not good news.”
Health officials said they knew the companies were breaking the rule, but would focus on educating owners instead of issuing injunctions.
Dr Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Board of Health, said she had not exercised her authority to impose restrictions on companies that refused to comply but looked to them for education.
“I don’t know how we would do it on a large scale,” he said.
Meanwhile, the county’s metrics, updated on Wednesday, show a worrying increase in three of the five categories the health department tracks with a system of red, yellow and green lights to indicate levels of concern.
The metrics, updated weekly, went from green in four of the five categories to green in contact tracing capability alone. Hospital capacity has remained stable on yellow, while the number of tests performed and recorded deaths has changed to yellow and the number of cases has changed from green to red.
More than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the county and 222 cases were discovered in a single day, the largest increase in one day since the start of the pandemic. Six people died in the first nine days of September and the total number of cases has exceeded 8,000.
“We have seen five consecutive red flags in the past six days,” Buchanan said.
“The 11-20 year old age group has seen a growth rate of 279% (in cases) over the past two weeks.”
Board member Dr James Shamiyeh said the University of Tennessee Medical Center reported similar increases.
“As we’ve seen more cases diagnosed in this younger demographic … the correlation between cases and hospitalizations continues to exist,” he said. “We believe the Knox County cases are behind this acceleration in (the region) as a built-up area.”
In particular, young people are driving the increase.
Shamiyeh is concerned that as young people mingle in the community, they will serve as a vehicle for other age groups.
The Knox County Board of Directors held the course on Wednesday evening after discussing whether to tighten restrictions on nightlife even as cases have exploded and in-person classes are balanced on a tightrope in Knox County schools and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.