On Wednesday afternoon, the Knox County Board of Health held their weekly meeting in reaction to any COVID-19 updates. Like previous meetings held in the past weeks, Mayor Glenn Jacobs was present, and of course the meeting was streamed to the public.
After the call to order, roll call, establishment of the quorum and approval of minutes from last week’s meeting, the board set the agenda. The next item on the agenda was the discussion of the Knox County Health Department’s benchmark presentation, where Dr. Buchanan shared the benchmarks that Knox County has reached.
These benchmarks, used like stoplights to indicate the status of COVID-19 data, are all moving in a positive direction; all but one are green.
“This is very encouraging. We’ve made progress on every front; this is all good news today,” Dr. Jack Gotcher said.
Next, Dr. Shamiyeh shared the COVID-19 data updates from the UT Medical Center specifically, which were positive signs as well.
Hospitalization correlation and the pace of new cases in districts have stayed consistent. New cases by week have dropped since its peak at July 26 and continue to slow down. According to predicted data there will be a drop in hospitalizations for August.
“The hospitalizations are trending down. August will be less than July the way it’s tracking,” Dr. Shamiyeh said.
However, Knox County has a downward trend similar to Davidson, which has started to trend upward, so there is concern that Knox County will also trend upwards at some point.
Following Dr. Shamiyeh’s presentation, Mayor Jacobs introduced the topic of the mask mandate, which the board discussed, as well as any data available that would point to the end of the mask mandate.
“The evidence is out there, certainly people are wearing their masks…and our numbers are coming down. I think those things are very encouraging. I would like to see what the impact of schools and UT starting,” Martha Buchanan said.
Although some community members are frustrated with mask mandates, the board expressed concern about possible spikes due to Labor Day, as well as the impacts of flu season, which experts have been thinking about for months.
“We understand people are frustrated, but as a community we need to hold the line,” Hurt said.
Then, Dr. Shamiyeh discussed the impacts of UT’s campus on COVID-19 on the greater Knox county, including the challenges that are posed by communal living as well as the differences in case numbers that could occur between the campus and the rest of Knox county.
There was also discussion about the notion that gathering sizes that are acceptable on the college campus may be different than what people are comfortable with in the surrounding parts of the county.
“Ultimately the success of our campus is a public health issue and an economic issue,” Shamiyeh said.
The board is in communication with UT on a daily basis, and the two work together very closely, so there are many connections and collaborations between UT’s contact tracing plans as well as the board’s guidance.
The next board meeting will be next Wednesday, Sept. 2.