Coronavirus Update

The Knox County Board of Health met on Wednesday evening over Zoom for their weekly meeting regarding Knox County and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Knox County Board of Health welcomed a new member to the board, Ani Roma, a teacher in Knox County schools and a local business owner, as a citizen representative for the board. UT Chancellor Donde Plowman was also present at this week’s meeting. 

After establishment of the quorum, roll call, approval of minutes from last week’s meeting and setting the agenda, the board clarified that the next public forum will be at next week’s meeting, as these take place once a month.  

Next, Dr. Shamiyeh brought up the frequency of meetings, and it was decided that from now on, the board will meet every two weeks rather than every week as it’s been since June. Next week’s meeting and its public forum will be moved back one week. 

Charity Menefee then shared the benchmark presentation from the Knox County Health Department, which included mostly yellow benchmark representations, including five deaths in the past week. The public health capability benchmark was green, which is a good sign.

“Case numbers appear to be heading in the right direction,” Menefee said. 

Then, Dr. James Shamiyeh shared UT Medical Center’s updates from their hospitals. Hospitalization correlation has stayed stable for several weeks, and there has been a significant drop in new cases although September exceeded previous months in COVID-19 cases. 

Shamiyeh also discussed another effect of COVID-19, myocarditis, a heart condition that is not well understood as associated to the virus and emphasized that it is not unique to COVID-19 as a virus. 

“This is an example of just how not-well understood this virus is, just to drive home the importance of testing,” Shamiyeh said.

Chancellor Plowman shared data from UT including 75 active cases and decreases in cases and self-isolations and updated the board about increasing testing on campus. 

Data from Knox County Schools was discussed to the board by Lisa Wagoner. Most data points have stayed stable. 1,035 students or teachers are currently in isolation. Vine Middle School will return to in-person instruction on Oct. 7. 

Charity Menefee discussed proposed metrics and recession and escalation barriers, asking for the board’s thoughts on how to implement these metrics. 

“When we set up metrics, we’ll have a much clearer idea of when the mask mandate can be lifted,” Gotcher said. 

There was not much discussion around the mask mandate, and the board moved to a discussion of alcohol sales and curfews. No citations have been issued and the police have been largely focused on Cumberland Avenue. Decisions were made to further discussion on both social group transmission and curfews. 

Members of the board also took a moment to thank small business owners for their support before adjournment this week. The next meeting will be two weeks from today. 

“In every meeting we acknowledge the sacrifices people have had to make… thank you to all our fellow citizens who make those sacrifices and effort,” Maria Hurt, a member of the Board, said. 

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