There are many things about the COVID pandemic that I do not understand, but there are a whole lot of things I will never understand and that makes almost every day a little more fun. I’ve always been an “inch-by inch, anything’s a cinch” guy and like the shiny side of most of what I find but I cannot find one person who can tell me why Hamilton County’s coronavirus numbers plunged 36 percent last week.
I think a lot of it is due to prayer but I’m going to tell you this: The smartest in white coats are gratified yet mystified. In the last seven days Hamilton County has had 1,409 new and confirmed cases. Sadly, we have had 11 additional deaths when a couple of weeks ago we had that many in one day.
In Dalton last week there was a 30 percent change in indicators for the good and in Cleveland (TN) there was a welcomed 23.2 percent lull. The numbers I have just used were fresh at 6 p.m. yesterday. The world-acclaimed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dashboard uses mid-week tallies for its seven-day comparisons; thus, you may detect a slight variance in its weekly account for the State of Tennessee:
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TENNESSEE’S SEVEN DAY CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
(NOTE: This represents reports from the CDC COVID Dashboard from January 14-January 20, 2021)
* -- Cases 1,613 (438.55 per 100k) for a -37.55 % change.
* -- Deaths 10 (2.72 per 100k) for a -71.43 % change
* -- Percent Positivity in Testing 14.25, -4.17 % change
* -- Testing Volume 5,563 (1,512.49 per 100k) -39.52 % change.
* -- New Hospital Admissions (COVID) 126 (8.17 per 100 beds) -31.90 % change
* -- Percent Beds Used (COVID) 12.90 % / -3.01 % change.
* -- Percent ICU Beds Used (COVID) 23.16 % / -4.54 % change.
* -- Hamilton Co. population 75yrs and over: 25,796
* -- Hamilton Co. population 65-to-74 years: 34,462
* -- HAMILTON COUNTY (Tn) TOTALS: Cases: 35,697, Deaths 337
* -- TENNESSEE TOTALS: Cases: 708,717, Deaths 8,859
* -- UNITED STATES TOTALS: Confirmed Cases: 25,111,828, Deaths 419,043
* -- GLOBAL TOTALS: Confirmed Cases: 99,131,815, Deaths 2,127,884
According to a CDC report issued at 6 p.m. yesterday, about 5.6 percent of people in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot. About one percent of people have received both doses of the vaccine. About 47.2 percent of the shots distributed haven't been used yet.
Tennessee is at 5.2 percent and has used 53.9 percent of doses that have been delivered.
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Of course, the worst possible thing we can do is relax our guard. We must fervently mask, distance and wash out hands. Dr. James Hildreth, the president of the Meharry Medical School in Nashville, told the Nashville Tennessean, “We can’t afford to let our guard down, even if the vaccines are coming and the numbers are turning in the right direction. At any time if we let our guard down, if we stop doing these things, because there is so much virus out there, a surge could be really difficult to deal with.”
Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt infectious disease doctor, has noticed a “gradual and somewhat sustained downturn” that had he said left him “pleasantly surprised” and a little perplexed. In a conference call with public health and disease experts on Wednesday morning, no one could really explain the slowdown, he told the Tennessean.
“These are good signs, and we all hope they continue, although we are not quite sure we have an explanation,” Schaffner said. “We were expecting something of a surge, and we did get something of a surge early in January, but it seems now to be reversing itself.”
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger is elated over the downturn. “For Pete’s sake, let’s not jinx it!” Coppinger said the county’s Health Department had a “really good day” on Sunday, administering first-round doses and praised Becky Barnes' nurses for working through the weekend.
“We are going to be open every day this week and, once again, we’ll work Saturday and Sunday in trying to accommodate people who work the same hours we’ve been open. Every day … and throughout the day … the reservations board will change,” said the Mayor.
“We discovered one guy had made nine reservations and they called and told him that was eight too many. He was that desperate for the vaccine and we told him one was all he needed, to pick one from the nine and give eight other people a chance. Please, tell people not to ‘over book’ because that keeps somebody else from getting the vaccine.
“The other problem we are having with our older citizens is not to worry … your vaccine is assured at the prescribed time. Don’t come two hours early … you just block the line! We all appreciate diligence and being on time,” the mayor laughed, “but we want to be thoughtful of others … no need to get to either inoculation site over 15 minutes early. I promise, we’ll have the vaccine waiting on you.”
Coppinger was asked again about the claim Tennessee has a hidden treasure-trove of vaccine that is being held from the public. “Tell me where it is, and we’ll go get it right now! I promise you that is a rumor or a myth. Call it anything you want except the truth.”
Apparently communication between the providers, the state, and the health departments have gotten better because Becky Barnes feels confident to offer daily inoculations every day into February. “That’s a step of faith, but the overriding goal is to get as much of the vaccine into arms as we can,” Coppinger explained. “I really feel like we aren’t far from giving three thousand doses a day once we are assured of the vaccine.”
For the record, I could care less how much vaccine arrives in Hamilton, but just give me the number of arms that contain it. We must do everything possible to extinguish the death, the doubt, and suffering this pandemic has caused in every family. The more we can get vaccinated, the harder we can fight, and while nobody can explain this downturn, I sure do welcome it.