Tennessee reports 61 COVID-19 deaths, new highest single-day increase

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed additional cases and deaths related to COVID-19 across the state on Friday, August 21.

The health department reported 1,669 new cases, bringing the state to 140,844 total cases, a 1% day-to-day increase since Thursday. Of the total cases, 138,015 are confirmed and 2,829 are probable.

Tennessee’s seven-day new cases average dropped slightly since Thursday. The average now sits at 1,484 additional cases per day.

TDH also confirmed 61 additional deaths, bringing Tennessee up to 1,549 total deaths. It’s the state’s highest single-day increase in deaths since 42 deaths on August 6.

Earlier this week Tennessee also reported the state’s, now, third-highest single-day increase in deaths (39 on August 18). The state has added 204 deaths since Sunday making this the deadliest week in Tennessee since the beginning of the pandemic.

Friday’s update now makes August the deadliest month for Tennessee since the start of the pandemic. In the month of July the state’s death total increased by 456. As of August 21, the state’s health department has reported 489 additional deaths this month.

Out of the confirmed positive cases, 102,686 have recovered, an increase of 1,719 recoveries.

The latest number of hospitalizations went up by 99 to 6,255. A note on the department’s website states this total is an indication of the number of patients that were ever hospitalized during their illness and not an indication of the number of patients currently hospitalized.

Of the 140,844 cases, 71,287 are female (51%), 68,252 are male (48%), and 1,305 are pending (1%).

Tennessee has conducted 1,978,409 tests with 1,837,565 negative results. The percentage for positive cases remains around 7.1%. Friday’s update added 29,005 tests to the state’s total.

COVID-19 in Nashville

Earlier Friday, Metro Public Health Department officials reported 24,963 cases of COVID-19 in Davidson County.

Bars and limited-service restaurants in Nashville and Davidson County are now able to reopen with a maximum of 25 customers. Bar owners told News 2 that, while they’re happy to get the ball rolling to reopen, limiting capacity to only 25 people is not going to give them any profits. Some bars are choosing to stay closed because of capacity limitations.

On Wednesday, Tootsies Orchid Lounge reopened as a restaurant. A staff member told News 2 when customers belly up to the bar, they can now order steak and pork chops.

There is now a national effort to save music venues and artists in Nashville. More than a dozen local venues are part of a national effort calling on Congress to “Save our Stages.”

Another Broadway staple will look different this year. Officials from Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt announced Tuesday the 93rd Annual Nashville Christmas Parade will be in a virtual format in 2020.

Schools Moving Forward

Last week, the Department of Education released a new online dashboard to help track a school’s status on offering in-person learning, virtual learning, or a hybrid. Though one of the initiatives is already being removed. On August 14, TDOE Commissioner Penny Schwinn sent a letter to lawmakers stating Gov. Bill Lee asked the department to remove the guidance on the plans for the child well-being checks.

Parents are questioning what they need to know to keep their kids safe during the pandemic and if the state is releasing enough information. Student privacy has become an ongoing national conversation in the wake of coronavirus with many questioning what information may be released and what should be kept private.

On Tuesday, Dr. Schwinn pointed to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as a top reason why the state won’t release specific COVID-19 data on students. She said local districts must make their own decisions on what to report.

The state this week addressed guidelines that could keep someone in isolation up to 24 days if they are exposed to COVID-19. Several school districts highlighted the 24-day quarantine period in communication with families this week, but the state said the guideline is nothing new.   

Just weeks into school starting for many counties in Middle Tennessee, several cases have shut down school classrooms, grades and even entire schools.

Another issue schools are facing is vacancies. Districts all across Tennessee are in need of teachers and support staff. The state blames the pandemic for limiting traditional recruiting methods. Regardless, as classes begin, pages and pages of job postings fill websites for local school districts.

COVID-19 & Sports 

High School Sports

Gov. Lee announced Executive Order No. 55 would include Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association member schools in an exception to contact sports restrictionsHe officially signed the order on July 31. A day after Lee’s announcement, school leaders in Davidson sent out a letter to all schools in the county asking to cancel all sports and extracurricular activities until after Labor Day.

On August 18, a letter was sent to the TSSAA, signed by State Representative Scott Cepicky and 19 others in the General Assembly reading, “We strongly urge the TSSAA to move forward with the fall sports season.”

“You look at all of the health protocols that all of our high schools are taking right now, temperature checks, watching our students and keeping them as healthy as possible,” said Cepicky, “I think there are enough measures in place for our kids to safely return to the field.”

Others disagree. Last week when Cepicky asked other members of the legislature to consider signing the letter, Rep. Antonio Parkinson said he couldn’t support.

“I just couldn’t in good faith support the idea of pushing our children and encouraging our children to be out there playing contact sports,” said Parkinson, “When we know how contagious it is, and how much it’s spreading right now.”

College Sports

On August 11, the Big 10 and Pac-12 became the first two Power Five conferences to postpone fall sports. Later that day, both the SEC and ACC released statements announcing, as of now, their plans to stay on course with their current plans for the season. Later in the week, the Ohio Valley Conference became the final FCS conference to pull the plug on the fall season when it announced it would postpone fall sports action and championships.

During Governor Lee’s news briefing on Tuesday, University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Athletic Director, Phillip Fulmer, spoke about how they will approach football season this fall amid the ongoing pandemic. “We are anticipating somewhere around the 25 percent mark and we hope to be able to achieve that.”

Fulmer also addressed other safety protocols they are taking this season in Knoxville.

On Thursday, Vanderbilt released a statement regarding confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on the university’s football team. Football practice was cancelled Friday while the university figures out additional steps.

Pro Sports

Mayor John Cooper announced Tuesday that no spectators will be allowed at Nissan Stadium in Nashville though at least September, including during Nashville SC and Tennessee Titans games.

Bubbles have been extremely successful for other professional leagues including; NBA, WNBA, NHL and MLS. There won’t be a bubble for the NFL regular season, but the league will consider a postseason bubble. Executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said having a bubble-like environment would go further in protecting players, coaches, and staff members from COVID-19 during an important part of the season.

Tennessee’s Coronavirus Response

Last week, Vanderbilt released a new modeling report which shows the relationship between face mask mandates and hospitalization rates in Tennessee.

On August 14, Lee and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group announced new and expanded financial relief programs for small businesses, agribusinesses, displaced workers, and the tourism industry through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund.

On Monday, Lee signed into law sweeping protections for businesses, schools and nursing homes against coronavirus lawsuits. He touted the legislation as “historic” and argued the law would protect businesses from “frivolous lawsuits.”

On Friday, Lee announced $61 million will be awarded in Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund grants to improve access to broadband internet across the state.

The state labor department can’t say when hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans might get a new round of federal unemployment help, but steps are being taken to potentially add $300 weekly for those who qualify.

More than 795,000 new unemployment claims have been filed in Tennessee since mid-March, according to data released Thursday morning by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce.

In June, the Tennessee Department of Health announced changes to its format for sharing COVID-19 data. The department’s total number of cases and total deaths now include both laboratory-confirmed cases and probable cases as defined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance case definitions. – Learn more about the changes here.

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