On Friday, Tennessee’s Department of Health announced the largest one-day increase in coronavirus cases since it started tracking them, confirming 1,188 new cases. The previous high, on May 1, was largely attributable to an outbreak at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center.
Nearly 1,200 cases in one day is more than twice the recent average.
Some of the increase can be explained by mass testing coming to completion this month in nearly 700 long-term care facilities across the state. And the new cases are concentrated in the two most populous counties, Davidson and Shelby.
But the jump is also part of a steady upward trend since early May, when the state’s economy reopened. There are now more cases considered actively contagious in Tennessee than at any other time during the pandemic, with nearly 11,000.
TDOH Commissioner Lisa Piercey says it’s “not a crisis scenario, however, because new cases are only the part of the story.
“It has never been our expectation that we would eliminate case transmission. That’s not going to be possible until we have herd immunity,” Piercey said on Thursday. “But we can keep an eye on hospital capacity and make sure that is preserved for the sickest ones who need that.”
Hospitalizations have been increasing as well, but COVID-19 patients still represent only about 4% of everyone in the hospital. ICU capacity has been decreasing, with about 400 patients statewide.
The state’s COVID-19 death count now stands at 515, which is still one of the lowest per-capita fatality rates in the country. Piercey and Vanderbilt researchers attribute the lower fatalities to a disproportionate share of Tennessee’s COVID-19 patients being younger, and presumably healthier.