NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) reported 560 new COVID-19 cases in Northeast Tennessee over the weekend, bringing the seven-day new case rate to its highest point since late September.
TDH also reported four new deaths over the period — three in Sullivan County and one in Hawkins County.
The “community spread rate” has reached a rolling seven-day average of 373 new cases per 100,000 population. It hasn’t been higher since Sept. 29 and is nearly double the state rate of 195. The national figure is 219.
The data came on a day that saw Dr. Lisa Piercey downplay concerns about the region’s growth in new cases, even though rates have increased 93% since Gov. Bill Lee signed a new COVID law Nov. 12.
Rates have risen 64% statewide during the same period, but have remained far below Northeast Tennessee’s during that time.
Piercey said TDH officials had theorized about potential causes for the wide gap between the region and the state, including an earlier onset of cold weather “or some other factor.” She said even Northeast Tennessee’s numbers weren’t of particular concern.
“We haven’t really identified any trends and again not particularly worried about it at this point, but we are watching that,” Piercey said.
The region also continues to have a significantly higher test positivity rate than the state. Northeast Tennessee’s positivity rate dropped slightly over the weekend to 15.8%, which is 74% higher than Tennessee’s rate of 9.1%.
Two area counties, Sullivan and Unicoi joined Washington County as the only ones in Northeast Tennessee with at least 50% of their population fully vaccinated. Overall, 48.0% of the seven-county region’s residents, or 242,720 people, are fully vaccinated, compared to 50.7% statewide.
The gap is slightly wider for those with at least one dose of the vaccine, with Northeast Tennessee at 52.6% and the state at 56.9%. The national rate is 71.1% according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
New cases and deaths
The 560 new cases reported after the weekend was significantly more than the previous weekend, when numbers were muted by the Thanksgiving holiday.
The total new cases over the three days by county were: Carter +49, Greene +64, Hawkins +50, Johnson +21, Sullivan +193, Unicoi +14, Washington +169.
The region added 1,885 cases over the past seven days. That total was 1,353 over the previous seven days.
Sullivan, Johnson and Washington county have the fifth, sixth and seventh-highest rates of Tennessee’s 95 counties, with Sullivan at 412 and Johnson and Washington both at 410. Greene and Hawkins counties rank 10th and 11th and Carter 15th, while Unicoi County’s rate of 213 is the state’s 30th-highest.
The region has now recorded 96,206 cases over the pandemic’s entirety.
The region has reported 31 new COVID deaths the past seven days, compared to just 10 over the previous seven days. Northeast Tennessee’s total COVID death toll now stands at 1,591.
The seven-day death total is the highest since late October.
COVID 19 in Tennessee
TDH reported 4,317 new cases over the weekend, increasing the statewide total to 1,327,453 cases.
The health department also reported 88 new deaths over the three days bringing the pandemic total to 17,487.
The state has 17,818 active cases, up 1,398 from Friday. Health officials have reported 1,292,148 recoveries total.
Total cases: 96,206 (560)
Inactive/recovered: 91,879 (419)
Deaths: 1,591 (4)
Active cases: 2,736 (127)
Total cases: 11,060 (+49)
Inactive/recovered: 10,608 (+47)
Deaths: 230 (0)
Active cases: 222 (4)
Total cases: 14,514 (+64)
Inactive/recovered: 13,915 (+31)
Deaths: 248 (0)
Active cases: 351 (+34)
Total cases: 10,940 (+50)
Inactive/recovered: 10,491 (+43)
Deaths: 185 (1)
Active cases: 264 (+4)
Total cases: 4,003 (+21)
Inactive/recovered: 3,846 (+21)
Deaths: 53 (0)
Active cases: 104 (-1)
Total cases: 28,941 (+193)
Inactive/recovered: 27,495 (+156)
Deaths: 462 (+3)
Active cases: 984 (+34)
Total cases: 3,276 (+14)
Inactive/recovered: 3,160 (+11)
Deaths: 68 (0)
Active cases: 48 (+1)
Total cases: 23,472 (+169)
Inactive/recovered: 22,364 (+112)
Deaths: 345 (0)
Active cases: 763 (+51)