Region had just 1/3 community spread level of state three weeks ago — now it’s nearly equal
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – COVID-19’s delta variant had a belated arrival in Northeast Tennessee compared to other parts of the state. Now, infection numbers are increasing at an even faster pace in this region than they are in a state whose community spread rate jumped to No. 5 nationally on Tuesday.
Just three weeks ago on July 26, Northeast Tennessee’s seven-day rate of new COVID cases per 100,000 population — the “community spread” rate — stood at 50.2.
That was barely one-third of the statewide rate of 147.8.
Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine said just days before that, though, that he had no expectation the region would dodge the delta bullet that had sent cases spiking in Missouri, Florida and elsewhere, including West Tennessee.
“We have no expectation we’re going to dodge it,” Levine told News Channel 11 on July 22. “We think it’s coming. It’s here. It’s just, it’s – when you look at the patterns in Missouri, you look at the patterns in Florida, we’re following the exact same pattern.”
Indeed, by Aug. 2 the region’s rate, after more than doubling in a week, had reached nearly half the state’s number. Northeast Tennessee was at 119.5 to Tennessee’s 245.7.
Last week, the region’s rate had more than doubled again, rising 140% to 287.2. Tennessee’s rate had risen “only” 42%, to 349.5 — leaving Northeast Tennessee’s spread rate at 82% of the state’s.
Tuesday, as Tennessee jumped in one day from having the country’s 11th-highest spread rate to the 5th-highest at 459.3, Northeast Tennessee was even closer behind.
The regional rate had increased 45% — a significant slowing in the week-to-week growth rate but still a sharp rise. The statewide rate had risen 31%.
As of Tuesday, Northeast Tennessee’s community spread rate was 8.3 times higher than it had been three weeks earlier. Tennessee’s rate was 3.1 times higher.
If the trend plays out, the region’s case numbers per capita will likely pass the state’s within a week or so.