JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Ballad Health officials started out Wednesday’s press conference with what they called encouraging news as COVID-19 spread appears to decrease across the region.
But the update was punctuated by another metric – a death toll that continues its climb in the wake of a regional surge in COVID-19 cases.
Ballad Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift said Wednesday that the climbing death count was expected after cases surged in the region last month.
“The number of deaths have continued to really increase over the last little bit,” Swift said. “That’s to be expected as you had that surge in cases we had about a month ago, we know deaths lag behind that.”
According to data provided by the Tennessee Department of Health, our seven-state region reported a record 18 hospitalizations on July 29.
The average number of new hospitalizations reported per day spent most of August between 7 and 8 new hospitalizations reported per day, reaching a peak average of about 8.2 hospitalizations reported per day on August 6.
Hospitalization rates rose alongside new cases of COVID-19 reported for northeast Tennessee. The record increase in the region was recorded at 229 new cases reported on July 31 (two days following the record number of hospitalizations), and the 14-day average hit its highest point on August 7 at about 142.4 new cases reported per day.
Deaths during that time came in at about 1.3 reported per day (according to the 14-day average), and that average remained below 2 until August 21. The current record for most deaths reported in one day was reported last week, trailing records set by new cases and hospitalizations by seven weeks.
As of Wednesday, the 14-day average of new deaths reported fell from the current peak reported on Tuesday (about 3.21 deaths reported per day). Hospitalizations increased by five on Wednesday, and the current average of new hospitalizations continues to fall.
While Sullivan County has reported the highest number of deaths (31 out of 133), Carter and Greene counties report the highest number of deaths per capita. Both counties report about 46 deaths per 100,000 residents, while Sullivan County reports less than half that at about 20 deaths per 100,000.
While hospitalizations and cases fell shortly after their peaks about a month ago, it still remains to be seen if today’s slight decrease is indicative that deaths will follow suit.