The year of COVID

Thursday, December 31, 2020
COVID-19 was first reported in Tennessee on March 5. The graph shows the total number of cases of the whole pandemic on the last day of each month, except December when the data is only through the 29th.
T-G Graph by Terence Corrigan

On May 15, Gov. Bill Lee announced the start of the “reopening” of Tennessee. In the 14 days leading up to that announcement, new cases of COVID-19 were up 33.33 percent from the prior 14 days. Deaths were up 51.7 percent.

“Tennesseans have worked incredibly hard to do their part and help slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our state can begin to reopen,” Gov. Lee said on May 15. “Thanks to their continued efforts, we’re able to allow restaurants and retail businesses to operate at greater capacity and large attractions to open in a safe and thoughtful way. Our state continues to see downward trends in case growth and meets the White House criteria for a phased reopening. This progress has been hard-won, and we can build upon it by reopening while also maintaining common-sense safety measures like mask-wearing and good hygiene. By taking the Tennessee Pledge, our businesses can reopen in a way that protects the health of their customers and employees, and protects the livelihoods of hard-working Tennesseans.”

In the two weeks leading up to Lee’s announcement (May 1 through May 14) the state reported 5,964 new cases of the coronavirus. In the 14 days before that, the state reported 4,472 new cases.

In the two weeks leading up to Lee’s announcement (May 1 through May 14) the state attributed 88 deaths to COVID-19. In the 14 days before that, the state reported 58 deaths.

Gov. Lee never did not ever impose a mask mandate, instead delegating that decision to county mayors. Ten of Tennessee’s 95 county mayors imposed mask mandates. Bedford County did not.

President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, has been delivering detailed reports for every state weekly. The reports include specific recommendations, including imposition of rules such as mask mandates, recommendations for improvements in testing and other suggestions for regulating public behavior. Tennessee has rejected most of the recommendations. (See the Times-Gazette weekend, Jan. 2, 2021 for a story on the latest White House task force reports for Tennessee.)

COVID’s march to Tennessee

The first case of COVID-19 was reported to be on Nov. 17, 2019 in Wuhan, China. The first case in the U.S. was a Washington State man who became ill on Jan. 19 after returning from Wuhan, China four days earlier.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, The first U.S. cases of non travel–related COVID-19 were confirmed on February 26 and 28, 2020, suggesting that community transmission was occurring by late February.”

The first case in Tennessee was reported on March 5 , a Williamson County man. On March 5, Gov. Lee reportedly said he was confident in the state’s ability to prevent the spread of infection.

After reporting the first case on March 5, by March 18 there were 98 cases and the next day, March 19, there were 154. By the end of March there were 2,239 people that tested positive for the coronavirus.

Bedford County

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Bedford County on March 25. The second case was reported on March 31. The cases came on one or two at a time in Bedford County until April 15 when eight cases were reported. From April 15 through May 14 there were 248 cases reported in Bedford County. By Dec. 29 the state reports that there had been 4,448 cases in Bedford County and 60 deaths. The state reports ( as of Dec. 29) 586 school age children in Bedford County had tested positive for COVID-19.

From March 5 through Dec. 29, the state reports that there have been a total of 28,797 tests conducted in Bedford County with 4,448 coming back positive for COVID-19 — a positivity rate of 14.9 percent. Public health officials say, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the population will need to be vaccinated to reach collective immunity, where the disease is no longer likely to spread. In Tennessee, with a population of 6.8 million that will be between 3.4 million and 5.4 million inoculations involving two doses per person.

Vaccine salvation?

The state was expecting to receive 115,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine over a two week period by the first week of January. The Moderna vaccine was to be distributed to all 95 county health departments. The first round of vaccinations are for frontline health care workers, first responders with direct public exposure, long-term care facility residents and staff, home health care providers and student health providers. Bedford County received 200 doses on Dec. 21 and began administering inoculations that day.

Since the coronavirus arrived in Tennessee on March 5, there have been a total of 5.5 million tests conducted that revealed a total of 572,589 cases a 10.37 precent positivity rate. As of Dec. 29, the deaths of 6,710 Tennesseans were attributed to COVID-19. On Dec. 29 the state reported that there were 72,136 active cases in the state.