Coronavirus count continues rising in Bedford County

Thursday, May 7, 2020
A healthcare worker working a 12-hour shift takes a break.
Photo by Jonathan Borba

Although Bedford County added only one new coronavirus case from Monday to Tuesday this week, the case count increase in the last 12 days (April 23 to May 5) is showing no downward trend — rising from 130 to 201, a 54.6 percent increase.

The number of people in Bedford County who tested positive for coronavirus rose 16.2 percent in one week — from 173 on April 30 to 201 May 5. The case count currently doubles every 22.5 days in Bedford County.

The good news is that the number of people in Bedford County who have recovered rose from 17 (April 23) to 71 (May 5). The number of tests conducted rose 111 percent — from 827 to 1,744.

The statistics in Bedford County are not close to meeting the guidelines established by President Trump’s plan, “Opening Up America Again,” which calls for 14 day “downward trajectory of covid-like” illnesses.

Tyson count

People in Bedford County continue to ask how many local cases are workers at the Tyson Foods plant in Shelbyville, but the Tennessee Department of Health has, so far, has refused to divulge that number or even name the situation at the Tyson plant as a cluster. The Nashville Metro Health Department has, however, been forthcoming with information about the outbreak at the Goodlettsville Tyson plant reporting that 298 of the workers there have tested positive.

In response to a public records request by the Times-Gazette to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, an internal email revealed that on April 23, the day before representatives from the Ag department and the Tennessee Department of Health toured the Shelbyville Tyson plant, 79 Tyson employees had tested positive. In a separate response to emailed questions from the Times-Gazette, Dean Flener, with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Tennessee Department of Health does not report the number of cases by the “facility with the exception of long-term care facilities, and any questions should be directed to the company (Tyson).” Tyson has refused to say how many cases have been identified in its Shelbyville facility.

State refusal

The state even kept Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham in the dark on the situation at the Shelbyville Tyson plant. Middle Tennessee Public Affairs Coordinator with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Boyd Barker fielded a call from Graham days after the Shelbyville Tyson plant tour. “He (Graham) was upset that the TN Department of Health had not communicated properly with him about how many of the 100+ COVID-19 cases in Bedford County were related to the Tyson poultry plant in Shelbyville,” Barker wrote in an email. “He said a team of folks (USDA, Health Department and TDA) came down on Friday but he still didn’t have a good picture of what they found. He (Graham) said when he doesn’t have good information to share with the public it makes him look like 1) ‘I’m asleep at the wheel’ or 2) ‘I’m in cahoots with Tyson to cover up the number of COVID-19 cases they have.’”

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture responded to the Times-Gazette public records request within four days with around 70 documents, mostly copies of interagency emails. By state law, government agencies are required to respond in seven business days. The Times-Gazette submitted an identical public records request to the Tennessee Department of Health. That agency had not responded to or even acknowledged receipt of the request nine days later. It is being resent via email.

Tennessee stats

Statewide, the number of cases and deaths continues to climb. The case count rose 65.6 percent from April 23 to May 5 — from 8,266 to 13,690. In six days, from April 30 to May 5, the number of cases in Tennessee rose from 10,735 to 13,690 — a 27.5 percent increase. The number of coronavirus deaths went up 32.9 percent from April 23 to May 5 — from 170 to 226. In the same time period, the rate of recovery of coronavirus patients declined a little. On April 23, it was reported that 51 percent recovered; on April 30 that number declined by 1 percent to 50, and by May 5 the percentage that recovered was down to 46 percent.

Restrictions

According to a just-released study by financial services company WalletHub, only five other states have fewer coronavirus restrictions than Tennessee. (In the WalletHUb study a lower number ranking means fewer restrictions.) Tennessee ranked at the bottom of the pack (number one) in having the fewest requirements for wearing face masks, third for opening restaurants and bars, 7th for “shelter in place” orders and reopening of non-essential businesses, 10th for restrictions on large gatherings and 11th for travel restrictions.

The states with fewer restrictions than Tennessee were South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri and Idaho. The six states with the most restrictions are (in order of most restrictions to fewer) New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.

According to Jill Gonzalez with WalletHub, “South Dakota ranks as the state with the fewest cornonvirus restrictions in large part because it is one of only seven states that never required statewide school closures during the coronavirus crisis, and the only state that never announced a statewide closure of bars and restaurants.”

• To view the full WalletHub report go online to https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-fewest-coronavirus-restrictions/73818/