COVID-19 erupts in Bedford County
Public health experts look at increases in the number of cases to gauge how severe the outbreak of COVID-19 is. But another number they pay particular attention to is the positivity rate. (See sidebar “Positivity rates”) The positivity rate is the percentage of all tests that come back positive. The positivity rate is important because it lets public officials know if there is enough testing taking place to know how many people are infected and how widespread the infection is.
Most public health experts say 5 percent is the highest acceptable positivity rate. By that benchmark, Bedford County, with a positivity rate over the last seven days of 24 percent, is neck-deep in a flood of coronavirus. In the last seven days (from Nov. 17 to Nov. 23) the state conducted 863 tests in Bedford County, 211 of which came back positive. The state is doing better, but its positivity rate is still well above what it should be. In Tennessee in the last seven days the positivity rate was 15.2 percent, three times the recommended rate .
Bedford County hit a new high in the daily number of active cases on Nov. 16 at 390. That was the second day in a nine-day stretch when every day the case count was above 300. Prior to that, daily case counts through October averaged 126, and in September the daily average was just over 96.
Bedford County has also suffered a significant jump in the number of new cases. In the 17 day period from Nov. 7 through Nov. k/23, testing found 618 new cases. The highest count prior was Oct. 14 to Nov. 4 when testing found 341 new cases. Monday of this week there were 364 new cases reported.
From the first of November 97 school age children in Bedford County have tested positive for the viral infection.
State funded testing in Bedford County, at the Bedford County Health Department, 140 Dover Street, Shelbyville, has been cut back testing to three hours a day, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday. The state’s website, however, says there will expanded hours, 7 a.m.to 5 p.m., from Nov. 23 through Nov. 30. Fast Pace Urgent Care also offers tests in Shelbyville, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call (931) 488-8895 for an appointment.
Since Nov. 1, testing has found 83,878 new cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee, that’s a daily average of 3,646. The state reports that it conducted a daily average of 24,130 tests over the last seven days.
In the last 14 days (Nov. 10 - Nov. 23) the state reports that 741 Tennesseans have died from COVID-19. On average, every day 53 Tennesseans die from the coronavirus. Every day for the last 14 days (Nov. 10 through Nov. 23) on average 49 Tennesseans were hospitalized with COVID-19. In 14 days a total of 691 were hospitalized.
No response, no report, secret public records
On September 13, President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force recommended, in a secret weekly report, that Tennessee Governor Bill Lee “Establish (a) statewide mask mandate” because the state was in the “red zone for cases.”
In a letter to a congressional committee, Governor Lee did not take responsibility for the state’s increase in cases and deaths, asserting instead that the state’s response has ‘served Tennessee well’ and saying Tennessee residents are ‘thankful’ to President Trump.”
When Gov. Lee got that report, the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee (the week of Sept. 6 through Sept. 12) was 8,529. In the most recent seven days (Nov. 17 through Nov. 23) Tennessee reported 25,662 new cases. The state is still deep in the red zone.
In the Sept. 13 report, the White House Task Force, based its recommendation for a mask mandate on its criteria that Tennessee had more 100 new cases per 100,000 population (at the time the 6th highest in the U.S.) and that it was in the “yellow zone” for test positivity, with a positivity rate between 5% and 10 %.
On Nov. 3, the Times-Gazette filed a public records request with the Public Records Request Coordinator, Office of the Governor Attn: Deputy Counsel to the Governor. The state’s policy says requests may be made via email to Gov.PRRC@tn.gov. With the request was included a copy of my Tennessee driver’s license as the state will only release records to Tennessee residents.
In the request the Times-Gazette asked for “…access to weekly reports from the White House Coronavirus Task Force for the months of September 2020 and October 2020.”
“As provided by the open records law, I will expect your response within seven (7) business days. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503(a)(2)(b).” After 21 days, the governor’s office had still not responded in any way: with either a denial or explanation for the delay or even that it had received it. The state policy requires the office to acknowledge receipt of the request.