COVID-19 cases jump in Hamblen County over weekend

Hamblen County recorded its third highest number of new active cases in a single day Sunday as the overall number of cases continues to climb.

The total number of new active cases on Sunday was 73, state records show. The state also reported that over a 14-day period, Hamblen County’s positivity rate is at 19.1%.

“I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that the numbers would not rise,” said Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent and a member of the Hamblen County COVID-19 Task Force.

The number of active cases in Hamblen County is rising rapidly.

The state reported a total of 374 cases on Sunday in Hamblen County. Total number of active cases rose from 237 Thursday to 372 on Sunday, a 137 increase in active cases over three days.

The number of deaths in Hamblen County continue to rise as well. A week ago, the state reported that there had been 51 COVID-related deaths and on Sunday the state reported 56 deaths.

Perry said Monday that cases in schools are rising as well. He said the school system currently has 40 active cases and 182 people in quarantine. Those include 29 students and 11 staff members who have tested positive.

But, he said there’s no evidence showing its spreading in schools. So far, it appears to be spreading through the community and entering schools that way.

“As the numbers rise, there’s no way it would not impact schools,” Perry said.

He said there is a plan in place for Hamblen County schools. There are four school days left this week and Fall Break starts Monday. Students and staff will be off that entire week.

When school resumes, school officials are encouraging students in middle school and high school to go online for a week, while elementary students take some days off if possible.

The rise of COVID cases in the Lakeway Area are also affecting other school systems.

Shane Johnston, director of Jefferson County schools, announced Sunday that the number of students and staff in quarantine jumped from 167 to 474 in a week. He said the number of active cases also jumped from 18 to 47.

He said starting Wednesday the Jefferson County school system will go to distance-learning days for the last three days of the week.

“Our hope that the combination of the distance-learning days and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday break will provide help with our numbers since students will be separated for a period of 12 days,” he said.

Perry said the Hamblen County school system would continue to be vigilant in conducting contract tracing and keeping staff and students safe.

“Every single day this is the focal point of what we do,” he said.

2nd virus vaccine shows overwhelming success in U.S. tests

(AP) - Moderna said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine is proving to be highly effective in a major trial, a second dash of hope in the global race for a shot to tame a resurgent virus that is now killing more than 8,000 people a day worldwide.

The company said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from Moderna’s ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

The results are “truly striking,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert. Earlier this year, Fauci said he would be happy with a COVID-19 vaccine that was 60% effective.

A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases topped 11 million in the U.S. over the weekend — 1 million of them recorded in just the past week — and governors and mayors are ratcheting up restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving. The pandemic has killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, over 245,000 of them in the U.S.

Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomed the “really important milestone” but said having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.

“That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives,” Hoge told The Associated Press. He added: “It won’t be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It’s going to require many vaccines” to meet the global demand.

The National Institutes of Health helped create the vaccine Moderna is manufacturing, and NIH’s director, Dr. Francis Collins, said the exciting news from two companies “gives us a lot of confidence that we’re on the path towards having effective vaccines.”