Officials pleased with COVID case decline; continue to encourage vaccination

The number of active cases of COVID-19 have sharply decreased since seeing a peak of almost 1,000 cases two-and-a-half weeks ago.

The state reported 594 active cases in Hamblen County on Thursday, down more than 400 cases since the county hit an all-time high of 996 active cases on Sept. 6.

Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System and school officials said they are seeing the same trend.

“We’ve actually, over the last week, seen a slight decline in COVID patients,” said Gordon Lintz, president and chief administration officer for Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System.

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 ramped up through the country, Hamblen County saw a rapid increase of cases since the end of July. That led to healthcare systems being almost full and waits in the emergency room.

Lintz said it has been hard on the staff at the hospital. They have worked long hours and each time they go into a room with a COVID patient they have to put on an enormous amount of personal protection equipment and take it off afterward, which can be laborious.

“The staff has did an amazing job taking care of these patients,” Lintz said. “They have a heart for these patients.”

About 88% of those having to be hospitalized for COVID-19 have been unvaccinated, Lintz said.

He said the hospital staff is hopeful the amount of patients continue to decrease in the coming weeks. They have also seen younger patients this time in relation to previous spikes.

“We’re hopeful this is a start of a downward trend,” Lintz said.

Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said the school system has seen a drastic decrease in active cases. On Friday, there were 65 active cases, 58 students and seven teachers. At the highest point, the school system had 309 active cases on Aug. 27.

“We’re continuing to see the numbers trend down and we’re pleased with that trend,” Perry said.

Perry said, a month ago, school officials had seen some data and models that predicted the virus would “burn hot then burn out.” He said it appears that is the case.

He said even with the lower numbers, though, it still creates concern. He said there is also concern that the virus could mutate and cause problems in the future.

“It’s much too early to let our guard down and people need to continue to vaccinate or we’ll just run into another strain,” he said.

Lintz also said it was important to get vaccinated.

“It’s still very, very important to encourage our community to get the vaccination,” he said. “That’s the only way to beat this.”