Stats: More to Hamblen County COVID spike than increased testing

The recent spike in positive coronavirus cases among Hamblen County residents is not entirely attributable to more testing in the county, which this week was labeled a hotspot by the state of Tennessee.

The percentage of people who test positive has more than doubled since early May, according to Tennessee Department of Health statistics.

By May 6, 1.6% of the 1,264 Hamblen County residents tested – 20 people – had tested positive with the coronavirus. By Wednesday afternoon, 164 of the 4,896 whose test results had been reported were infected with the coronavirus.

That means 3.3% of Hamblen County residents who have taken a coronavirus test have tested positive, according to the statistics.

During the first days of the pandemic when testing kits were in shorter supply, public health officials encouraged those who did not have more than one symptom to stay away from testing sites, which could have skewed results to the high side.

Now, everyone who wants a test, including those who are entirely asymptomatic, gets free tests at the Hamblen County Health Department.

The 4,869 Hamblen County residents whose tests were reflected in the health department totals represent just 7.5 percent of residents. From a strictly statistical perspective, it’s likely the actual number of coronavirus cases in Hamblen County exceeds the 164 in the state-compiled total.

“I think the increase in percentage is in how the virus spreads,” Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney said this morning. ‘‘It spreads here like it spreads everywhere else, and the way to slow the spread or flatten the curve is to follow the CDC guidelines, which most of use can recite from memory by now.

“That works, but I think the fact that people can test positive without having symptoms yet is where the real concern is,” said Chesney, a member of the Morristown-Hamblen COVID-19 Task Force. “People can spread it without knowing they’re spreading it because their symptoms haven’t started yet.”

On the upside, slightly more than half of the 184 Hamblen County residents who tested positive have recovered. Chesney said a more important statistic is the number of people who have been hospitalized,

By Wednesday afternoon, four coronavirus patients were being treated at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System – and at least one at a hospital outside Hamblen County - but that number could rise in the short term, Chesney said.

Officials confirmed yesterday that seven more patients were at the hospital awaiting test results.

The increase in the percentage of people tested who are infected with the coronavirus is not uniform across the Lakeway Area. The percentages has dropped in Claiborne, Cocke, Hawkins, Jefferson and Greene counties,

The percentage in Grainger rose from 1.7%percent to 2.8%, according to the health department statistics.