Greene County had its largest daily increase in reported coronavirus cases Thursday with eight more people confirmed locally with the illness.
The total number of cases in Greene County since the pandemic began now stands at 66, according to Thursday’s report from the Tennessee Department of Health.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus crisis deepened in Arizona on Thursday, and the governor of Texas began to backtrack after making one of the most aggressive pushes in the nation to reopen, as the daily number of confirmed cases across the U.S. closed in on the peak reached during the dark days of late April.
Eleven people currently have active cases of COVID-19 in Greene County, according to the state report. Fifty-three people are listed as recovered from the virus and two people have died from the illness since the pandemic began.
Thursday’s increase matches the number of new cases that were reported in Greene County for the entire month of May. April ended with 44 cases confirmed in the county, according to the state report. The total number of cases on May 31 stood at 52.
The previous largest daily jump for Greene County occurred on April 20 when the total increased by five from 30 to 35.
Greene County’s total cases remained the same for almost the first two weeks of this month before one new case was reported June 13. The number of cases remained at 56 for almost a week before the jump to 58 reported by the state on Wednesday.
The additional local cases are among the 799 new cases reported Thursday across Tennessee. The total number of cases in the state since the pandemic began is 38,034.
According to the state report, there were eleven new deaths from the virus by Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 567.
The number of people who have recovered from the virus statewide is 25,280, according to the state Department of Health.
Worldwide, over 9.5 million people have been confirmed infected, and nearly a half-million have died, including over 124,000 in the U.S., the world’s highest toll, by a Johns Hopkins University count.
Several states set single-day case records this week, including Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Florida reported over 5,000 new cases for a second day in a row.
The number of confirmed infections, in itself, is a poor measure of the outbreak. CDC officials, relying on blood tests, estimated Thursday that 20 million Americans have been infected. That is about 6% percent of the population and roughly 10 times the 2.3 million confirmed cases.
Officials have long known that many cases have been missed because of testing gaps and a lack of symptoms in some infected people.
The U.S. has greatly ramped up testing in the past few months, and it is now presumably finding many less-serious cases that would have gone undetected earlier in the outbreak, when testing was limited and often focused on sicker people.
But there are other more clear-cut warning signs, including a rising number of deaths per day in states such as Arizona and Alabama.
Whether the rise in cases translates into an equally dire surge in deaths across the U.S. will depend on a number of factors, experts said, most crucially whether government officials make the right decisions. Deaths per day nationwide are around 600 after peaking at about 2,200 in mid-April.
“It is possible, if we play our cards badly and make a lot of mistakes, to get back to that level. But if we are smart, there’s no reason to get to 2,200 deaths a day,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute.
The nation’s daily death toll has actually dropped markedly over the past few weeks even as cases climbed, a phenomenon experts said may reflect the advent of treatments, better efforts to prevent infections at nursing homes and a rising proportion of cases among younger people, who are more likely than their elders to survive a bout with COVID-19.
“This is still serious,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but “we’re in a different situation today than we were in March or April.”
Greene County is not the only county in the region that had an increase in cases reported Thursday.
Hamblen County, which has experienced a surge in the past two weeks, added six new cases to bring its total to 162. Washington County’s total increased by three to 112. Those two counties are the only immediately neighboring counties to Greene that have more than 100 cases.
Carter County had eight more cases, according to Thursday’s state report, while Cocke County had four and Hawkins had one.
Sullivan County, the most populous county in Northeast Tennessee, has no active cases with 77 reported since the pandemic began, according to the report. Unicoi County, which experienced some large surges a few weeks ago, also had no new cases Thursday.
Most people who contract COVID-19 will become only mildly or moderately ill, according to health experts. However, for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, it can cause serious illness and can be fatal.
Tests are being administered at the Greene County Health Department from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday. No appointment is necessary, but it is recommended that people call 423-979-4689 to register to speed up the testing process on site.
Ballad Health asks anyone concerned they may have the virus to call the system’s Nurse Connect line at 833-822-5523 to be scheduled for testing at the individual’s nearest testing site. The line is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Testing is taking place at Greeneville Community Hospital East.
Those who need to speak to someone about mental and emotional challenges the coronavirus may be causing can call Frontier Health’s 24-hour crisis line at 877-928-9062, Tennessee’s 24-hour crisis line at 855-274-7471, or the federal mental health services help line at 1-800-985-5990.