The Center Square
Three days before welcoming the presidential candidates and world media to Nashville, Tennessee set a record for daily reported COVID-19 cases Monday: 3,317 new cases.
The previous record was 3,314 cases set July 13. Tennessee remains in the red zone for cases per 100,000 – the 10th-highest rate in the country – according to a White House Coronavirus Task Force report obtained by WUOT-FM in Knoxville.
Tennessee also has the 18th-highest test positivity rate in the country, according to the White House report. The Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) reported a test positivity rate of 8.31% on Monday – slightly higher than the average positivity rate this month of 7.6%.
In the past seven days, Tennessee has seen elevated positivity rates compared with the rest of the month. The average positivity rate in the last seven days is 8.7%.
There are 1,188 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Tennessee, with 371 in intensive care. This reflects a 53% increase in hospitalizations since this time last month, when 778 patients were hospitalized. The TDOH reported 13 COVID-19 related deaths Monday.
In its report of recommendations sent to Gov. Bill Lee on Oct. 11, the White House Coronavirus Task Force recommended a statewide mask mandate.
“A statewide mask mandate must be implemented to stop the increasing spread among residents in rural and urban areas of Tennessee,” the report said. “Retail establishments can enforce mitigation efforts in public spaces and set the expectation for all Tennesseans to do their part to stop the spread, including getting the flu shot.”
Lee extended an executive order last month allowing mayors in counties without local health departments to mandate use of masks and face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most county mask mandates have expired. Lee has not indicated plans to initiate a statewide mask mandate, but he has stressed repeatedly the need for individual buy-in regarding mask use.
According to the White House report, 36 Tennessee counties – mostly rural – are in the red zone, based on several metrics, including new cases per 100,000, test positivity rate and COVID-19 deaths per 100,000. The counties include Putnam, Wilson, Sullivan, Coffee, Dyer, Obion, Johnson, Bradley, Fentress, Loudon, Overton, Fayette, Weakley, Giles, Haywood, Grundy, Hawkins, Henderson, Marshall, Smith, Houston, Macon, Decatur, Crockett, Grainger, Marion, Union, Stewart, Clay, Lewis, Pickett, Jackson, Cannon, Moore, Morgan and Perry.