Cases rise and testing slows as we fight for racial justice amid COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — For the past three months, we’ve been told to socially distance and stay inside. Now, it’s quite the opposite as tens of thousands rally for racial justice across the country.

But here locally, doctors say we cannot forget about COVID-19.

“We’ve seen recently the number of new cases every day somewhat creeping up,” said Dr. David Aronoff, the Director of Infectious Diseases Division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

On Wednesday, cases in Nashville grew by 133, our entire state as a whole saw an increase of 447.

However, Tennessee saw an increase of more than 800 cases on Tuesday, nearly double what we’re used to seeing. Dr. Aronoff says the increase is likely due to our state reopening and does not reflect recent protests.

“We’re seeing less social distancing, people are on the move again, people are getting together again and we’re opening up businesses,” said Dr. Aronoff, “If there were transmission events downtown over the weekend it could be anywhere from one to four weeks before we see more cases as a result of that.”

However, Dr. Aronoff does believe there was likely COVID-19 transmission at Saturday’s rally, saying it may be two weeks before any demonstrators develop symptoms.

“Once people develop symptoms it may be a week or even longer for them to get sick enough to come to the hospital to seek care or end up getting hospitalized,” said Dr. Aronoff.

As cases increase, testing is slowing.

Dr. Aronoff said identifying cases, contact tracing, and self-isolation depends in large on testing and right now it’s on the decline.

“Maybe we’re seeing people who are asymptomatic not getting tested or who are mildly symptomatic not going to get tested,” he said, “The more we’re testing the more we know about disease activity and if we don’t know where the virus is spreading or how much the population is impacted or where there may be clusters then it’s going to be more challenging getting businesses open and getting people back together again.”

News 2 asked, “At what point do we start to worry?”

​​”I’m certainly hopeful for sure were not in a situation where our hospital beds or ventilators or ICU beds are threatening as in terms of capacity but we have to be careful to watch in the next one, three to four weeks to see how that plays out,” said Dr. Aronoff.

Right now, according to Metro’s Coronavirus Task Force ICU bed availability sits at 21 percent, available hospital beds—at 23 percent, both in the yellow zone when it comes to Nashville’s reopening metrics.

“Tennessee has really been doing a good job protecting its citizens we haven’t seen our hospital system overrun and we haven’t seen a major burst of activity,” said Dr. Aronoff.

He added if Nashville gets a second wave soon due to protests, that doesn’t preclude we won’t have subsequent waves in the fall.

“We need to be on our guard and if necessary, we may need to go back to more social distancing,” he said.

As for those who plan to continue protesting, Dr. Aronoff urges you to wear a mask, social distance as best as you can, bring hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, and stay hydrated.

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