NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed additional cases and deaths related to COVID-19 across the state on Wednesday, September 23.
The health department reported 1,561 new cases, bringing the state to 186,709 total cases, a 0.8% day-to-day increase since Tuesday. Of the total cases, 180,083 are confirmed and 6,626 are probable.
Tennessee’s seven-day new cases average decreased to 1,375 additional cases per day.
Of the 186,709 cases, 95,170 are female (51%), 89,799 are male (48%), and 1,740 are pending (1%).
TDH also confirmed 14 additional deaths, bringing Tennessee up to 2,275 total deaths.
Out of the confirmed positive cases, 169,649 are listed as inactive/recovered, an increase of 1,871 in the last 24 hours.
The number of total hospitalizations now sits at 8,338. There are 779 people currently hospitalized.
Tennessee has processed 2,706,717 tests with 2,520,008 negative results. The percentage for positive cases remains around 6.9%. Wednesday’s update added 21,702 tests to the state’s total.
COVID-19 in Nashville
Earlier Wednesday, Metro Public Health Department officials reported an increase of 64 COVID-19 cases in Davidson County, bringing the county’s total to 28,287.
Bars, construction sites, correctional facilities and a manufacturing plant are among the sites linked to approximately 2,600 coronavirus cases in Nashville since the start of the pandemic, according to the Metro Public Health Department.
The list of 49 sites, detailing clusters of more than ten cases identified since mid-March, was compiled by the health department and obtained by News 2 Monday night.
A cluster of COVID-19 cases centered in Green Hills has been traced back to an assisted living facility, the Metro Public Health Department said Tuesday.
Metro Nashville Public Schools revealed survey results indicating how many parents plan on sending their students back to the classroom. The district reports that 54% want to return to the classroom and 46% want to continue virtual learning.
Football and girl’s soccer at high schools within Metro Nashville Public Schools will be allowed to resume this week.
“I’m proud to be able to say that high school students will be able to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities in person, whether they attend school in person or remain in the virtual environment,” said Dr. Battle during Mayor John Cooper’s September 17 press briefing.
Fans won’t be able to attend games yet, but Dr. Battle said they are working on ways to add to the school spirit. “We will allow cheerleaders and marching bands to be at games in a way that will provide for both social distancing and a bit of game time atmosphere.”
A petition calling for fans in the stands has received support from all over the country.
Fans will be allowed to return to Nissan Stadium in a limited capacity beginning October 4 when the Tennessee Titans play the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Social distancing measures will be in place and fans must wear masks at all times, except when actively eating or drinking, according to the “Safe Stadium Playbook” released by the Titans.
Metro Data Controversy
Bars and limited-service restaurants in Davidson County can now operate at 50% capacity. Mayor Cooper made the announcement came during his first in-person press conference in months on September 17.
On the same day, controversy arose over email exchanges between Cooper’s staff and the health department.
In gathering evidence for a lawsuit against the city by Broadway business owners, Attorney Bryan Lewis said Metro’s legal department released about 500 pages of emails from the Nashville Mayor’s office and the health department to him. He claims many of them show the offices were purposely covering up the numbers.
“We are using these emails right now in attempt to try to allow, to get federal court to allow us to oppose Mayor Cooper, Dr. Caldwell, and the officials in the health department about these emails and why you would shut down this industry based on such a low number of cases to put thousands of people out of work,” Lewis told News 2.
Some of the emails show the mayor’s senior advisor, Ben Eagles, asking the health department for stats that would show where isolated COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring in social places, including events and bars.
Eagles shared with News 2’s Stassy Olmos a graph sent by the health department in response to his inquiries.
“Right here, right when these emails were happening, the weekend prior, when public health told Dr. Alex [Jahangir] that they’d identified cases coming from bars, we see a spike and that’s six clusters at that time, July 1st, identified from bars, it’s the highest date to that point, and that was during the biggest spike of cases,” Eagles explained.
News 2 inquired why the health official asked if the information was for the public and the department replied:
“If we were to release the referenced document publicly, we would have formatted it to match the formatting of other reports from our office. We also would have made sure it was accessible and contained additional context.”
The Mayor’s office also responded to the allegations in a press release, stating a recent report from a Nashville television station was, “published with limited information and without context.”
In the statement, Cooper’s press secretary, Chris Song, said the report used Metro email screenshots to falsely accuse the Mayor’s office and the Metro Public Health Department of withholding public health data that had previously been shared with and published by another local news outlet last month.
Song states emails from the same thread that emphasized the need to publicly release as much COVID-19 data as possible were omitted from the station’s report.
The report in question has since been retracted.
On September 17, a letter from Governor Bill Lee’s administration to Cooper’s office expressed the governor’s concern with an $82.6 million request of the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund award for Nashville-Davidson County.
While Lee’s letter did not directly deny the city’s request, the governor addressed the response during his press conference Thursday afternoon.
“Metro Nashville in fact, per capita, has received more federal funding than any other county in the state through this pandemic,” said Lee. “That’s why I responded to the mayor and said that we would not be adding additional funding to Metro Nashville, per his request.”
On September 18, Cooper spoke with News 2 about the situation. He said understands the music and hospitality industries have suffered the most in this pandemic, but that he is taking care of his city, as a whole, adding the state should be focusing on taking care of businesses.
“We had the potential for being the mega super-spreader in the country, so we had to recognize that and deal with it pretty effectively ahead of time,” Mayor Cooper said, explaining why he kept bars closed for so long.
TDH’s Reporting Format
On September 3, the Tennessee Department of Health announced changes to the format for sharing data on COVID-19, updating how some metrics are calculated, reflecting evolving knowledge of the pandemic.
The new format reflects a change in how active cases are calculated.
Under the new format, TDH case count reports will include figures for “Inactive/Recovered” cases and will no longer include data for “Recovered” cases. “Inactive/Recovered” cases will include people who are 14 days or more beyond their illness onset date (or, for asymptomatic cases, their specimen collection date). This will more closely align with what is now understood about the infectious period of COVID-19, as recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show most patients with COVID-19 are no longer infectious after 10 days. Previously, TDH considered a case recovered after a 21-day period.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
COVID-19 in Tennessee
(This reflects what the TDH is reporting each day at 2 p.m. CST )