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Roundup: Trying to Predict COVID Patterns; Great Smoky Mtns Extends Closure


Model tries to peg worst period for COVID in Tennessee

Tennessee’s deaths from COVID-19 may peak later this month, according to a mathematical model from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation.

The model predicts deaths may peak around April 20. At the same time, serious cases requiring hospitalization will also peak, straining available hospital space, personnel and equipment. The model’s estimation indicates people diagnosed with severe COVID cases may outstrip available intensive care beds and ventilators. The state says it has ordered additional ventilators.

The IHME model was cited by Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx in a White House press briefing this week. The model’s “best case” analysis showed 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from COVID-19. But that’s predicated on whether or not state and local governments issue strong stay-home orders, limit travel and close non-essential businesses, and whether or not residents follow the rules.

Jacobs again expresses doubts about COVID mitigation efforts

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs questioned the city of Knoxville’s approach to dealing with people or businesses that violate the “safer at home” order issued this week.

A statement from Jacobs does not explicitly mention the order, but it came the day after Mayor Indya Kincannon gave city police and others the authority to follow up on complaints about social distancing violations.

“We do not want to create a confrontational environment with the people we represent,” Jacobs said. “We think it’s much better to take an approach of talking with people and educating them about the guidelines before we seek any legal action.”

Kincannon’s order includes a $50 citation as a last resort for people or businesses that do not follow the “safer at home” order. First steps are letting people know they’re violating the order, talking with them, and giving them a chance to comply with the rules, the city said.

It’s not the first time Jacobs has expressed wariness with orders that aim to keep people at home. Those orders have requested bars and gyms close, and recommended restaurants limit their business. Jacobs, concerned about the economic fallout of business and consumer slowdowns, has said he hopes businesses can re-open sooner than expected and has warned of dire economic consequences the longer stay-home orders are in place. Last week, a press release from Jacobs’ office implied a connection between an anomalous spike in local suicides and COVID-19. No causal link has been proven.

KPD hopes to keep citations to minimum

People who violate Knoxville’s “safer at home” order may be ticketed. But Knoxville’s police department says it hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“The hope remains that businesses and citizens will be responsible, do the right thing and comply, and that citations are not necessary,” the department said in a press release Wednesday afternoon.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon issued the “safer at home” order Tuesday. Its language closely matches similar county and state mandates, but it was unique in including enforcement powers. City parks and recreation employees, codes enforcement, Knoxville Fire Department inspectors and KPD officers are allowed to follow up on reported violations and take further steps, from limiting access to public areas up to citations.

Kincannon said she was prompted to issue the tougher “safer at home order” because of complaints about people violating social distancing and business guidelines.

Great Smoky Mountains NP extends closure indefinitely

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will remain closed until further notice, the park said Wednesday.

The country’s most-visited national park announced a temporary closure last month that was set to expire on Monday, April 6. But with COVID-19 cases still rising and no clear idea when new cases will subside, park leadership decided to make the closure open-ended.

The extended closure follows the same rules as initially announced: All visitor access, including roads and trails, is closed. Foothills Parkway and the Spur remain open.