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Roundup: TN Jobless Claims Continue Surge; Drive-Through Assessment Comes to Knox County

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Drive-through assessment in Knox County comes this weekend; will not be boundless

Knox County’s health department is bringing drive-through COVID-19 assessment to Knoxville this weekend, but it will not be a first-come, first-serve affair.

Assessment sessions Friday and Saturday will take place in the parking lot of Zoo Knoxville. The sessions are being offered through a partnership with Kroger Health. To secure an appointment for assessment, people must have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and be approved by Kroger Health.

To request an appointment, Knox County residents should call Kroger Health (The Little Clinic) at 1-888-837-8852 and answer a few questions about their symptoms. If approved, a Kroger Health Call Center Associate will call back to confirm an appointment and collect additional information.

Individuals who are approved for testing must bring a valid ID and their appointment verification to the testing location. There is no charge to individuals and insurance status is not a barrier for testing, according to a press release.

“By increasing our opportunity for testing, we are able to get a better picture of the state of health in Knox County,” Knox County Health Department infectious disease specialist Charity Menefee said.

State officials: hotels and dorms may be needed to house COVID patients

The next two to four weeks will be a test of Tennessee’s medical resources, Governor Bill Lee told lawmakers Wednesday. That’s the period one mathematical model has pegged for Tennessee’s severe COVID-19 cases, and deaths, to peak.

To create more space for patients that require hospitalization, state officials and hospitals are working together to identify places that can serve as makeshift wards. The list includes convention centers, hotels, college dormitories and even recently-closed rural hospitals, said Stuart McWhorter, head of the governor’s COVID-19 task force.

State authorities are considering a model that estimates Tennessee will need 14,945 hospital beds by late April. Currently, there are only 7,812 available beds. The same model estimates about 2,300 intensive care beds will be needed. 629 ICU beds are available, according to Nashville TV station WTVF.

The University of Tennessee also confirmed the Army Corps of Engineers has inquired about using spaces such as Thompson-Boling Arena to house temporary medial facilities if needed. Representatives from the Corps toured Thompson-Boling, Pratt Pavilion and a student rec center on campus.

Knox County is considering similar possibilities, but plans are apparently in early stages.

“We are looking at various facilities that could serve this purpose if needed,” Knox County Health Department infectious disease specialist Charity Menefee said Thursday. “It’s too early to release details at this point.”

Knoxville establishes shelter for homeless who have been tested for COVID-19

The city of Knoxville and community partners have set up a shelter space for homeless people who have been tested for COVID-19.

The temporary shelter is in a building the Metro Drug Coalition plans to use a substance abuse recovery center in the future. It has enough space to accommodate 18 people, following appropriate social distancing and infection control guidelines, according to the city.

“It’s important to note there are no confirmed cases in the homeless community right now in Knoxville,” city mayor Indya Kincannon said. “But we felt it was vitally important to have a designated place for those showing symptoms.”

Partners in the project include organizations that specialize in aiding the homeless. Volunteer Ministry Center will manage the shelter space. KARM, the Knox Baptist Association, United Way, Next Step Initiative, CAC, Angelic Ministries and others have offered resources including food delivery, portable shower and laundry facilities.

The city of Knoxville will provide up to $95,000 to operate the shelter over the next two months, and referrals will come from physicians, hospitals and the Knox County Health Department, according to a press release.

Tennessee jobless claims surge again

Nearly 95,000 Tennesseans filed initial claims for unemployment the week ending March 28, continuing a major surge.

Figures from the U.S. Department of Labor put into numbers what many have already noticed as evidence of a significant economic slowdown, from closed stores to severe limits on the food service industry.

The nearly 95,000 Tennesseans who filed for unemployment last week add on to more than 38,000 who filed the week before. And early numbers from payroll agency ADP show employers continue to shed jobs, a preliminary hint that future employment reports will look dour. As for what to call the general effect on the economy, the answer is clear, according to economist Matt Murray, of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research.

“I would look at the initial claims, and those skyrocketed numbers…that’s all the evidence I need,” Murray told WUOT News. “We are in the midst of an economic downturn. We are in recession today.”