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Roundup: Expo Center Plans on Hold; Visualizing COVID Cases in Knox County

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Metro Nashville Health Department
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Plan to convert Knoxville Expo Ctr to hospital on hold

The plan announced last week to convert the Knoxville Expo Center into a 350-bed facility for COVID-19 patients is on hold for the time being, according to state officials.

Knox County Mayor Jacobs said computer modeling that estimates the scope of COVID-19 cases indicated the extra capacity might not be needed. Still, the mayor cautioned that the serious situation posed by the novel coronavirus is not over.

“It’s not like things are going to go back to normal tomorrow,” Jacobs told WATE. “The reason we are doing well is because we are following the guidelines for the social distancing, which means that COVID-19 is not spreading as rapidly as first projected. That’s been a recipe for success, so it’s not something that we can abandon now. We need to keep with that.”

The plan to convert large public spaces into makeshift medical wards was announced by Gov. Bill Lee, and was based on the concern that cases requiring hospitalization would outgrow available space at hospitals in Tennessee’s largest metro areas. The Knoxville facility was expected to go online later this month.

Unemployment claims still high in latest report

More than 112,000 Tennesseans filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ending April 4, according to figures from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The numbers released Thursday also show a rise in the rate of unemployment claims – that is, more people are filing for unemployment each week, dating back to March 14.

In the most recent week, 25,000 people filed for jobless benefits in the sixteen-county “east” region, which includes the Knoxville metro area.

The state is getting ready to pay out an estimated 100,000 claims from the initial wave, and state Labor and Workforce Commissioner Jeff McCord said Wednesday there’s more to come as the department tries to process the surge of requests for temporary assistance.

KCHD plans to release COVID “heat map”

The Knox County Health Department says it plans to plot COVID-19 cases on a so-called “heat map” this week.

A heat map is a way of displaying information about the frequency or intensity of a given phenomenon. They are used in baseball to show where and how often pitchers throw a ball in or near the strike zone. In meteorology, a heat map can show where tornadoes have occurred most frequently. In traffic planning, they can show routes most likely to be congested.

In epidemiology, a heat map can depict concentrations of illness cases geographically. Davidson and Hamilton counties have already released heat maps of COVID cases within their borders.

The Knox County map will be available at the health department’s landing page for COVID information: COVID.knoxcountyn.gov.