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Roundup: Knox County Says Don't Forget About Testing; Alexander in Self-Quarantine

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NBC News
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Fifteen new Knox County cases highlight “clusters”

Fifteen new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Knox County Monday, the largest single-day jump since early April. But health department director Martha Buchanan indicated the rise was not directly tied to the recent re-opening of businesses in the community.

The cases, Buchanan said, were in “clusters,” the epidemiological term for a localized, related group of infections. These clusters represent transmission among families in Knox County, and are not currently thought to be evidence of a widespread of surge of cases among the general population. The clusters were identified late last week.

The Knox County Health Department is currently engaged in contact tracing – the process of interviewing the infected to identify other people who might have contracted COVID-19 from them.

Knox health department reminder: get tested

As health experts anticipate a rise in new COVID-19 cases, the Knox County Health Department continues to stress getting tested when you think you may have the respiratory disease.

KCHD testing at the Knox County Department of Public Works (205 W. Baxter Avenue; use the Wray Street entrance) will be held Wednesday and Friday of this week, by appointment only. Call (865) 215-5555 to schedule an appointment. Testing is free.

Targeted neighborhood testing will also take place this week. Thursday, the county health department will test residents in the Lonsdale community, northwest of downtown. The Tennessee Department of Health is testing in public housing projects this week.

Forthcoming data will reveal the effects of increased public activity and contact as businesses re-open and people tired of physical distancing try to restore social situations familiar from pre-pandemic days. Some measures, such as wearing facial masks, have been inconsistently applied.

“I’d like to see more people wearing masks,” Knox County Health Department Director Martha Buchanan said Monday.

Classic symptoms of COVID-19, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

New death at Athens nursing home

A ninth person at a McMinn County nursing home has died from COVID-19, the home said Monday.

An outbreak at Life Care Centers of Athens has infected 71 residents and 46 staffers. Three residents are currently hospitalized. Residents’ families are being kept informed, Life Care Centers said.

Nursing home residents are considered among the most at-risk for serious cases of COVID-19.

Sen. Alexander in self-quarantine

Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator, Lamar Alexander, is self-quarantining at home after one of his congressional staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

Alexander’s office says the senator tested negative for COVID-19 last Thursday, and has shown no symptoms. Erring on the side of caution, the senator will not return to Washington until the two-week quarantine period is over. Most of Alexander’s senate staff are working from home and further quarantining is not expected, the senator’s office said.

Alexander is working from his home, where he was interviewed on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday. He was scheduled to chair a Senate health committee hearing via video conference today.

Coincidentally, the theme of the hearing is “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.” Testimony will be given by Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC director Robert Redfield, among others.

Cherokee National Forest releases re-opening dates

Tennessee’s sole national forest will gradually re-open some of its public facilities beginning Friday.

Cherokee National Forest says recreation areas around Watauga Lake, shooting ranges at Pond Mountain and Jacobs Creek, and CCC-era pavilions at Backbone Rock are among the sites scheduled to re-open May 15. Additional facilities and campgrounds are scheduled to open May 24. Most remaining campgrounds will likely open the first week of June, the Forest Service said.

The Forest Service says it will take a slow, methodical approach guided by sanitation and maintenance standards, and general health trends.

“Expect re-openings to not be quick or permanent,” forest management said Monday.

A complete list of sites and scheduled re-opening dates can be found in this press release from the U.S. Forest Service.