Every week, the Times Free Press will publish five essential things to know about the coronavirus pandemic in the Chattanooga region. For more updated case count numbers and other data related to Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, visit timesfreepress.com/virus/.
Five things to know about COVID-19 in the Chattanooga region for the week ending August 7:
1. Concerns about school reopening: Teachers in Hamilton County and school districts in North Georgia remain worried about safety just days before the school year is scheduled to begin.
Why it matters: This week, four teachers told the Walker County School Board they were concerned about student safety with returning to in-person classes. Some teachers in the area have said the current plan is "unacceptable" and puts children, as well as their families, at unnecessary risk for the virus. Meanwhile, at least two employees with Dade County schools have tested positive for COVID-19. That school system plans to open next week.
2. Virus hits rural areas and small metros: In recent weeks, cases are rising in more rural areas while there has been a steady decline in metro areas like Chattanooga.
Why it matters: Knowing where cases are rising helps local leaders identify who is in the greatest need of available resources. The spread into rural areas shows that all communities face some risk of contracting or spreading the virus, especially through large gatherings of people, otherwise known as superspreader events.
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3. Sewage study shows thousands more COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County than reported: Chattanooga's ongoing partnership with Biobot to study wastewater has new results released this week.
Why it matters: Sewage samples can show cases that are not otherwise reported by the health department, including people who are not showing symptoms or who have not been tested, as well as people who have recovered but still shed the virus in wastewater. The most recent data from July shows thousands more cases than reported by the health department, but raise some questions about how this data should be used.
Read more about what we learned from the most recent wastewater study.
4. Gov. Lee says the state will report COVID-19 cases in schools: The state leader had been criticized for saying such data would not be made public.
Why it matters: Many area schools reopen next week and Lee said his administration is working on a plan to release data on cases in schools. However, the governor is toeing a line between transparency and privacy in how this data will be made available.
Read more about what we know about the governor's plan so far.
5. Chattanooga music institution closes permanently: Songbirds Guitar Museum and its concert venues will close on August 15.
Why it matters: The museum and concert hall is closing because of lost revenue from the coronavirus pandemic, leaders said. Almost 30 full- and part-time employees will be affected.
What are your experiences with the coronavirus? Are you or someone you love affected by it? What questions do you have? We would like to hear from you, so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Contact Wyatt Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.