New York Times ranks Chattanooga as No. 2 in growth rate for COVID-19 deaths

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / A health worker swabs a Marion County resident for coronavirus at a mobile testing location, located at Chattanooga State Community College's Kimball Site on Saturday, April 18, 2020 in Kimball, Tenn. Health workers from the Marion County Health Department and the Tennessee Department of Health work with members of the Tennessee National Guard worked together to provide testing at the site.

The Chattanooga area is again getting national attention as the Hamilton County Health Department continues to announce new COVID-19 deaths.

On Monday, the Chattanooga area was listed as No. 2 on The New York Times list of "places that could flare up next," as measured by the highest average daily growth rate of deaths.

Last month, Chattanooga appeared on the newspaper's list for growth in the number of all cases identified, regardless of outcome. The Scenic City was ranked No. 5 and later No. 4 for a time.

Only Fayetteville-Springdale, Arkansas, outranks Chattanooga on the latest list, the one involving a growing rate of death. Bloomington, Indiana, is No. 3. According to the newspaper, deaths in Chattanooga are doubling every 10.2 days, and in Fayetteville-Springdale, it is every 8.6 days.

Hamilton County has announced nine deaths in the past week, including four since Friday, bringing the county total to 28.

The death reported on Friday was an Asian female between 41 and 50 years old with an underlying health issue. On Sunday, a Black male between 31 to 40 years old with underlying health conditions was reported as dead.

The two deaths announced Monday included a white male between 71 and 80 years old with an underlying health condition and a Hispanic male between 41 and 50 years old with no underlying conditions, according to the health department.

There have now been four local deaths from the virus of people without an underlying health condition.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to these families," Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes said in a statement. "We want to encourage our community to continue wearing masks when out in public and to practice social distancing as much as possible. The disease is still very active in our community, and community spread is still occurring."

While deaths in the surrounding areas will not count toward Hamilton County's total, Chattanooga's hospital system is often the best option in the area for coronavirus treatment. Last week, a nursing home in Rossville reported its sixth COVID-19 death.

The New York Times list has included areas surrounding Chattanooga, which have seen increases of their own. Whitfield County, Georgia is also experiencing a dramatic increase in infections and was also featured on a Times list of emerging hot spots.

On Monday, the Hamilton County health department announced 36 new infections, bringing the county total to 2,174. Racial disparities already present among the infected are beginning to appear in the deaths as well. Hispanic residents in the county are 6% of the population and are now a third of the local deaths.

Of the total 28 deaths, 19 of them have been male. The majority of them, 18 of 28, have been in people older than 51 years old.

After a spike in new coronavirus infections throughout May and into the beginning of June, the county is now averaging 40 new cases a day over the past week. The average, while higher than any point in March, April or early May is down from a high of averaging 65 new cases a day at the start of June.

On Monday, there were 36 people hospitalized with the virus and 13 people being treated in the intensive care unit. Over the weekend, total hospitalizations dropped below 40 for the first time since June 9.

Contact Wyatt Massey at or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.