New data shows half of all COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County are in the Hispanic community

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Brothers Romeo and Anthony Perez play as their father Gilber moves stacks of wood at Garcia Tree Service on 37th street on Thursday, May 14, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Approximately one in five cases of coronavirus in Hamilton County have come from the 37407 zip code, which includes the East Lake and Clifton Hills neighborhoods, though the area only makes up three percent of the County's population.

The Hamilton County Health Department announced 28 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, continuing the recent spike in cases and bringing the county's total to 404.

Included in the new data were a reported 33 new cases among Hispanics in Hamilton County, meaning a community that represents 6% of the population accounts for 49% of the county's coronavirus cases. Tuesday's increase included new cases and previous cases in which the person's ethnicity had not been determined.

The 37407 ZIP code in the county's southside further emerged as a growing area of coronavirus activity, now having between 47 and 78 confirmed cases, or between 12% and 19% of the county's overall cases.

More specific data is unavailable because the county releases the ZIP code data only by showing ranges on a map legend, citing privacy concerns.

The 37407, which is more racially diverse and has higher rates of poverty than the surrounding area, accounts for 3% of the county's population.

In the past week, health department administrator Becky Barnes downplayed the importance of looking at ZIP codes when tracking COVID-19 cases. People should remain diligent wherever they are, she said.

"There's been a lot of focus on the fact that 37407 has grown a lot recently in positive numbers of cases. I want to remind everyone that COVID-19 can be anywhere," Barnes said during the Monday press conference.

Earlier this month, the health department created a Spanish Facebook page to share information with Spanish speakers in the community. In April, the health department partnered with Clinica Medicos to create a testing site within the health clinic.

Research from a Nashville-based analytics company shows Hamilton County is especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because of its demographics and other social, physical and environmental factors.

Tuesday's data continues the trend over the past two weeks with daily new case totals rising. Over the past seven days, Hamilton County has averaged 19 new cases a day, more than six times what it was at the beginning of the month and higher than at any point during the pandemic.

The health department has said the recent increase in cases is due to spread in workplaces that never shut down during the pandemic and spread among family members.

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