New York Times report: Chattanooga in top 5 nationally for new coronavirus cases, as deaths and cases continue to rise

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / A member of the Tennessee National Guard stands outside the East Lake Courts Community Center, where free COVID-19 testing was being offered to residents of East Lake Courts on Thursday, May 21, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

With two new deaths and 186 new cases since Friday, Hamilton County's continued increase in positive coronavirus tests has placed it among the fastest growing caseloads in the nation.

According to a report by The New York Times early Tuesday, Chattanooga's rate of new cases per day is the fifth highest in the nation, doubling about every nine days.

The analysis, published before 23 new cases and one new death were reported late Tuesday afternoon by the Hamilton County Health Department, reflects a four-week-long uptick in cases locally.

The Times also identified Dalton, Georgia, in Whitfield County, as the area with the nation's eighth highest growth in cases. The area added 157 cases recently, and cases are doubling every 11 days.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Hamilton County reported 163 new cases in just three days' time, including an increase of more than 70 on Sunday, the single largest day-over-day jump in the county since the global pandemic began.

Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes largely attributes the new cases to increased spread and testing, with the county screening more than 14,000 people, or roughly 4% of the County's total population.

"These increased numbers reflect both an increase in testing and, clearly, in spread," Barnes said at a press conference late Tuesday.


With a mean age of just 32, Barnes says the cases are also linked to essential workers who are exposed at work.

In the first new deaths from the virus in more than four weeks, Hamilton County reported two more fatalities at the beginning of this week, bringing the county's total death toll to 15.

Barnes says of the two deaths, one was over 80 and the other was 51-60 years old. Both had pre-existing medical conditions.

Despite the additional cases and deaths, Hamilton County still has 52 adult intensive-care unit beds and 361 adult ventilators available, without counting surge capacity, which Barnes says is plenty to accommodate the current caseload.

"We look at the number of hospitalizations each day. We look at the numbers in the ICU Clearly our hospitals have excess capacity to care for any ill patients at this point," Barnes said. "As long as we have hospital capacity and adequate testing and we feel like we're keeping up with the trends in our community, then we're trying to figure out how we as a community can adapt."

With that, Barnes says the county is looking at the caseload every day to determine how or whether to regulate businesses to stop the spread of the virus, but that no statistic or model has prompted officials to strengthen restrictions that were lifted earlier in the month.

Barnes would not specify what if any threshold hospitalization or case data would have to hit to prompt business regulations.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.