Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Unmasked Chattanooga Police Department Chief David Roddy, right, talks to a masked protestor at Miller Park on Saturday, May 30, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Amid the global pandemic, the Times Free Press is publishing a wide range of stories, and keeping up can be a challenge. Here's your guide to five key developments this week. For more updated case count numbers and other data related to Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, visit

1. Local deaths on the rise: The Hamilton County Health Department has reported five new COVID-19 deaths since May 25, meaning the coronavirus has killed at least 19 residents.

Why it matters: Deaths and hospitalizations, which are also at their highest on average since the pandemic began locally, are key indicators of an outbreak's severity. That's because the vast majority of COVID-19 infected people recover, so higher disease prevalence means more people will die or wind up hospitalized.

Read more about what we know about those who died.


2. Hamilton County surpasses 1,000 cases: After starting May with 163 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the county ended the month with 1,083.

Why it matters: New cases began surging among essential workers in the first week of the month and are continuing to do so in June. Case increases are dependent on testing, and local testing events significantly ramped up in the middle of May. Therefore, new cases shouldn't be the sole metric used to gauge the magnitude of an outbreak. However, increasing cases means the disease is spreading. It can take between several days to several weeks to reach serious illness after testing positive for COVID-19, so the growing case count could indicate that the worst of the pandemic in Hamilton County is still to come.

Read more about whether case surge means Chattanooga should reclose and find more data on our Tracking Coronavirus page.


3. George Floyd protests could spread virus: Concern grows over who was not wearing masks: Local organizers are concerned about law enforcement's decision not to wear face masks during last weekend's protests. Despite coming into close contact with dozens, if not hundreds of people, law enforcement said the masks would hurt their ability to communicate with crowds.

Why it matters: Hamilton County has largely avoided a "super-spreading event," in which one person is responsible for infecting lots of people. Social distancing guidelines and restrictions on large gatherings, such as at concerts or restaurants, played an important role in stopping this type of event. However, the weekend's protests brought hundreds of people into close contact with one another at a time when the coronavirus is "very active" in the community, health department officials said. Local officials are urging anyone who attended to get a COVID-19 test.

Read more about what the message local organizers say the no-mask decision sends to Chattanooga residents.


4. 52 people test positive for COVID-19 at Rossville nursing home: Thirty residents and 22 staff members at NHC HealthCare Rossville have tested positive for COVID-19 out of a total of 92 residents.

Why it matters: The facility's report said none of the 52 people have recovered yet from the virus, and none of the 30 residents have been hospitalized, but nursing home residents are especially susceptible to serious and deadly COVID-19 infection. At the time NHC Rossville cases were reported, nearly half of Georgia's coronavirus fatalities were the result of outbreaks in long-term care facilities. New cases among nursing home residents could strain Hamilton County hospitals at a time when local COVID-19 hospitalizations are already at their highest point thus far, and health systems are working to resume elective procedures — which are essential for hospital business and human health.

Read more about the Rossville nursing home and other COVID-19 cases in nursing homes around the region.


5. Testing continues to expand, with this month moving to churches: The health department, with a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, is bringing COVID-19 testing to a different black church every weekend in June. The participating churches include Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, Orchard Knob Missionary Baptist Church, Hawkinsville Baptist Church and Greater Tucker Baptist Church.

Why it matters: Nationwide, the virus is disproportionately infecting and killing black Americans. The racial disparity among black residents is not present so far in Hamilton County, though efforts particularly aimed at bringing testing to black communities ramped up in mid-May. Increased testing will provide more data about the severity of the outbreak in the county. Public health experts say testing is key to controlling the pandemic in order to find and isolate infected individuals, including those who show little or no symptoms.

Read more about recent testing efforts and where you can get tested this week.

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 or