New COVID-19 cases are rising in Hamilton County and across the region, leading to an increase in hospitalizations and following a trend occurring across Tennessee throughout October.
On Oct. 1, Hamilton County's weekly average for new daily coronavirus cases was 61 compared to 82 as of Tuesday. The Tennessee Department of Health reported a weekly average of 1,413 new cases per day on Oct. 1 and a weekly average of 1,922 new cases per day on Tuesday.
Active cases in Hamilton County during that same time frame jumped from 610 to 806, according to data from the Hamilton County Health Department.
Rae Bond, chair of the COVID-19 Joint Task Force, attributed Hamilton County's case increase in part to transmission at parties and gatherings, including those in suburban areas that initially had fewer cases.
"Literally, every part of our community is now being impacted by COVID-19," Bond said during a news briefing after a task force meeting on Tuesday. She said that people in the 11-30 age group continue to be drivers of new cases.
The county's most populous ZIP codes — 37343, 37363 and 37421 — saw the largest increase in new cases, with 133, 199 and 242 new cases, respectively, since Sept. 22, according to health department data.
"We want to encourage everybody, but especially younger folks, to answer the call from the health department and cooperate with their very hard-working staff to identify contacts and to get tested and quarantine as necessary," Bond said. "It's not convenient for anyone when it happens, but it's absolutely important to protect yourself and to protect others."
Case increases could be a result of more testing or changing behaviors following decisions by Gov. Bill Lee and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger to relax restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes at the end of September.
Although Hamilton County's mask mandate remains in place, most rural counties do not require people to wear face coverings in public.
Bond said an influx of patients from outside counties is fueling the increase in Hamilton County's COVID-19 hospitalizations.
As of Tuesday, there were 63 coronavirus patients in local hospitals, including 21 who are Hamilton County residents and 15 patients in ICU.
Hamilton County reported another death due to the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 102 since the pandemic began.
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