Hamilton County is continuing its downward trend in new COVID-19 cases, and other indicators of the severity of the pandemic in the region also show signs of sustained improvement.
As of Monday, the county was averaging 85 new cases a day in the past week. Over the weekend, the county's seven-day moving average of new cases dropped to its lowest mark since mid-October before the worst months of the pandemic hit Chattanooga. The county has reported less than 100 new infections in seven of the past nine days, a statistic last achieved Oct. 22, 2020.
The Hamilton County Health Department reported 59 confirmed people in the hospital with the virus on Monday, the lowest that figure has been since mid-October as well. The number of intensive care unit patients has been declining as well. On Monday, the health department reported 15 people in the ICU.
In November, the Times Free Press highlighted five figures to watch to measure the severity of the pandemic — positivity rate, seven-day average, hospitalizations, per capita cases and deaths. Each of these figures has trended downward since the middle of January after several months of record high numbers.
For comparison, the county reported 242 hospitalizations on Dec. 31, 2020, and was averaging 515 new cases a day in the previous seven days on Jan. 8. Around the same time, roughly 30% of new COVID-19 tests in the county were bringing positive results, even as the county was testing between 1,600 and 1,800 people a week.
The county is now testing around 900 people a week and the positivity rate on new tests is below 10% for the first time since the start of November. A positivity rate below 5% on new tests is widely held as a goal to indicate the pandemic is being contained.
Hamilton County's progress in declining numbers of new cases and hospitalization has held for three weeks.
The county health department has reported 65 COVID-19 deaths this month, a figure that already makes February the third-deadliest month in Hamilton County with half the month to go. To date, December was the deadliest month, killing 115 Hamilton County residents, followed by January, which recorded 89 deaths.
However, spikes in deaths often follow several weeks after an increase in hospitalizations, which follows several weeks after a spike in new infections. While the February death total remains high compared to other months, the decreasing number of new cases and hospitalizations signals a decrease in deaths is likely to follow.
Contact Wyatt Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.
Chattanooga clergy bring their largest call for accountability, transparency to the steps of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office