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Some of the key metrics to understand the outbreak of COVID-19 in Hamilton County are trending down, signaling a slight improvement after several months of worsening conditions.

The Hamilton County Health Department reported 342 new cases in the past two days. The current 3,279 active cases in the county is the lowest mark since Dec. 10. The county is averaging 208 new cases a day in the past week. Less than two weeks ago, the seven-day average was 516 new cases a day.

Rae Bond, chair of the county's COVID-19 task force, said area medical workers believe area residents were more cautious during the Christmas holiday season after seeing the post-Thanksgiving surge.

"We're really pleased to see a slight downward trend in our positive cases and hospitalizations," Bond said during a Tuesday news conference. "While no single factor may account for that trend, we think the post-Thanksgiving surge in cases and hospitalizations may have had some impact on folks limiting their socialization at Christmas and even over New Year."

The first signs of the downward trend come after spiking cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the early winter months. The county broke records for active cases, new cases, hospitalizations and intensive care unit patients multiple times in December, which was the deadliest month for the virus to date, killing 115 county residents. Spikes in hospitalizations often come weeks after spikes in new cases, with increased deaths coming several weeks after a hospitalization surge.

The county reported 168 confirmed hospitalizations Tuesday, the lowest that figure has been since Dec. 14. However, the ICU patient total remained high with 51 as of Tuesday.

(READ MORE: Unknowns of race, ethnicity in COVID-19 vaccine data mean it's unclear who's receiving shots as experts praise Tennessee's plan)

Hamilton County is averaging around 1,300 new COVID-19 tests a week, a figure lower than in previous weeks but on pace with testing demand reported through November and parts of December before test totals increased as cases spiked.

The county is averaging around a 16% positivity rate on new tests in the past week, which is higher than the goal of 5% believed to help best contain the virus, but much lower than during previous weeks. The seven-day average of positive tests was 35% near the end of December.

Bond said the county's new vaccine appointment system is helping streamline distribution of doses, though the supply chain issues continue with a limited supply of doses coming to Tennessee from the federal government. The county health department using multiple locations for distribution is helping as well, Bond said.

Last week, the health department announced its appointment system and upcoming days for vaccine distribution through early February. Within a day, all the appointment slots had been filled.

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

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