By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ
UPPER CUMBERLAND – Active cases of COVID have reached record levels this week across the Upper Cumberland. Hospitals have seen peaks also, with Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC) hitting a record 52 COVID patients on Oct. 14.
According to Dr. James Gray, secretary of the Upper Cumberland Medical Society, COVID is spreading in the U.C. rural health region faster than in any other of the 13 health regions recognized by the Tennessee Department of Health.
In almost every county across the U.C., the largest age group testing positive is the 21-30 years group. In the U.C. positive results in that age bracket account for 16.2% of all positives, four percentage points below the state’s 20.3%. The percentage in that age range is even higher at 21.3% in Putnam County, largely due to the large university population. A breakdown of positives by age bracket and county is below.
Tennessee Tech has seen a spike in cases this week, jumping from 48 active cases on Oct. 8 to 79 active today. The biggest increase has been in off campus students, with a 50% jump (41 to 61) in the number of active cases.
Although several U.C. county school systems have been on Fall break within the past few weeks, there have been 366 positive cases reported across the U.C. among those 0-20 years of age, a 16.3% increase in total cases.
Anticipating a spike in school age cases, some county school systems have taken creative measures. Overton County has announced that students will not return to school until Oct. 26, with classes being held virtually the week after fall break. Warren County has implemented four day in-person learning with Fridays being a remote virtual learning day.
Another group that is at an extremely high risk is the older population. Although only 24% of those testing positive in the U.C. are 61 or older, they make up the majority of the deaths from the virus largely due to comorbidities, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and significant obesity, COPD or emphysema, heart disease, etc.
The numbers clearly show that although many are getting immune to the warnings about COVID, it is still a dangerous disease that is surging throughout the region. CRMC officials encourage everyone to wear a mask whenever out in public and to maintain social distancing whenever possible to protect yourself and others.