Does Tipton County have the highest 14-day increase in COVID-19 cases in the country?
According to the New York Times COVID tracker, data reported Monday by the State of Tennessee showed Tipton County had a 3,843-percent increase in cases. Davidson and Gibson counties were also seeing large increases.
Tipton is also among nine hot spots in the state for cases per capita – others include Shelby, Fayette, Henry, Humphreys, Marshall, Sumner, Franklin and Hamilton counties.
Tennessee is also leading the nation in the 14-day increase in cases, which was 489 percent.
What about the actual numbers, though?
Because we like to see the numbers broken down in more than just percentages, let’s do that, too.
On Tuesday, Tipton County had 59 active COVID cases. It doesn’t seem like a lot considering that number was more than 10 times higher during COVID’s peak, but the number is increasing lately.
A month ago today Tipton County only had four known active cases. That number doubled the following day then tripled the day after that, but most of June and into early July the number of active cases remained in the teens.
On July 2 active cases reached 20, then 40 by July 8 and 59 by July 12.
Cases increased by 13 on July 9, which is the largest day-over-day increase in cases since April 29 (we did see an 11-case increase three times in early May).
The most current data shows Tipton County has 7,527 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, 12 school-aged children with known cases, a daily new case average of 6, 10 confirmed cases per capita and a weekly positivity rate of 9.16 percent. The previous week the positivity rate was 3.34 percent.
Why are the numbers going up again?
The numbers of COVID cases are increasing due to several factors, said Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman. The Delta variant, which spreads more quickly, is one of those reasons.
“It’s a lot worse than the original and COVID is getting around again. It makes the numbers go up quicker.”
Vaccinations also play a part in the contraction and spread of the Delta variant, which means Tipton County is more at-risk than other areas due to high numbers of residents who have decided against it.
“We’ve got a lot of folks who chose not to get vaccinated, about 70 percent are not. In a low vaccinated state, which is a lot of the South, the variants are going to hit us harder.”
The latest data shows, of the estimated 62,000 residents, only 15,589 (28.6 percent) of Tipton Countians are fully vaccinated and 17,544 total residents have had at least one shot. Some have chosen not to return for the second shot due to having a bad reaction with the first, for instance.
Those who are vaccinated can still carry the virus, but the vaccines have shown to be effective against the variants. Huffman urges people to get vaccinated.
“The tests are readily available – you can even get them at Walgreens – and the vaccines are readily available. You don’t really have an excuse.”
Huffman also attributes the Fourth of July holiday and summer vacations for the increase.
“Everyone was anxious to get back to their normal lives, to take vacations, and most people assumed the pandemic was behind us. We have a Fourth of July surge where the numbers are increasing, so we’re watching them. The next few days will tell the tale. And it’s a bad time with school going to start up again in a few weeks.”
What’s the plan for school?
Tipton County Superintendent Dr. John Combs said Wednesday the current plan is to return to its normal schedule, with in-person instruction Monday-Friday, when the school year resumes in less than three weeks. Masking will be optional unless the local or state government provides different guidelines or a mask mandate.
“Quite a few of our employees have already been vaccinated (close to 50 percent) and testing for our staff will be set up via a grant at each school,” he said via email. “We will continue to encourage parents not to send their children to school if they are sick, as well as, continuing to encourage hand washing and other good health precautions for students. Buildings will also be cleaned each afternoon to try and keep germs to a minimum.”
The school system is continuing to seek advice from local health officials.
What’s in the near future?
There are currently no plans for a mask mandate and if you’re worried about business closures, that’s now illegal unless done by a fire marshal or court.
This year the state legislature passed The Essential Workers Act which prohibits a local government entity or county executive from creating essential and non-essential classes of businesses and employees for the purpose of suspending or encumbering trade or denying citizens the right to work if the activities are legal.
The bill was likely in response to the closures of businesses during the Stay at Home order in March and April 2020. Rep. Debra Moody was one of the bill’s sponsors.
For now, Huffman remains worried about those who are not vaccinated, including children. He strongly encourages personal responsibility to help curb the rapid increase in cases.
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” he said. “If you’re not vaccinated you’re in jeopardy, you’re running the risk of catching the variant. Please get vaccinated.”