Many of Chatanogo’s largest employers, a prison, food processing plant and a long-term care facility are among the top spots identified in the Hamilton County Health Department’s list of recent “COVID-19 clusters”.
The University of Tennessee had the largest group of cases so far, with 405 cases. The main hospital at Erlanger on East Third Street was the next largest cluster with 103 cases, followed by Silverdale Detention Center at 72.
The Department of Health’s list was obtained by the Times Free Press through a request for an open record and reveals the county’s largest recent coronovirus groups, defined as two or more confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 Have been associated with a single place of risk – such as a hospital, nursing home or grocery store – or exposure event – such as a party or gathering – this is not a home display.
There are 10 or more COVID-19 cases in the facilities on the list since the onset of the epidemic, with at least one new case in the last 28 days. For businesses and hospitals, the list includes only employees. For schools and long-term care facilities, the number includes employees in addition to students and residents.
Volkswagen was in fourth place with 70 cases, followed by Amazon Fulfillment Center with 54 and Koch Foods with 50%. CHI Memorial Hospital’s main campus, Pilgrim’s Pride, Standifer Place and McKee Food Corp were on the list.
The full document shows 28 facilities with 10 or more cases, at least one of them recently.
Eight locations are either hospitals, mental health or substance use recovery centers; There are six long-term care facilities; There are four food processing or packaging plants; There are three educational institutions; There are two correctional facilities; There are two industrial facilities; There are two community facilities; And is a homeless shelter.
The Times Free Press reached the top 10 features on Monday for comment and will list other cluster sites in the week after being contacted for comment.
UTC’s chancellor of communications and marketing, George Heidelston, said the school’s medical team, food service staff and housing staff did a great job managing the virus on campus.
UTC is second only to the total COVID-19 cases among college campuses in Tennessee, surpassing the University of Tennessee in Tennessee. However, the Times list measures total cases while UTC’s dashboards also report active cases, including 34 as of Monday. Knoxville University had 95 active cases on Sunday.
Erlanger officials said in a statement that the health system “takes seriously the health and safety of our colleagues, patients, visitors and the community.”
“As one of the largest employers in Hamilton County, statistically one percent of the community population would work with COVID-19 in Erlanger. We have implemented a number of safeguards such as essential masking. [personal protective equipment], And working remotely where it is possible to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, the work-away community remains a challenge for all employers, as our partners and their families live and play throughout the region, where they stay in contact with others who may not follow similar practices, “Erlanger officials said.
Officials said they encourage employees to participate in contact with the health department in addition to reporting the health department’s own monitoring system, which tracks workers who become ill, without proper protective gear COVID-19 positive individuals have symptoms or known risks. .
CHI Memorial officials echoed in Erlanger.
“As a large health care organization with 4,700 employees, the security measures we have have resulted in a small number of work-related or community-related exposures. In our experience, those exposures occurred when the employee did not comply The security measures are designed to protect against exposure, “CHI Memorial spokeswoman Lisa McCluskey wrote in an email. “Everyone needs to be aware of the ultimate need to apply a mask; to maintain a six-foot distance among others and to wash hands frequently, the mask must be completely covered by the nose and mouth at all times . ”
The Times Free Press cluster reached other organizations at the top of the list, with 38 or more COVID-19 cases. No other comments were extending beyond the deadline.
Health department officials said the cases on the list may not have originated, but the health department has identified the infected parties during the infectious period. For example, employees may have contracted the virus at home or in the community, but went to work before symptoms could occur.
In June, instructors in contact with UTC and the Department of Health noted that they were seeing an increase of people who were unaware that they should remain in quarantine until their test results were returned.
Becky Barnes, administrator of the Hamilton County Health Department, cautioned against drawing some conclusions from the list. He said that the cluster list is a document to help in the possible pattern of simultaneous dissemination for the employees of the department.
“Suddenly if you were 10 at a workplace, it could be said that there could be transmission at work, and we could see that in a particular situation,” Barnes said. “But if you have one at one place, and then three weeks later you have another one, which helps us keep an eye on what’s going on. But it doesn’t necessarily tell you that at that workplace The transmission is running. ”
Barnes said she could reduce the list’s worried publishing business or individuals likely to collaborate with the health department’s contact tracing procedures – one of the few tools that can help control the spread of COVID-19 when Even though a safe and effective vaccine is not widespread. available.
People who test positive for coronovirus sometimes do not want to share their whereabouts with contact targets, making it difficult to track and isolate other potentially infected people, Barnes said. She said common objections to contact include fear or employers who do not direct employees to tell the health department where they work.
“We already have something where positive people refuse to tell us where they work or cooperate with us. We don’t want to compromise the progress made in our community,” Barnes said.
The cluster list reflects state and national trends for the COVID-19 clusters, which typically occur where large numbers of people converge in close quarters.
According to a report from the Tennessee Department, the most reported clusters in Tennessee have been in correctional facilities and nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. Workplaces such as meat processing plants and nursing homes were linked to the nationwide epidemic and COVID-19 cases in Chattano. Last month, Hamilton County-owned corrective facilities reported that at least 70 inmates and personnel had tested positive for coronavirus since April.
Barnes said it makes sense that major employers with a large number of needed workers – those who continued to work in the shutdown and who do not have the option to work remotely – would see more cases.
According to figures from the Chartanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Arlanger Health System is the county’s largest employer, with 7,000 combined full and part-time employees. McKee Food, Volkswagen and CHI Memorial are among the top-10 largest employers in the county, according to the chamber.
Detention center top list of COVID-19 groups at UTC, Hospital, Hamilton County
Several other major employers, Bluecross BlueShield of Tennessee – the county’s second-largest employer – did not make the cluster list. However, unlike the features on the cluster list, most bluecross workers are working remotely throughout the epidemic.
Bev Fulbright, epidemiology manager for the Department of Health, said his co-workers are seeing clusters at various events, including weddings and funerals, but were one-time exposures. Frequent outbreaks are likely to occur in places where large numbers of people regularly call in close proximity, such as the county’s largest companies whose employees are not able to work from home.
Last week the Department of Health in Nashville released a similar cluster list. However, that list includes all groups that have occurred since the onset of the epidemic – not only with recent cases, but clusters as reported in Tensian.
Like the Hamilton County list, many of Nashville’s clusters occurred in workplaces, corrective facilities, and nursing homes.
Meanwhile, the Knoxville News Watchdog is suing the Tennessee Department of Health for its repeated refusal to release data on COVID-19 groups in the state. The State Department has banned the release of medical information, citing federal legislation that identifies individuals who refuse to issue a cluster list. However, similar to the Times Free Press’s request for a cluster list, the News Sentinel’s request did not ask for any information that would identify individuals, according to a story in the Knoxville Paper last week.
Contact Elizabeth Fight at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ecfite.
Contact Wyatt Massey at [email protected] or 423-757-6249. Follow her on twitter @ news4mass.