With 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Sumner County ranks fourth in the state in the number of residents who have tested positive for the respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus.
Sumner County Health Department Director Hal Hendricks says that number will go much higher if residents don’t heed warnings to stay at home during what has become an unprecedented global pandemic.
“The numbers are definitely going to increase, and the public hasn’t done enough to stop the community spread,” Hendricks said on Tuesday. “Too many people are out and about and still not recognizing the severity of this situation.”
As of Wednesday morning, Tennessee had 667 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths related to the disease. The state ranks 13th in the country for the number of confirmed cases.
A Goodlettsville dentist, a choir member at Hendersonville First Baptist Church and a staff member at Knox Doss Middle School are among those who have tested positive in Sumner County.
While local and state health officials haven’t released information about specific cases, two large area churches, Long Hollow Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Hendersonville have let their congregations know that fellow members have tested positive for the disease.
Anyone who may have had contact with the members were urged to self-quarantine for 14 days and call their medical provider if they exhibited the symptoms of a fever, cough and shortness of breath during the 14-day period.
On March 20, Sumner County Schools posted on its Facebook page a note from Knox Doss Middle School Principal Mitch Flood.
“We were notified this afternoon by the Tennessee Department of Health that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19,” wrote Flood. “We were provided no other details as to the identity of the staff member at this time.”
According to Sumner County Schools Spokesman Jeremy Johnson, the school district also sent letters home to Knox Doss parents as well as the parents of the school’s feeder schools.
“The health department contacted us and let us know it was an employee,” said Johnson. “We wanted to be sure and communicate what limited information we had in an effort to be as transparent as possible.”
As of Monday, Johnson said he wasn’t aware of any other school employees who have tested positive for the disease. Schools will remain closed until at least April 24.
Local information hard to obtain
While the Tennessee Department of Health has posted on its website each day the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by county, as well as the number of people who have been tested statewide, further information about how the disease is affecting Sumner County residents has not been made public until recently.
Until Monday, Hendricks and other local health officials have referred all media questions about COVID-19 to the state. When asked about testing or hospitalizations on a countywide level, state health officials haven’t provided anything further than what’s on their website.
On Monday, Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt held a teleconference with members of the Sumner County Commission, EMS and EMA and shared some testing information. Several commissioners have shared that information on social media.
According to the information, 458 tests have been administered in Sumner County, 34 have tested positive; 116 have tested negative, and there are 308 tests pending results.
When asked about the information on Tuesday, Hendricks said that the number of tests is constantly evolving. He confirmed more than 450 tests have been administered in Sumner County by local health care providers, hospitals and the county health department. Hendricks said that currently there are around 297 tests pending.
Hendricks said since different labs are on different reporting schedules, he expects the Sumner County number of confirmed cases to jump significantly in the next day or two.
When asked how many Sumner County cases have recovered, Hendricks said since it’s only been a week since the first case was identified, those numbers aren’t available yet.
“We’re another week from saying these people have been cleared,” he said.
When asked if there is a breakdown of how many Sumner County cases there are by city, Hendricks said that the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) prevents him from sharing that information.
When asked how many of the confirmed Sumner County cases have been hospitalized, Hendricks said he didn’t have that number readily available.
Both the confirmed Long Hollow Baptist Church member as well as the First Baptist Church member were hospitalized, according to the churches and several social media posts.
The Gallatin News contacted both Tristar Medical Center in Hendersonville and Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin and asked how many patients who have been treated for COVID-19 have required hospitalization, how many are currently being treated, and how many have been transferred to other facilities due to severity of symptoms.
“TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center has protocols in place to care for patients with infectious diseases, and we have been working diligently to ensure we are prepared for issues related to COVID-19,” said Marketing and Communications Specialist Rachel Lassiter.
“TriStar Hendersonville is treating three patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, and currently has 12 patients pending test results.”
“Sumner Regional Medical Center is committed to protecting the health and safety of everyone who walks through our doors,” responded Kyle Brogdon, Director of Marketing and Communications for HighPoint Health System/Sumner Regional Medical Center, in an email. “We can confirm that we have identified and are treating patients who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).”
When asked for specific numbers, Brogdon said that the state asked the hospital to defer to the health department for official communications.
Hendricks said for now his office is focused on preventing the spread of the disease.
Those who think they have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms such as a cough or difficulty breathing are urged to call their healthcare provider, a local hospital or the local health department to schedule a test.
On Tuesday, Sumner County added information about COVID-19 to its website at www.sumnertn.org/information/covid-19-information
“At this point we just want everybody to stay home,” Hendricks added.