Officials warned the public Wednesday that we are at a “critical juncture” in the COVID-19 pandemic and urged everyone to take every possible precaution to keep from spreading the virus.
Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes and Mayor Jim Coppinger said cases are trending up.
“Our daily case counts have been increasing over the last few weeks,” Barnes said. “We had flattened the curve but now it is trending up, and this is a trend we need to stop.”
During the week ending Sept. 12, the average number of cases a day in Hamilton County was 59.4. For the week ending Oct. 24, the average number of daily cases was 103.4.
“This is a continuing trend of cases 100 or more for over a week now and our active cases are also increasing,” she said.
There are currently 1,128 active cases in Hamilton County. As neighboring counties fill to capacity at hospitals treating COVID-19, new patients are also being sent to Chattanooga, officials said.
Barnes listed an array of reasons for the uptick including lack of mask-wearing, lack of social distancing, people leaving the home while sick or awaiting a test result, pandemic fatigue and cooler weather that is keeping people indoors more.
“The only way to stop this upward trend is for everyone in the community to do their part,” Barnes said. “[We are at a] critical juncture…we must pivot to safer practices.”
Coppinger said the virus doesn’t need to be feared, but it does need to be respected. He said that everyone should take “every precaution you can to avoid any contact with the virus.”
“In no circumstances should you be without a mask when you’re attending functions or without social distancing,” he said. “The White House — the one thing they emphasize — where they are seeing it all over the country is in small gatherings.”
He said that people should be careful about inviting children over who may be asymptomatic.
Coppinger said that many people, including front line workers and members of the business community, have done good work to co-exist and prevent COVID-19 spread while also keeping the economy open.
“What today’s message is really about is we are seeing an uptick,” Coppinger said. “This is to alert everyone that we can co-exist with this virus but only if we’re willing to take the steps that are necessary. Social distancing is really important. Masks are our best protection. There is scientific evidence that they do make a difference.”