Today, after a few days of agitation from local lawmakers, Knox County changed their re-opening plans. We’ll discuss that and then hit numbers.

Knox County Re-Opening

Knox County announced today that Phase 2 will come three days early. This comes five days after the state of Tennessee announced that restaurants and retail could return to full capacity May 22nd, and after repeated statements from local lawmakers pushing KCHD to move to Phase 2 early.

There are there several ways to look at this, and all of them are important. First, opening 3 days early with essentially flat numbers isn’t likely to make a difference in COVID-19 spread that we’ll ever be able to measure. Second, this push to match the state’s re-opening guidelines cedes influence on the topic to the state. It’s an odd viewpoint coming from Mayor Jacobs, in particular, to cede power up the chain instead of keeping decision making local.

However, the lack of a unified plan across the state also made this inevitable to a degree: any time an industry in one county has an advantage over an industry in another, businesses are fearful of missing out. The economics of the situation pressure everyone to open up as fast as the fastest county/state.

Third, given that Tennessee is already re-opening restaurant and retail capacity to 100% this week and that the rest of the guidelines are, essentially, unenforceable, the final cessation of power and influence effectively is to individuals and businesses. The government will give us suggestions: it is up to us whether or not to follow them.

This is a realpolitik — short of turning into a police state the governmental shutdowns rely primarily on voluntarily compliance. In a state that hasn’t been hit hard by COVID-19 cases and deaths it is clear that patience for that compliance has waned considerably. It also doesn’t mean that the state, or the county, is back to a pre-pandemic normal.

The public orders matter far less than what people choose to do, on their own, voluntarily. It also remains up to individual persons to wear masks, wash hands, physically distance while out, etc. It also remains up to them to choose to dine-in, or do curbside pickup, at their favorite restaurant. Put another way, opening up is not a yes/no binary choice nor were the lockdown. Or another, the virus cares about what people do not what regulations politicians put in place.

Finally, there is a humility that we don’t know in full what causes pandemics to ebb and flow. This post goes over three very different scenarios painted by some of the most prominent epidemiologists in the country. It is possible that COVID-19 was already going to recede on its own and that lockdowns/opening-up play less important of a role than we realize. We may not know for weeks or months.

The Americans are a curious, original people. They know how to govern themselves, but nobody else can govern them.

A British officer leaving New York, 1783

We have earned this in part, now let us earn it in full.

How is JM Addington Reacting?

We haven’t changed plans yet. Our views for our business are:

  • A conservative approach (work from home, wearng masks, etc.) is not likely to lose any business and we will probably pick some up from people that appreciate it.
  • The same is true for employees: everyone feels appropriately safe in our current operations.
  • While the risk of several of us getting sick at once is low, it would be devastating to our company. Our best “insurance” against it is to stay pragmatically cautious.
  • We believe that there are 2-4 good months ahead of us, as business picks up its pace and some businesses want to invest the liquidity injections they just got from PPP and EIDL. We expect opportunities over this summer that we haven’t seen in years.
  • We’re trying to keep a maximum range of options open for the fall and winter. History strongly suggests a second wave will come. If that happens we want to have done our best in the good months to be prepared to ride it out without counting on another government bailout.

Overall, it’s remarkably unremarkable. We are, essentially holding stead since mid-April in community cases. Our testing remains high enough that we are testing roughly twice the target. And even as we target populations where we expect to see more cases (prisons, nursing homes) the testing ratio remains great.

Local News

Wampler’s Farm Sausage, which reported a single asymptotic case a couple weeks ago only found one more after extensive testing (we think, their entire workforce.) This speaks very highly of Tennessee’s testing, that we are now able to avoid such an outbreak.

…but…

Monterey Mushrooms, located in the same city, had an outbreak of at least 59 employees of about 300 over the weekend. We have no way to verify this, but we would be surprised based on other outbreaks if there was not a housing aspect that played a role here as well. (I.e., multiple workers living in close quarters in the same housing areas.)

Numbers

Nationally, numbers are still stable on average. (The uptick at the end is a result of a particularly low day falling off the average.)

US COVID-19 Cases and 7 Day Rolling Average by JM Addington Technology Solutions in Knoxville, TN
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

However, that blended average hides more nuanced sub-plots to the story. Headed up in cases include AR, AZ, ME, MI, MN, NC (sharply!), ND, OK and TX. If we change the chart to just those states you don’t see that there ever was a peak. Don’t take this beyond its literal meaning: each region/state needs to be considered on it’s own, not just as part of the US average.

Selected States COVID-19 Cases by JM Addington Technology Solutions in Knoxville TN
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

Tennessee remains mostly flat, up a little bit this month, we believe, from targeted tests in prisons and nursing homes.

TN COVID-19 Cases and 7 Day Rolling Average by JM Addington Technology Solutions in Knoxville, TN
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

The county area also remains stable, except for the major spike from Monterey Mushrooms. The real question here is if this will fuel a larger outbreak of if it was tested in time to be contained. 3-4 weeks will tell.

Area COVID-19 Cases and 7 Day Rolling Average by JM Addington Technology Solutions in Knoxville, TN
Source: TN Department of Health; Chart by JM Addington

Finally, Knox County itself also remains very stable. More importantly, our hospital system is still within capacity.

By the way, if you want to see the same graphs for your state click here, we pull nearly all of our own visuals from this report. Typically updated at the same time the evening’s post goes up.

Here are GA new cases from about a month ago.

Also, you can do it on your phone but it is much easier to navigate on a bigger screen.

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Other

Thanks to those that have shared kind words or liked these posts. We’re doing out best to put out data-driven analysis, each one of these takes about 2 hours. It’s helpful to know that they are being read.

If you want copies of the Excel sheet and PowerBI Reports we use to put these together email us, info@jmaddington.com. Right now, our PowerBI combines data from NYT, COVID Tracking Project, IMHE and the TN Department of Health. Most sets are updated daily