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The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed 8,726 cases of COVID-19 across the state, up 460 cases from the number on Thursday afternoon. This marks the third day in a row Tennessee saw a daily increase above 400 cases, but state health officials contend they are still seeing a 14-day downward growth projection of average cases over time.

Nearly 6,000 tests were processed and reported during the past 24 hours, bringing the statewide total to more than 131,000 people tested — nearly one for every 52 Tennessee residents. 

Across the state, 808 individuals have been hospitalized and 168 people have died. Those numbers are up 15 and down two (the death toll somehow decreased on Friday), respectively, in the past 24 hours.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Friday updated its state COVID-19 model, offering scenarios of the virus’ spread under loosened social distancing precautions based on how the transmission rate changes over time.

The model says the transmission rate in the state right now is 1.0 — meaning a person infected passed the virus on to only one other person, a significant milestone in reducing the pandemic — but could change over time as businesses reopen, yielding more human-to-human contact.

In the model's worst-case scenario, a transmission rate of 1.5 after loosened restrictions, more than 1,000 concurrent hospitalizations could happen in a matter of 48 days. In a more optimistic scenario, if Tennessee residents are able to maintain a transmission rate below 1.0, the state would be able to remain open through the end of the year without triggering the same hospitalization metric. In a report released today, the modeling team wrote:

The chart shows that the longer social distancing is continued, and the more transmission of the virus is reduced, the longer the economy could stay open before overburdening the state’s hospitals and risking the health of all Tennesseans who might need care, not just those suffering from COVID-19. The only scenario in which this does not occur is the one in which the transmission number stays at or below 1.0 after the Safer at Home order is lifted. While it is currently unknown exactly how much the transmission number will change as “Safer at Home” protocols are eased, we do know that the number of social contacts among Tennesseans will increase—even if certain aspects of physical distancing at businesses, mask-wearing and hygiene practices continue.

Gov. Bill Lee laid out guidance on Friday for restaurants and retail stores as they open on Monday at limited capacity as part of the first phase of the rest of the state's reopening plan.

HCA joins plasma study

The biggest name in Nashville health care has joined a Mayo Clinic-led study into how plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 might help those still fighting the illness.

HCA Healthcare executives on Friday said 172 of their hospitals in 20 states as well as their Sarah Cannon Research Institute division are taking part in the national study of convalescent plasma. Locally, Ascension Saint Thomas also is part of the research effort, which also is being supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We are aggressively working with our research partners to assess a variety of clinical studies for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19,” said Skip Burris, president of clinical operations and CMO at Sarah Cannon Research Institute. “The convalescent plasma study is focused on treating patients currently facing severe cases of COVID-19, by arming their immune systems with plasma that is rich in virus-fighting antibodies from individuals who have recently recovered.”

AB manager leads local Frontline Foods work

People looking to help local health care workers have a new outlet in the form of a local chapter of Frontline Foods, the organization partnering with chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen nonprofit in more than 45 cities to deliver meals to health care facilities.

Leading the way for Frontline Foods locally is Jon Kobets, an equity product manager at AllianceBernstein. Through contacts in New York, Kobets — whose wife is a doctor at Saint Thomas West — teamed up with a few other locals interested in Frontline to raise funding and connect struggling restaurants with local health care professionals.

The Frontline Nashville team has raised more than $16,000 and either delivered or scheduled some 600 meals. Among the restaurants they’ve worked with are Urban Grub, 5th & Taylor, Vui’s Kitchen and Edley’s.

This post originally appeared in our sister publication, the Nashville Post

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