More than 500 Blount Countians tested positive for COVID-19 between Nov. 16-19, Tennessee Department of Health data shows.

Wednesday, Nov. 18 saw 170 new COVID-19 cases — a high that’s happened only once before when the Blount County Correctional Facility had an outbreak in late August.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing increasing cases across the region and state,” TDH spokeswoman Corie Gouge emailed. “While our team has been working through a small backlog of lab reports, they are largely from the last 24-48 hours.”

The COVID-19 increase has stretched to Blount Memorial Hospital, which as of 2 p.m. Nov. 19 had 48 patients hospitalized with the virus.

Thursday’s number was down slightly from the hospital’s peak of 51 COVID-19 inpatients on Wednesday, Nov. 18, BMH Public Relations Director Jennie Bounds said.

“The number of cases that we’re seeing in Blount County continues to increase at a more rapid rate than that of our state and nation,” BMH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Harold Naramore emailed. “We’re seeing that the virus is now spreading quickly among family members and other close contacts. As the weather cools and people are letting their guard down — and their masks — around family and close friends.”

Naramore said though he expected this rise to come after Thanksgiving. Even so, he said BMH stands prepared for the influx.

Further, he said it is of paramount importance to stay vigilant with preventative measures during the holidays.

“We know you’re tired of hearing it and making changes to the way you live. We are too, as health care workers,” Naramore said. “But right now, especially in the next 90 days, it’s not the time to quit and it’s not the time to drop your guard. We need to continue working together to stop the spread of the virus.”

Follow @sshreports on Twitter for more from county government reporter Shelby Harris.

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