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Tennessee’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 infections fell below 1,000 for the first time in 10 months on Thursday.

That average, 947.2, was the lowest since June 29.

Statewide new case totals have been on a slight decline since late February, save for a blip last weekend when a backlog of new case data was added to the Tennessee Department of Health’s tracking system. Since hitting a low point on Feb. 22, the state’s seven-day new case average fell by just over 11%, while total active cases fell by nearly a quarter over the same time.

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Meanwhile, in Northeast Tennessee, the seven-day average started falling about two weeks ago after steady growth from early March to mid-April. Overall, however, the region’s new case rate is still up about 60% from its low point of 65.2 on March 8, though it has fallen by 22.2% in the past two weeks.

Active cases, which numbered 1,436 on Thursday, have also seen a decline over the past two weeks, falling by 13.5% in that time.

Despite the region’s recent downward trends, local health officials continue to caution that COVID-19 remains an emergency here, with new cases and hospitalizations likely stemming from increased circulation of more infectious COVID-19 variants. Ballad Health officials also said they’re seeing sicker patients, with intensive care and ventilator patients accounting for a higher share of total hospitalizations now than at the worst point in its winter surge.

“These variants are also aggressive, and cause concern that we could have additional spread,” said Ballad Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton. “There is this great deal of virus still in our community, and in order for us to curtail it we have to do the things we continue to talk about.

“It’s really important for us to be aware, and although we feel mask mandates will go away, obviously through the orders from the governor and from our local mayors, it’s still important to take personal responsibility to wear a mask appropriately when you’re in large gatherings,” he continued.

Already this week has seen more new reported hospitalizations in Northeast Tennessee than the past two weeks, with the four-day total of 23 reported this week nearly equal to the last two weeks combined (28). Since March 1, weekly hospitalizations have not exceeded 28.

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