KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County’s Advisory Board of Health met on Wednesday night as the omicron variant of COVID-19 has likely become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Tennessee.
Board members spent a little less than an hour talking about the new variant, home self tests and leadership at the county health department.
“Many individuals, both vaccinated and not, are likely to be infected with omicron in the coming weeks, and boosters are the best protection to avoid it altogether,” said Dr. James Shamiyeh, senior vice president at UT Medical Center. “Those who have not been vaccinated are, we’re hearing and we believe, are at significant risk in the coming weeks for more severe disease.”
The board of health broke down what omicron means for Knoxville as it sweeps across the country.
“The good news is that the basics haven’t changed,” said Dr. Martha Buchanan of the Knox County Health Department. “Vaccinations are effective. Mask wearing is effective. Hand washing has worked for a really long time and still works, and staying home if you’re sick is effective.
“So even though it’s harder to predict, the rules of human behavior and what we need to do and not do to protect ourselves are the same,”
Just like in meetings past, Wednesday night’s also included several slides of data. One looked at how the pandemic has played out in Knox County and where we stand right now.
“Our cases have increased slightly over the last several weeks but it is manageable, it’s something that we’ve expected. We’re not really seeing a surge at this time, but that’s not to say that that’s not out of the realm of possibilities,” said Roberta Sturm with KCHD.
The meeting came just days before many plan to gather and celebrate Christmas. The board chairman passed along some advice.
“Number one, make sure that we are vaccinated,” said Dr. Jack Gotcher. “Number two, it’s always possible with home self tests to have everybody self test if we’re going to be gathering in close proximity. Those are some simple things that could help keep that spread down as we go into the holiday season.”
Also at the meeting, a Knox County spokesperson said the mayor’s office is conducting a nationwide search for new leadership at the health department. Earlier in the year, Buchanan announced her resignation. The spokesperson said he thinks it’ll be fall before they’re able to fill her position.