NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee continues to be one of the leading states for new COVID infections, according to the CDC, confirming to some the darker days still ahead in the pandemic.
“Look at the proportion of tests that are being done that turn out to be positive statewide that’s hovering at 20 percent or higher. We would like that down less than 5%,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Doctors say the lack of vaccinations is contributing to the state’s ranking as one of the worst in the nation in the spread of COVID-19.
“I’m afraid the fact that we’re leading is a reflection of the fact that we haven’t been vaccinated, we’re having cases that are occurring in the state of Tennessee now at a frequency that rivals the frequency back last December when we had that huge surge,” said Dr. Schaffner.
51% of the state has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, while 43% of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated.
“We’re lagging way behind in vaccinations and as a consequence, our citizens are volunteering to become sick because that’s whose being admitted to the hospital today, unvaccinated people, well over 90% across our state,” Schaffner said.
The COVID crisis and low vaccination rate in Tennessee is also grabbing the attention of the White House.
“It’s not just a number of cases, it’s the impact of those cases on your healthcare system, on your communities on your businesses on your economy — it’s a tremendous ripple effect. So vaccinations is one of our key and critical tools,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, Senior Advisor for Equity on the White House COVID-19 response team.
Senator Jeff Yarbro, a Democrat, says Governor Bill Lee should do more to prevent the spread.
“Nobody wants to repeat what happened last year, nobody wants to see the economy hit like that, nobody wants to see the deaths continue to march higher and higher like they are but it’s going to take someone like the Governor actually stepping up to the plate and leading,” said Yarbro.
But Republican Rep. David Hawk says the governor is balancing the scientific information he’s given and the need for personal responsibility.
“I think the plan on COVID is ever-changing – I think that as the governor gets more information and science becomes available as cases look to be coming down now — I think the plan on COVID will continue to change and evolve as the science evolves,” said Hawk.
Around 6% of hospital ICU beds are available in the state. Tennessee has now surpassed 14,000 COVID deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Over the past weekend, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 15,411 new COVID cases for September 10, the highest single-day increase of new cases since the start of the pandemic.