Health commissioner: Vaccine the best tool to fight COVID

Lisa Piercey

Vaccinations remain the best tool to fight COVID-19 as cases surge across the state, Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Monday. More than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Tennessee are among the unvaccinated, and 90 percent of hospitalizations are, Piercey told reporters.

“The vaccine is the single best tool we have to fight COVID-19,” Piercey said.

Driven by the delta variant, cases in Tennessee have surged from a few hundred per day about a month ago to an average of almost 1,900 per day. Following the increase in cases, hospitalizations have risen from a few hundred at one time to more than 1,000 now. They haven’t been that high since February, after the winter peak in December and January, Piercey said.

“That is clearly the wrong direction,” she said.

She said the vast majority of those who are in the hospital, 90 percent, are unvaccinated. The unvaccinated make up even higher percentages of new COVID-19 cases and deaths in Tennessee: more than 93 percent of new cases and 95 percent of deaths.

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Anderson County has 219 COVID-19 cases, with 101 active

Anderson County now has more than 200 total COVID-19 cases, and more than 100 are active. The chart above by the Tennessee Department of Health shows new cases in Anderson County through Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

Anderson County now has more than 200 total COVID-19 cases, and more than 100 are active.

The county reported 219 total COVID-19 cases and 101 active cases on Tuesday. Active cases are total cases minus recoveries and deaths.

The number of total cases has more than doubled since July 2, less than two weeks ago, and the number of active cases has about tripled since then.

Total cases measure how many residents have been infected. Active cases measure patients who have survived and might still have symptoms or are within 21 days of their first diagnosis.

The hospitalizations in Anderson County have not increased as fast as the new cases. On July 2, there were 10 total hospitalizations in Anderson County due to COVID-19. On Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported there have been 14 total hospitalizations in Anderson County. It’s not clear how many of those patients remain in the hospital.

The number of deaths has remained unchanged since June 4, when the second death due to COVID-19 was reported in Anderson County.

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Updated: State reports new daily high in COVID cases

This COVID-19 dashboard by the Tennessee Department of Health is through Saturday, June 27, 2020.

Note: This story was last updated at 2:30 p.m. June 28.

Tennessee reported about 1,400 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a new daily high, and the state passed 40,000 total cases on Saturday.

There were 1,410 new cases reported Friday. Of those, 1,396 were new confirmed cases, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Fourteen were new probable cases.

The previous high was 1,188 new cases a week earlier, on June 19.

Seven of the state’s top 10 highest new daily case counts have been in the past two weeks. Five of them have been in the past five days.

The number of cases increased by 728 on Saturday, pushing the total to 40,172. Of those cases, 39,848 were confirmed, and 324 were probable.

The number of cases in Anderson County rose by one to 90 on Saturday. The day before, on Friday, the case count went up by eight, the highest increase in the county. Previously, the largest daily increase had been five.

While the hospitalization rate has fallen across the state, the number of current hospitalizations has increased during the past few weeks from 391 on Friday, June 12, to 484 on Thursday, June 25.

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Tennessee reports new daily high in COVID-19 cases

A chart of daily new COVID-19 cases in Tennessee through Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Chart courtesy Ken Mayes, used with permission)

Note: This story was last updated at 12:30 p.m.

Tennessee reported 1,188 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, a new daily high, and the state passed 500 confirmed deaths on Saturday, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

The new high in daily new cases occurred in the same week that the state reported what are now its third- and sixth-highest totals of new cases in one day: 885 on Sunday, June 14, and 726 on Monday, June 15.

Of the 1,188 new cases reported Friday, the state said 1,181 were new confirmed cases and seven were new probable cases.

The previous daily high was 1,156 on May 1. That was reported after a large number of new cases was diagnosed at Turner Trousdale Correctional Center, according to Nashville investigative reporter Phil Williams.

It’s not clear why there was a new high on Friday. There was a large number of new tests reported, 15,176. But the rate of positive results, 7.8 percent (comparing total new cases to total new tests), was in the range of the rate for the rest of the week, when the positive rate ranged between 4.9 percent and 8.8 percent.

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COVID-19 cases pass 10,000

Image courtesy Tennessee Department of Health

Note: This story was updated at 5:45 p.m.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Tennessee passed 10,000 on Tuesday.

The number of new cases reported fell to 134. That was just a 1.4 percent daily increase in COVID-19 cases, the lowest percentage increase going back to at least March 20.

It came just two days after the biggest one-day increase. On Sunday, 478 new COVID-19 cases were reported, the most new cases reported in one day in Tennessee.

But Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey has urged residents to not focus too much on the daily variations in the number of cases. People should instead focus on trends, Piercey said.

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Curve flattening: Growth rate of COVID-19 cases in single digits

Graph, using a logarithmic scale, by Ken Mayes (used with permission)

The growth rate of COVID-19 cases in Tennessee has been in single digits for eight days and at or below 10 percent for two weeks.

This week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said the single-digit growth rate is encouraging.

“Our curve is flattening,” Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said during a press conference Monday. She said people need to continue doing what they are doing, especially as the state considers re-opening the economy in phases in May.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Lee said during that press conference. He said the state doesn’t intend to lift social distancing efforts, even if other requirements change.

“Social distancing is going to be a way of life for Tennesseans going forward,” Lee said. That will be true until there is a vaccine, he said.

On Monday, the governor announced a statewide stay-at-home order would be extended through April 30. On Wednesday, he recommended that schools in Tennessee remain closed though the end of the school year.

In the most recent update, from Wednesday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 6,079 COVID-19 cases in Tennessee with 135 deaths. There have been 663 hospitalizations and 2,196 recoveries.

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Governor announces free COVID-19 testing

Bill Lee

Note: This story was last updated at 6:55 p.m.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Wednesday announced that free COVID-19 testing will be available to any Tennessee resident, regardless of whether they have the traditional symptoms: fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

It’s a significant expansion of what the state has been doing, including of the testing criteria and testing sites and dates, said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. She said access is being expanded to the uninsured.

“If you think you need a test, we will test you,” Piercey said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference about the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our clinical understanding of COVID-19 is changing rapidly, and we need every Tennessean who isn’t feeling well, even outside of the traditional COVID-19 symptoms of cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, to come out and get tested.”

Lee said those who might want to get tested include those who aren’t feeling well and those who have come into contact with someone who has had COVID-19.

“We need every Tennesseean who isn’t feeling well to understand that they have access to testing,” Lee said. “When in doubt, get a test.”

COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness that can be deadly.

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Number of COVID-19 cases jumps to 154 in Tennessee

Image courtesy Tennessee Department of Health/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Note: After this story was published, the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Anderson County.

This story was last updated at 11:55 p.m.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Tennessee jumped to 154 on Thursday, up from 98 on Wednesday.

That’s a 57 percent increase in one day, the largest day-to-day increase. The increase is due to more tests being available, said Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health.

There are 15 hospitalizations but no deaths, Piercey said.

The contagious respiratory illness is now in 17 counties, but about half of the cases are in Davidson County, which includes Nashville, in Middle Tennessee.

The total number of cases could be higher because there could be cases that have not yet been reported to the Tennessee Department of Health, which releases its state total at 2 p.m. each day. For example, a COVID-19 case confirmed in Anderson County on Thursday afternoon is not yet included in the state total.

Piercey said the state is still struggling to get some supplies in some areas, particularly personal protective equipment, but there are efforts that could help supply items like masks, according to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

For screening for testing, the state is giving priority to health care workers, people over 65 years old, and those who are hospitalized.

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Updated: City prepares for coronavirus as first case reported in Tennessee

Note: This story was last updated at 5:45 p.m.

Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson on Tuesday outlined preparations in the city for a potential coronavirus outbreak. Two days later, on Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee reported that the first case of coronavirus, which has spread across the globe, has been confirmed in the state.

In Oak Ridge, Watson said, there is initial public safety planning to identify local efforts to protect residents, and local officials are communicating with schools and hospitals. The Anderson County Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Health are in frequent contact with the city, Watson said.

Procedures that are in place under the city’s emergency operations manuals are being adapted to account for the effects of viruses such as the coronavirus, and protocols and procedures are being established for city employees who will be in contact with potential infections, Watson said.

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