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Tennessee COVID-19 Numbers Are Much Better, But Still Bad

Stephen Jerkins | WPLN

Nearly every state in the country is now seeing sustained improvement in their pandemic metrics. Tennessee, which was leading the nation in new cases in December, has seen an even more dramatic drop than most.

Epidemiologists say there’s not a single explanation for the rapid gains. It’s unclear how much is related to vaccinations. Researcher Melissa McPheeters of Vanderbilt University Medical Center says that at least in Tennessee, it’s likely that people were scared back into social distancing and masking after the state’s post-Thanksgiving surge.

“We know that people pay attention to those trends, and they do modify their behavior in response,” she says. “So that’s great, and I hope that tells us that people know what to do when they need to do it.”

Hospitalizations in Tennessee, which tend to lag a surge in new cases by several weeks, have dropped by more than half since their high point on Jan. 6. They’re at their lowest point since mid-November, but still above 1,200, which was the original threshold for concern in the pandemic’s early going.

Credit TN Department of Health
Hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 have fallen quickly since hitting a high point on January 6.

  New cases in Davidson County and statewide have fallen back to levels seen in early November.

One indicator is still taking time to turn around. In Tennessee, like much of the country, January was the deadliest month of the pandemic so far. On one day last week, an all-time high of 192 deaths were reported in Tennessee. Nearly 10,000 Tennesseans have died so far, with many more fatalities expected.

“I think we need to be careful and not rest on our laurels, especially as we start to hear of the new mutants, the new variants, that are popping up in different places across the country,” McPheeters says.

A more contagious variant has been confirmed in Tennessee, though Nashville officials have not yet reported a case.

McPheeters notes that Tennessee has seen steep declines before, only to have COVID come back stronger than ever.


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