‘The wrong direction’: TDH reports spike in cases and hospitalizations, expects deaths to follow

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 5:26 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The message from Tennessee’s Health Commissioner is the state is going in the wrong direction when it comes to COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Lisa Piercey gave her first joint press conference on Friday since the start of the surge this month.

Tennessee is averaging more than 700 COVID-19 cases a day. Between Thursday and Friday the state logged more than 1,400 new cases and 15 deaths. A surge in hospitalizations and positivity rates leads the Tennessee Health Commissioner to expect a rise in COVID-19 related deaths.

She said this is all because of the delta variant, which is hitting Memphis and Shelby County particularly hard.

“Here in Tennessee we have had a 200 percent increase in cases since July 1,” Dr. Piercey said.

With no signs of slowing down, the highly contagious delta strain is suspected of being the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Tennessee now. Now, 97 percent of hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated, as well as 98 percent of deaths.

“Bottom line, vaccine is the number one way to protect yourself against the delta variant or any of the variants,” Piercey said.

Piercey said the state’s hospitalizations have increased by more than 300 COVID-19 patients in less than a month. As of now deaths have not seen a major increase, but she and other doctors expect that to happen.

“We are seeing more cases, we are seeing more hospitalizations so it would not be surprising if the death rate did increase,” Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Shirin Mazumder said.

Dr. Mazumder said Methodist Lebonheur Healthcare has nearly 90 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across the network.

The state health department said Shelby County and West Tennessee are getting hit hard by the delta strain. Between Thursday and Friday Shelby County logged 238 new cases.

“That is not surprising to us given the outbreaks occurring in Missouri and Arkansas and the proximity of our west Tennessee citizens to those borders,” Dr. Piercey said.

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