NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – There is some positive news in the state’s response to COVID-19.
News 2 reported a month ago, Tennessee ranked the No. 1 worst state for new COVID cases in the country. A new report shows the state is now ranked ninth on that list.
While this may seem like good news, Middle Tennessee doctors are warning this is not a cause for celebration with the availability of ICU beds being very slim.
In the latest report from the White House Coronavirus Taskforce obtained by ABC News, Tennessee continues to be in the red zone for positive cases. The CDC ranks the state the ninth highest for average daily cases in 7 days.
“I don’t think of it much as a lower ranking, ninth,” explained Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “[I] still see us at the high level of states reflecting the fact that this virus, this COVID virus is still being transmitted very very frequently.”
In the Whitehouse report, officials say “the COVID-19 pandemic spread is unyielding in Tennessee,” and although vaccine distribution is underway, it “will not immediately stop this current wave.”
“Certainly here, we are very very tight. Our intensive care units are full; we don’t want to see any more patients,” said Dr. Schaffner.
It’s a reality felt by nurses working on the front lines. In a Facebook video, Allie Santuallo, a Vanderbilt ICU nurse, fights back tears as she pleads with the public to take more precautions against spreading the virus.
“So many people come through these doors and they don’t make it out the other side,” Santuallo says in the video. “If you could, do anything for your family members to keep them safe. Please, please, please wear your mask, social distance when you can [and] avoid large gatherings.”
The task force reported this current fall and winter surge has been at “nearly twice the rate” compared to the spring and summer months. Dr. Schaffner warns this is only the start of the holiday surge.
“Undoubtedly, undoubtedly, not only did we have people traveling, but also gathering together for prolonged periods of time […] an excellent way to have transmitted this virus,” said Dr. Schaffner.
Schaffner says vaccination will be key in bringing case numbers down; those who do get the vaccine are 90 percent less likely to get the virus.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.