Gov. Lee: ‘No real concern’ over highly contagious Delta COVID variant, despite cases popping up in Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, Tenn., (WKRN) – The CDC is warning southern states, including Tennessee, about the threat of the highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant closely identified first in India that led to mass cremations and burials.

The variant, also identified as B.1.617.2, is already spreading rapidly in the UK.

The Tennessee Department of Health has identified 13 cases of the Delta variant that ravaged India and now the CDC and local doctors are sounding the alarm.

“It spread because it’s so easy to spread this virus, so what’s there — wherever there is — could come here right in our own backyard,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt infectious diseases expert.

Schaffner is echoing the warning from the CDC now that the delta variant makes up about 6% of all COVID cases in the U.S.

“What we know about this delta variant is, as I suggested, more transmissible, and while our vaccines still work against it, we have less cushion of protection against the delta variant than we have against the wild type,” said CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Governor Bill Lee, who has maintained that the COVID-19 crisis is over, said there’s ‘no real concern’ right now over the deadly virus.

“We obviously will always look for changes but as we see it now, the health crisis that we have is no longer a crisis we have a health situation that we are managing,” Lee said.

Nashville Democrat, Rep. John Ray Clemmons said the governor is failing to lead.

“This battle is not over, this virus, it still exists in our community, it’s still hospitalizing individuals in our community, it threatens our communities and now it’s starting to evolve, we’re starting to see these variants manifest itself throughout our state,” he said.

Doctors say the best way to prevent the rapid spread of the virus is to get vaccinated to limit the virus’s ability to replicate.

“Why are we so vulnerable because we are one of the states that has a very low vaccination rate, we’re kinda at the bottom of the list, close to it, and so we still have many, many people who are susceptible to this virus and could harbor the virus and become sick,” Schaffner said.

Currently, 34.3% of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated.

Schaffer, who is also the current medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said 75 to 80% of people hospitalized with coronavirus are unvaccinated.

About 25% of them are partially vaccinated. The rest is undetermined.

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