NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Lee was on hand for the grand opening of the new Lodge at Fall Creek Falls in Spencer and took questions after the ribbon cutting on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tennessee.

“We’re in a really different spot in the pandemic than we’ve been in a couple years,” Lee said. “We’re watching it; we’re tracking it. We’re encouraged about some parts of it.”

One of those parts, Lee said, is hospitalizations.

“Very encouraging news, in the current surge, hospitalizations do not equate in the same way that they did to numbers of cases. That’s a good thing,” Lee said.

Early evidence shows the omicron variant, now the dominant strain in Tennessee, is less severe, which could mean fewer hospitalizations than during previous COVID spikes. Although, hospital admissions of COVID-positive patients have sharply increased since Christmas, up 75%.

Only 9% of hospital beds are open statewide, but cases needing a ventilator have slightly risen. However, nearly three-quarters of adult ventilators are available.

“We just are going to watch this going forward and continue to encourage people to protect themselves, get their vaccines get their boosters,” Lee said.

The state’s COVID omnibus legislation does allow some local governments to enact mask mandates if case rates reach a threshold now seen in more than 25 Tennessee counties, including Davidson. But a state of emergency would have to be declared first.

“We’re not in spot where we believe that a state of emergency is necessary, but nothing’s off the table. We track it all the time,” Lee said.