NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Doctors are yet again sounding the COVID alarm. Omicron is rapidly spreading in Tennessee, leading to thousands of reported cases daily.

People are lining up for many reasons to be tested for COVID-19.

“After the holiday, I just feel like it’s probably a good idea, especially if you’re around family and things and then I’m going out of town,” Akeesha Webster said.

But the numbers don’t look great. Tennesseans are returning positive tests around 22% of the time, leading to massive community spread.

“When there is 19%, 20%, 25%, that’s concerning. That means that a quarter of all the people who are going to get tested are actually testing positive,” said Dr. Loren Lipworth, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Tennessee is averaging nearly 4,000 daily cases.

“There’s also a large subset of people who are not getting tested who are also infected with omicron — either vaccinated people who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic — so there’s an additional burden of infection in the community,” Dr. Lipworth added.

With the high case counts, despite some evidence showing milder illness overall with omicron, the unvaccinated could be at risk of getting hospitalized.

“In general, the positive tests always happen early in the disease course and we know it takes a week or sometimes two for you to get severely enough ill if you’re going to — to need the hospital,” said Dr. Todd Rice, a pulmonologist and critical care doctor at Vanderbilt.

Just 51% of Tennessee’s population is fully vaccinated leaving a void for COVID to intensely spread.

“Some of our counties in Tennessee have vaccination rates as low as 30% or 35%. That means that 75% of the people in those counties who are at this moment highly susceptible to this highly transmissible variant are also at risk for severe disease which, ultimately in some of those people, leads to death,” Dr. Lipworth said.

The Memphis region is reporting its highest case count since its peak in September.

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