Sep 30, 2021 - Health

COVID eases its grip on Tennessee

Illustration of a COVID case wheel

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Tennessee's top health official, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, told reporters Wednesday she is "cautiously optimistic" that the state was easing out of its latest COVID-19 surge.

By the numbers: Tennessee had a rolling seven-day average of 3,526 cases Tuesday, down from an average of 9,411 on Sept. 11.

Why it matters: The state's health care system was at a breaking point at the height of the latest surge, when earlier this month Tennessee topped the nation in new COVID cases per capita. Cases trending down could offer the health system some much-needed relief.

The latest: Piercey said the decline in demand coupled with an increase in supply kept the state from having to prioritize access to antibody treatments.

Yes, but: Low vaccination rates could keep downward trends from falling too far, one expert told Axios.

  • "This is not mission accomplished time," said William Schaffner, an infectious disease authority at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
  • Low vaccination rates in Tennessee could lead to a period of "smoldering transmission," with continued spread keeping trendlines from bottoming out like they might elsewhere, Schaffner said.

For the record: Only 46% of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated, according to state data.

  • Piercey said boosting that number continues to be the state's priority.
  • She also expects to see children ages 5-11 become eligible for the Pfizer vaccine in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile: Pfizer booster shots are now widely available to adults across Tennessee. By Wednesday, the state reported more than 108,000 third doses had been administered.

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