City "working its tail off" in COVID-19 fight
An Omicron variant-fueled surge is pummeling Nashville and ushering in a new year of uncertainty.
- Alex Jahangir, who chairs the city's pandemic response task force, tells Axios the rising numbers "do give me concern."
By the numbers: COVID-19 has skyrocketed in the final days of December, with 11,379 active cases logged in Nashville Friday — more than any other point in the pandemic.
- About one in five tests reported in Nashville last week came back positive, according to the latest data.
Why it matters: The spike is driving worries that the city's health care system could be pushed to a breaking point.
Driving the news: On Dec. 13, Metro conducted 200 combined tests at its two drive-thru testing sites. By Dec. 28, that number ballooned to 2,297.
- Jahangir says the city opened up more lanes at its testing sites and that the city is "working its tail off" pondering more pop-up testing, longer testing hours and possibly opening a third testing station.
Context: Vanderbilt University Medical Center infectious disease expert William Schaffner tells Axios the surge illustrates the power of vaccines. Vaccinated people are much more likely to avoid hospitalization and death.
- More than 62% of Nashvillians are fully vaccinated. The statewide vaccination rate is about 51%.
- There were 228 COVID-related hospitalizations in Nashville Friday, well below the peak a year ago.
What he's saying: "If we could clearly get the unvaccinated persons into the vaccinated group, then much of the strain on our health care system could be relieved," Schaffner says.
Zoom out: Experts believe the fast-moving Omicron surge could peak as soon as this month. Schaffner says he is still "cautiously optimistic" that scientific developments could move us beyond the "pandemic phase" of the fight against COVID in 2022.
- Even so, COVID will remain a long-term problem that could be complicated by other new variants.
- "COVID will not disappear, and we will have to pay attention to it," Schaffner says.
- "This is not like a tornado. It's not going to suddenly be over. We'll have to continue to cope."
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