Tennessee health commissioner declines questions about Delta variant cases

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — There’s been an elevated warning from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, now labeling the Delta variant of COVID-19 a “variant of concern.”

President Joe Biden’s administration is taking an all hands on deck approach to encourage more people to get vaccinated especially in the South where the rate remains low.

For weeks the White House has warned Tennessee and other states about the potential consequences of low vaccination rates.

“We’re already seeing data come in showing that in areas with high rates of vaccination — the virus is in retreat and in areas with low rate of vaccinations there’s more and more infections happening,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said.

Tennessee and other southern states like Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia , Alabama and Mississippi rank among the lowest in the country for vaccination rates.

Just a rate of 35.2 percent of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated.

“When you talk about these variants like the Delta variant, which can spread more easily and is even more dangerous, we know that we’ve gotta act quickly to defend ourselves to protect our communities,” Buttigieg said.

Governor Bill Lee has said the COVID-19 crisis is over and has left the Tennessee Department of Health in charge.

There have been 18 cases of the Delta, B.1.617.2 COVID-19 variant in Tennessee.

“You can’t show up and do this,” a News 2 crew was told at the Department of Health as they attempted to question Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.

News 2 has made multiple requests over the last two weeks to talk to Piercey.

“Things are improving, because of the vaccine we’re able to get back to more of a normal life where fewer places where we’re expected to wear mask, restaurants opening, travel becoming more normal—all of that is thanks to the vaccinations — if we want to fully be back to normal and be safe and save American lives, we’ve got to go the distance,” Buttigieg said.

The Biden administration plans to send Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff to Memphis later this week in an effort to convince more southerners to get vaccinated.

The vaccines have shown effectiveness towards new variants of COVID-19 so far.

Governor Lee’s office did not comment on the Biden administration’s push to get people vaccinated.

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