Tennessee Health Commissioner issues urgent plea to get vaccinated

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey renewed pleas with the public to get vaccinated Monday amid a concerning spike in delta variant COVID-19 cases in the state.

“I want to be crystal clear. The vaccine is the single tool we have to fight COVID-19,” she said.

Piercey clarified the message from the state, which got somewhat lost amid recent political turmoil.

According to Piercey, the delta variant now makes up nearly 90 percent of the Tennessee’s COVID cases.

“If you think back to the winter when we had that big surge in December, January and February, our level of hospitalizations is now where we were in February,” Piercey said.

That comes at a time when students are also returning to classrooms.

“If people are good about wearing their masks, we should be able to keep schools open,” Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Sandra Arnold said.

Arnold said districts should follow CDC guidelines and do all they can to keep kids in the classroom, like require masking.

But Piercey said the state wouldn’t make any mandates and instead left that to district leaders.

In fact, she even disagreed with her boss, Gov. Bill Lee, who removed local authority from most county mayors to put in mandates earlier this year.

“Every individual and every single community can make that decision for themselves,” she said.

Still, there is hope; Piercey said if you want to avoid a serious case, vaccinations are working.

“Our breakthrough rate in Tennessee is 0.18 percent. That is less than .2 percent of all fully-vaccinated Tennesseeans are getting infected,” she said. “Over 93 percent of all cases right now are among the unvaccinated as well as 95 percent of deaths and 90 percent of hospitalizations.”

She also said vaccination rates are up more than 20 percent amid the delta surge.

To get vaccinated, visit https://www.shelby.community/covid-19-vaccine/.

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