As summer winds down, COVID-19 remains top concern for Tennessee leaders

State averaging 7,700 new cases a day
Published: Sep. 4, 2021 at 2:18 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With summer winding down, COVID-19 remains a top concern for many across Tennessee.

The state set a pandemic record this week for the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

“Our hospitals are in dire straits,” said Tennessee health commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.

Piercey said some Memphis and west Tennessee hospitals are starting to see hospitalizations level off a bit, but cautioned that hospitals, especially in Middle and East Tennessee, are still very busy.

Piercey says close to 90 percent of those hospitalized across the state are unvaccinated.

Piercey says the state is averaging close to 7,700 new cases a day with 38.5 percent of new cases among children.

Tennessee now leads the nation in COVID-19 cases per capita, according to the CDC.

“That makes us all very concerned and we’re particularly interested in the health and well-being of our children,” said Gov. Bill Lee.

But how to protect children remains a topic of heated debate.

On Friday, a federal judge temporarily blocked Lee’s executive order, which allowed parents to opt their kids out of Shelby County’s mask mandate.

U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman, who is hearing a lawsuit against Lee’s order brought by two Shelby County families, ordered Shelby County to enforce its mask mandate without exception to Lee’s order.

The judge’s order is temporary and only applies to schools in Shelby County until at least Sept. 17.

But it brought great relief to some parents like Chelsea Glass, who favors masks.

“I’m feeling relieved, but I know that the fight’s not over,” said Glass.

The governor’s office hasn’t commented on the judge’s ruling but on Thursday, Lee made clear he doesn’t intend to rescind his executive order despite heavy criticism and requests from doctors and nurses.

“We do think the strategy we’re taking is the one that’s the way forward, that best navigates the circumstances we’re in,” said Lee.

School districts across Shelby County say they will enforce the judge’s order come Tuesday, requiring their students to wear a mask unless they meet a CDC health exemption.

On the vaccine front, Dr. Piercey says vaccinations are increasing across all age groups.

Piercey said the biggest increases are coming from teens and young adults.

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