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TDH changing daily COVID data recording in new age of pandemic

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 8:26 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The omicron variant has thrown more hurdles at the pandemic than originally expected.

While being the most contagious variant of COVID-19 to date, monoclonal antibodies, the popular treatment against the virus, are proving to be less effective against omicron.

With the rise in popularity of home tests, health officials are also having a hard time getting a full grasp of just how many new cases are occurring in a day.

Wednesday, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said findings within the last few days say of the three popular monoclonal antibody treatments, only one is effective against the highly contagious omicron strain.

“The next piece of bad news is that supply is extraordinarily limited,” Piercey said.

The effective monoclonal antibody treatment is sotrovimab. The state has 810 doses of that treatment. It expects more in January but has not gotten an exact date.

Now, Piercey said the omicron variant makes up at least 80 percent of COVID-19 cases in Tennessee.

“It would be completely normal for you to think, wait just a minute, you just told me last week you had four cases in the state and now you’re telling me it’s the predominant variant? That’s how fast this thing is spreading,” Piercey said.

Tennessee went from averaging about 1,000 cases a day earlier this month to now more than 2,200 a day.

In this new age of the pandemic, Piercey said the rise in popularity of home tests is starting to prevent health officials from getting an exact total of new cases, as most results are not reported to health officials.

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) said it will start changing the way it releases COVID-19 data, going from daily reports of case numbers to weekly in the new year.

“So, it really is irrelevant if the number today is 300 or 400 higher than yesterday or lower than yesterday,” Piercey said. “What we want to look at is trends over time. Weekly reporting allows us to do that.”

The department also plans to only account for positive PCR tests in its weekly positivity rates.

Even with the possibility of many tests not being reported, in Shelby County, we are now averaging about 350 COVID-19 cases a day. Two weeks ago that number was 130.

At her year-end report, Piercey said now, more than 20,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the state since the start of the pandemic.

Currently, there are just over 18,000 deaths reported, but Piercey said because of a backlog of data from the delta surge and the implementation of new guidelines to speed up death reporting, the state now has its new total of deaths of 20,644 as of Monday.

A pandemic proves time and time again how unpredictable it can be.

To find out more resources about COVID-19, plus a list of vaccination locations, click here.

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