TN health commissioner says omicron wave starting to plateau

Published: Jan. 22, 2022 at 3:52 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee’s top health official says the omicron surge is plateauing and declining in certain parts of the state, including Memphis.

But there are other areas in Tennessee where the virus continues to spread at an alarming rate.

Over the past three weeks, the Shelby County Health Department has reported a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases.

The seven-day rolling average is now down to 1,545, the lowest since late December.

And the decline in cases is not limited to Shelby County.

Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey says infections from the omicron variant are also leveling off in other parts of the state, suggesting the fast-spreading variant may be starting to run out of people to infect.

“We are starting to plateau and starting to drop off in our metro areas, so that is a good sign,” said Piercey.

Piercey told state lawmakers cases haven’t yet leveled off in rural areas.

For instance, while the weekly positive rate in Shelby County has fallen to 35.2%, it remains at 41.3% in Tipton County and 41.2% in Fayette County, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health.

“Our rural areas aren’t quite there yet,” said Piercey. “But historically speaking, whenever we’ve seen these patterns with case trends, the rural areas generally follow in a week or two, sometimes three weeks later.”

Hospitalizations have also started to plateau in cities like Memphis, but the number of people hospitalized remains relatively high.

Hospitalizations also remain at or near record levels in Arkansas and Mississippi.

That’s why public officials and health leaders continue to urge people to get vaccinated and boosted.

Barbara Hagee rolled up her sleeves Saturday and got her booster shot at a popup vaccine clinic in Raleigh.

“It was good. It was great. It didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel anything,” she said.

She says part of the reason why she wanted to get boosted was to protect her granddaughter, who has cystic fibrosis.

“So we’re very cautious about keeping ourselves [safe], no viruses, anything that we could possibly attach to her, so we’re doing what we can,” said Hagee.

As previous waves have shown, COVID-19 can be unpredictable, which is why health leaders want people to protect themselves and others.

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