NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey provided a COVID-19 update as the state set another hospitalizations record for the second straight day.
Piercey gave the update Thursday during Gov. Bill Lee's media availability at the Capitol, saying the state's hospitals are in "dire straits" amid this surge, which is mostly among the unvaccinated.
She said the state's hospital capacity hit 3,500 on Wednesday, which exceeds the wintertime peak of 3,300. ICU cases are now 25% higher than the winter peak, and the state's ventilator usage is 40% higher than in the winter.
Piercey said hospitals in West Tennessee, while still critically full, are starting to see a leveling off, which she said makes sense given the proximity to states like Mississippi and Missouri. However, hospitals in Middle and East Tennessee are now starting to feel the strain that Memphis-area hospitals have been experiencing.
She said the Tennessee National Guard has been deployed to 16 hospitals statewide, and they have released $10 million in funding to help hospitals with staffing.
"Get vaccinated now."
To help mitigate the strain on hospitals, Piercey said, “if you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated now.” She said close to 90% of all COVID patients are not vaccinated.
Another way to help hospitals is to not go to the emergency room unless you have an emergency. Piercey recommended using an urgent care, health department clinic or your family doctor instead.
She also emphasized the importance of checking on monoclonal antibodies as soon as you test positive. She said they're starting to administer that therapy in outpatient settings now, and kids over 12 can receive it, especially if they are high risk.
Piercey said case numbers are still rising, with the state averaging about 7,700 new cases per-day.
However, Piercey did say that vaccine uptick continues to increase across the state, across all ages -- with the biggest increase in ages 12-15 and 16-20. She highlighted Van Buren and Hancock Counties, who have seen vaccinations increase by 70% and 50%, respectively, in the last seven days.
Today's update comes after overnight data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows there are now 3,501 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Tennessee. That's an increase of 160 patients from a day earlier, the largest one-day increase of the pandemic.
Of those, 968 are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Seventy-nine of those hospitalized are pediatric patients.
This is the second day of record-setting hospitalization numbers. On Wednesday, the state reported 3,338 COVID-19 patients were being hospitalized. The previous record was set in January.
* Phil Williams contributed to this report.