NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — During the first live briefing in nearly six months, Nashville Mayor John Cooper and Metro health leaders urged vaccination and booster shots to combat the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.
Watch the full briefing below:
"If you are fully vaccinated and have received a booster, and you then contract COVID, you will very likely experience illness that is much less severe. The vaccine and the all-important booster gives us a way to manage this surge and move forward with our lives," Cooper said.
The mayor said 62.9% of Nashvillians are fully vaccinated, in line with the national average but more than 11% higher than the state's vaccination rate. However, only about 39% of those vaccinated have received a booster shot.
The latest data from the city says the moving average of new COVID-19 cases as of January 1 was 1,100, up significantly from December 19 when the average was 194.1. Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of Metro's coronavirus taskforce, said right now, one out of every 33 Nashvillians are actively infected with COVID-19.
Active cases in Davidson County have hit record highs since the start of the new year, reaching 22,776 on January 9. Jahangir said during the delta variant surge, there were at most 8,500 active cases.
Jahangir added that the number of new and active cases is most likely underreported due to at-home testing.
"As many people who have tested positive may have done so at home using an at-home kit and these numbers aren’t necessarily reported to us," he said.
The recent surge in new cases across the country is fueled by the omicron variant, causing rising numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations in 46 states, including Tennessee.
In Nashville area hospitals, there are currently 707 COVID-19 patients, 165 of which, about 23%, are in the ICU. Jahangir said that about 90 days ago, the most patients seen in a single day was 457, 163 of which, 36%, were in the ICU. This means the percentage of patients in the ICU is currently less than the area has historically seen.
"Even though this variant may cause a smaller percentage of infected people to be hospitalized because of the virus, there are a lot more actively infected people than ever before. And thus, a smaller percentage of a really large number is still a lot of people filling up our hospitals," Jahangir said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said those who are unvaccinated and test positive are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized.
It's important to note Metro Nashville's two major testing and vaccination sites — the drive-thru sites operated by Meharry Medical College — were shut down Thursday through Saturday because of the winter weather. They will be opening Monday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Metro plans to expand testing by operating the 28th Avenue N. location on Saturdays during the month of January.