Middle Tennessee hospitals: If increase in COVID patients continues, hospitals could become overwhelmed

Urge for small gatherings, mask wearing during holidays
Posted at 1:07 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 14:14:45-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Middle Tennessee hospitals have written an open letter to Tennesseans, urging everyone to help fight the spread of COVID-19 as Thanksgiving and the holiday season approach.

The letter, which is dated Tuesday, says daily new cases, transmission rates and hospitalizations have now surpassed the July levels and makes this second wave bigger and deadlier than the first.

“This is why we have come together to urge all Tennesseans in the strongest terms to fight community spread and flatten the curve of this virus. We will accomplish this by limiting the size of formal and informal gatherings and by wearing masks. These are science-based and proven measures that will slow the spread of the virus,” the letter said in part. Click here to read the letter in full.

Currently, there are more than 700 patients in Middle Tennessee hospitals with COVID-19 – the most since the pandemic began in March. The letter says that’s a 72% increase since November 1.

Health experts say models are forecasting a 10% increase in COVID-19 patients by the end of next week. If this trend continues, they say “hospital systems could soon be overwhelmed, and that would compromise the ability to serve all patients, not just those with COVID-19.”

Hospitals are experiencing staff shortages due to the increase in patients and the absence of health care workers who have either contracted the virus or are in quarantine.

On Monday, Tennessee issued a new call for volunteers to help out in area hospitals as they deal with the growing strain of the pandemic.


See all our coronavirus coverage here


What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.