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Nashville walk-in clinic reaches capacity due to surge in COVID-19 testing

Walk-in patients turned away
Posted at 6:48 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 19:48:12-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Hospitals aren't the only healthcare facilities overwhelmed because of COVID-19. Now, some testing sites and walk-in clinics are reaching capacity as the Delta variant spreads.

If you needed a sign of the times, one could certainly be found in Bellevue. The notice on the door read, "Due to the volume of patients waiting, we are not accepting additional patients at this time."

"We have passed our total volumes and we’re setting new daily records on the number of patients we’re seeing," said Dr. Ed Shackelford, the Assistant Medical Director of Vanderbilt's Walk-In Clinics.

Last week alone, Vanderbilt's clinics saw nearly 1,500 people come in for COVID testing and treatments. Dr. Shackelford says they've spanned all ages, but most have one thing in common -- being unvaccinated.

"We’re seeing people get sicker quicker, specifically unvaccinated people. Of the people I’ve personally sent to the hospital, none of them were vaccinated," he said.

One of the reasons they're seeing so many walk-in COVID tests is because of the transmissibility rate of the Delta variant.

The original COVID strain had a transmissibility rate of three. So one person could infect up to three people. Those three infect three more each, so that spreads to nine people. It grows from there.

But the Delta variant has a transmissibility rate of up to nine. So one person infects nine people, who in turn could infect 81 people, and that could jump to 729 in a matter of days.

"Over the past 5-6 weeks, we’ve seen a really dramatic increase," said Dr. Lauren Lipworth, Associate Director of the Division of Epidemiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Lipworth says, if you're vaccinated, the chances of you getting COVID-19 are a lot less. But in Tennessee, where the vaccination rate is low, it creates a disaster scenario. "We have a really large population susceptible to very quick transmission of the virus," said Dr. Lipworth.

She says, unless vaccinations go up, signs like the one on the Bellevue clinic won't be coming down any time soon. "So that’s really our best weapon at the moment. And the faster we can get people vaccinated, the more likely we are to curb this steep increase," said Dr. Lipworth.

She adds -- if more people get vaccinated -- it can help prevent future, even more infectious, COVID-19 variants.