NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Two years ago, the Tennessee Department of Health announced its first case of COVID-19. The patient was a 44-year-old Williamson County man. But one case soon became 14, then 59, and in three weeks cases jumped to 1,037.
On March 20, 2020 the state reported its first coronavirus-related death- the man was a 73-year-old from Nashville.
Since then, there have been a total of just over 2 million positive cases across the state. The virus has also claimed the lives of more than 24,000 Tennesseans.
Nashville bars closed and restaurants cut capacity after the Metro Board of Health voted to declare a public health emergency in Davidson County. Soon all Tennesseans went into lock-down after Governor Bill Lee issued a two-week "Safer At Home" order.
"COVID could spread extraordinarily rapidly and that changed our whole appreciation of the potential impact," said infectious disease expert with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. William Schaffner.
Eventually, phrases like "social distancing" and "contact tracing" became part of our everyday language.
But nine months later came a glimmer of hope. On December 16, 2020 the first COVID vaccine in Tennessee was administered to a healthcare worker at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Schaffner said, "if I had to choose one big intervention of course that changed the game in our favor against the virus, of course it would be vaccination."
Dr. Schaffner said as the pandemic now turns into an "endemic", its important to remember COVID has not gone away. For some, like the elderly or immune compromised, masking up may still be necessary.
"So we will have to continue to cope with this virus going forward and it may throw us a few curve-balls in the future. We'll have to be ready to field those also," said Dr. Schaffner.
But unlike two years ago, we now have a weapon against the virus.
"Vaccines are fundamental in having reduced COVID, and keeping it down in the future," said Dr. Schaffner. To date, 53% of people in Tennessee are fully vaccinated, less than the national average of 65%.