NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new Vanderbilt University School of Medicine health policy report released Thursday showed results of hospitalization increases at their worst in Tennessee versus any other time in the pandemic.
Lead author John Graves -- associate professor of health policy and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Health Economic Modeling -- wrote in the report that the emergence of the Delta variant has changed the rates of hospitalizations significantly in Tennessee.
"The emergence of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, coupled with a return towards normalcy in mobility and behavior, has resulted in a surge in infections and hospitalizations," Graves wrote. "Since mid-July, the rate of increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations has been higher than at any point in the pandemic."
As of August 18, there were 2,497 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, which Graves notes was a ten-fold increase in just over a month.
"Tennessee is now experiencing its highest growth in hospitalizations than at any point in the pandemic," Graves wrote. "As of this writing, intensive care resource use for COVID-19 patients is at 91% of its previous peak. These trends suggest that if recent growth continues, Tennessee may soon eclipse high-water marks in ICU and ventilation use last seen in January."
In total, there have been 963,647 reported COVID-19 cases in Tennessee. The report concluded hospitalizations have revolved around unvaccinated residents in the state. It also noted that masking was a tool to warding off the virus, but that vaccination was the best way to avoid a hospitalization with COVID-19.
The report showed that Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis regions have the highest vaccination rates while the Upper Cumberland region remained the lowest.
"Vaccination against COVID-19 provides protection at both an individual and community level," Graves wrote. "Although 'breakthrough cases' do occur in vaccinated individuals, very few of these cases reach the severity seen in unvaccinated individuals. Having fewer high severity illnesses within a community can help prevent hospital capacity challenges."
In the first 15 days of August, there’s been 1,023 hospitalizations – that’s higher than any other month total of the pandemic.
On Monday, Tennessee Department of Health commissioner Lisa Piercey said the state’s ICU numbers are “starting to climb very rapidly.” At last count, there were 662 Tennesseans in ICUs across the state, which is about the same peak as last winter. A little more than 40% of all ICU beds in the state are filled with COVID patients.
"Critically, reports from individual hospitals are consistent with our data showing case growth concentrated primarily in younger, less-vaccinated, populations—and despite a higher cumulative case burden in younger adults," Graves wrote.
Laken Bowles contributed to this report.