tenn. COVID-19 cases rise in the wake of the ommicron variant – Community News
Covid-19

tenn. COVID-19 cases rise in the wake of the ommicron variant

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WTVF) — It’s our first COVID-19 update in weeks from Dr. Lisa Piercey and the Tennessee Department of Health, who now say the omicron variant will be available soon.

The variant has not been found in Tennessee at this time, but Dr. Piercey says he’s already been tracked down in two contiguous states.

In her media briefing Monday, Dr. Piercey began discussing what she called a slight increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Most of these were reportedly clusters from the northeast of the state. She says her staff has come up with several theories as to why that particular region. She says it’s not like they have the least vaccinated people compared to other parts of the state. Although most of these cases still have a major impact on the unvaccinated population.

It may be too early to say if this is somehow related to the ommicron variant which some say is more transferable. Some have also speculated that this virus is less serious, which Dr. Piercey once again is just speculation.

“What we’re looking for here is a reduction in hospitalizations and deaths,” Piercey said.

A new FDA-reviewed antiviral pill from pharmaceutical giant Merck promises to do just that. The molnupiravir pill comes as part of a five-day course. You take four pills, twice a day for five days. Studies have shown that this can help reduce COVID-related symptoms and lower the risk of hospitalization by at least 30%.

“We know we will get 2% of the country’s supply. That could be as few as a few thousand courses. It could be more than that, but we’re working on a contingency plan for the amount we’re getting,” Piercey said.

The pill could earn its debt in Tennessee next Monday if it receives the Emergency Use Authorization, or “EUA.” dr. Piercey predicts it could take until January for Pfizer’s version of the pill to arrive in Tennessee.

“The really important point here is that you have to take them early in the course of the disease,” Piercey said.

Once you notice symptoms, you should not take the Merck medication more than five days later and three days before Pfizer. This means that testing will become even more important according to Dr. Piercey.

She says it’s common and has even been encouraged in the past to wait before getting tested, just in case your symptoms were related to something else. This time Dr. Piercey says it’s better to take extra precautions if you plan on taking the new treatment.

The plan now is to designate a major retailer to help distribute the pills, in the same way we did with vaccines. dr. Piercey says they’ve studied several locations to make sure everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, has equal access. That said, they will start rationing pills to those most at risk of hospitalization.

“It is my hope and prayer that this will pile up very quickly and that we will not have to do this prioritization. Initially it will be in limited locations and limited by who can get it,” said Dr. Piercey.

She added that we still have monoclonal antibodies in “abundant stock” statewide. As for protection against COVID-19 and each variant, Dr. Piercey that your best option remains the vaccines.

“What we do know is that vaccination is absolutely the best way to protect yourself. Not just from infection, but specifically from hospitalization and death from any variant,” Piercey said.

TDH will continue to monitor the spread of the ommicron variant, now found in 17 states across the country. dr. Piercey says they have performed routine variant surveillance, which involves taking some of the samples in Tennessee and testing them for genetic sequencing. They also send samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where they match known variant samples.