Hamilton County seeing more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths

FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. On Friday, July 2, 2021, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly asserting no virus has ever mutated to become more lethal. But some examples of viruses that became more deadly over time include those that developed drug resistant variants, and animal viruses such as bird flu, which were harmless to humans initially but then mutated to become capable of killing people, according to Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security. (NIAID-RML via AP, File)

The latest COVID-19 resurgence in Tennessee shows no sign of slowing, with Hamilton County continuing to experience more than 100% increases in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the past 14 days.

The Hamilton County Health Department on Tuesday reported 316 new COVID-19 cases, 155 confirmed coronavirus-related hospitalizations, an additional eight hospitalized patients awaiting confirmation and three new fatalities - signaling that the county is beginning to experience the subsequent increase in deaths that follows a COVID-19 case surge.

Fifteen Hamilton County residents have died due to COVID-19 in the past month compared to six the previous month.

The county is averaging a test positivity rate over 20% in the past week, and just over half of those hospitalized in the county are Hamilton County residents. Over the weekend, the number of patients in local hospital intensive care units jumped from 28 to 40.

The county hasn't experienced a new case or hospitalization load as high as what was reported Tuesday since mid-January.

It's still unknown if the delta variant - which now accounts for around 95% of new infections in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - causes more severe disease than other virus variants. But what is known is that the variant is much more contagious and sickens people faster, giving it a greater ability than previous strains to sweep through populations with low levels of immunity and minimal protective measures, such as face masks, limited indoor capacity and improved ventilation.

"Help our community slow the surge of new cases and hospitalizations by wearing a mask in public indoor settings, even if you are already fully vaccinated," reads a news release from the Hamilton County Health Department issued Tuesday. "If you are eligible and not yet vaccinated, get vaccinated today. Visit our vaccination calendar at vaccine.hamiltontn.gov to find a location near you. Vaccine events are free and no appointment is necessary."

Last week, the Tennessee Department of Health reported that the COVID-19 surge is straining hospitals across the state, including children's hospitals.

Though children typically fare much better against the coronavirus than their older counterparts, they also have the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates, making them particularly vulnerable to infection.

The strain on children's hospitals is due not only to an increase in pediatric COVID-19 cases, but an increase in other viral infections that normally circulate among children in the winter.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 615-757-6673. Follow her on Twitter @ecfite.