COVID-19 'smolders' in Chattanooga region's unvaccinated population

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Members of the Tennessee National Guard close up the vaccination area at the Meigs County Emergency Management Agency headquarters on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Meigs County is the most vaccinated county in the Chattanooga region per capita, with nearly 50% of the population having received at least one dose.

Even unvaccinated residents of the Chattanooga region are experiencing reduced COVID-19 transmission thanks primarily to the vaccination of others. At the same time, they remain at higher risk for illness and contribute to the continued spread of the coronavirus, according to an analysis of county-level COVID-19 case and vaccination data.

In an effort to better understand how COVID-19 is impacting the region's unvaccinated population, the Times Free Press calculated the seven-day average new daily case and new daily hospitalization rates for the 19 Tennessee and Georgia counties that comprise the Chattanooga region, home to roughly 1.2 million people.

The review covered early January - around the time that priority groups began receiving coronavirus vaccines - through the end of May, using publicly available state data.

Those rates were then recalculated by subtracting the portion of the population that had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, since the vaccinated population's risk of contracting the coronavirus and being hospitalized is low.