NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee health officials announced on Monday that the state will soon begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations to residents ages 70 and older.
The state Department of Health said on its website that Tennesseans can begin checking Tuesday with their counties to learn more about information about eligibility and registration. Furthermore, residents in the state's metropolitan areas may have different instructions.
The health agency estimates that roughly 300,000 Tennesseans fall into the 70- to 74-year-old age group. The state is already vaccinating people 75 and older. It's expanding the vaccination access due to a recent increase in its weekly COVID-19 vaccination allocation, up from an average of 80,000 doses to about 93,000 a week.
The state says people aged 70 to 74 have a 70% higher rate of death and a 40% higher rate of hospitalization from COVID-19 compared with those aged 65 to 69.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
Nearly 7% of Tennessee's population had received at least one of the COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Monday.
Meanwhile, Nashville school officials announced that the district will begin allowing students to return to the classroom later this week. Students will be allowed back in phases, with all students scheduled to return by March 3.
Nashville and Memphis have faced increased scrutiny from Gov. Bill Lee and some Republican lawmakers for not offering some sort of in-person learning. School leaders in those areas have countered that the state has not provided enough resources, particularly vaccinations, to open up in-class learning earlier.
The Shelby County school system, which encompass Memphis, announced last week that it has scrapped its plan to return to in-person learning on Feb. 8 because of a spike in coronavirus cases. No new date has been rescheduled.
Lee's Department of Health has moved teachers into a higher priority category in its COVID-19 vaccination plan. This has since resulted in nearly 40 counties, in mostly rural areas, currently allowing educators to be vaccinated. However, none of the metropolitan areas are offering educators to get vaccinated and likely won't for another month.