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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Deborah Deal, RN, Chief Nursing Executive gives Dr. Winfred Manta, Intensive Care Physician a vaccination.

Every week, the Times Free Press will publish five essential things to know about the coronavirus pandemic in the Chattanooga region.

For more updated case count numbers and other data related to Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, visit timesfreepress.com/virus.

Five things to know about COVID-19 in the Chattanooga region for the week ending Jan 22:

1. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the decline in Hamilton County: Pandemic appears to be slowing after two deadly months

Why it matters: The Chattanooga region has seen a sharp drop in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the past week, signaling reason for hope after two especially deadly months in the pandemic. Local medical experts believe the drop may be tied to people being more cautious over the Christmas holiday after the major post-Thanksgiving spike a week earlier.

Read more about why cases and hospitalizations are dropping in the county.

2. Unknowns of race and ethnicity in COVID-19 vaccine data mean it's unclear who's receiving shots: National experts have praised Tennessee's distribution plan

Why it matters: The demographic breakdown of administered doses has large unknowns for race and ethnicity, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health. While Tennessee's plan has been applauded for including vulnerability in its distribution decisions, it is unclear how well the state's focus on equity is being implemented.

Read more about the questions around who is receiving doses.

3. Chattanooga area seniors among those chasing COVID-19 shots across state lines: Some residents are finding it easier to get their shot out of state.

Why it matters: The piecemeal and unpredictable rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the widely variable guidelines about who qualifies from state to state are prompting people to travel long distances in search of the vaccine. While it is good for those who can get a dose, it stresses local health departments trying to administer shots to residents in their area.

Read more about the people seeking their shots beyond Tennessee.

4. Parents push in-person school for Hamilton County: Board delegates decision to the superintendent

Why it matters: The school board, during its Thursday night meeting, considered several options for reopening schools or rewriting its criteria for considering when schools can be open. Rather than voting on an immediate plan, the board voted unanimously to give Superintendent Bryan Johnson and his task force the decision-making power moving forward.

Read more about what could be in store for schools in Hamilton County.

5. City of Chattanooga unveils virtual memorial to honor COVID-19 victims: New video part of national movement for mourning

Why it matters: As of Friday, 337 Hamilton County residents have died from COVID-19. The city released a video this week to memorialize those lost as part of a national movement to honor victims of the virus.

Read more about the movement and watch the video.

What are your experiences with the coronavirus? Are you or someone you love affected by it? What questions do you have? We would like to hear from you, so please contact efite@timesfreepress.com or wmassey@timesfreepress.com.

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