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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Hamilton County residents wait to get vaccinated at the COVID-19 vaccination site in the Tennessee Riverpark on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

A wave of new COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County, likely fueled by the omicron variant, is being followed by a bump in hospitalizations and people in intensive care with the virus, though health experts believe the variant will cause more mild cases than previous waves.

On Monday, the Hamilton County Health Department reported 492 new infections, as well as 150 people hospitalized and 34 people in the ICU with the virus. The number of people in the hospital for the virus has more than doubled since mid-December and reached the highest total since Oct. 8, 2021.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said last week he would not reimpose a mask mandate, though the county's recent case data reached the threshold that would allow local governments to impose their own restrictions. Hamilton County was under a mask mandate for 10 months between the summer of 2020 and spring 2021, when the availability of vaccines increased.

As of Monday, the county averaged 1,230 cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks based on the most recent U.S. Census population estimate. In October, a special session by state lawmakers passed a measure that would bar local governments from imposing restrictions unless new cases passed 1,000 per 100,000 residents. A federal judge blocked the law from going into effect until a pending lawsuit is resolved.

This week, with the start of 2022, the Tennessee Department of Health stopped reporting COVID-19 data each day and will instead use a weekly schedule, releasing statewide data each Wednesday.

COVID-19 Tests in Hamilton County

People can be tested for COVID-19 in Hamilton County at the following locations:

Clínica Médicos

1148 E. 23rd St. Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

People can register online by visiting clinicamedicos.org/en/covid19-test

LifeSpring Community Health

1042 East Third St. Visit their website to see testing times at lifespringcommunityhealth.org/post/http-covid-19-vaccines

Athena Esoterix

308 Signal Mountain Road. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

People must register for the test by visiting athenalims.com/walkup

Hamilton County will continue its daily data reporting. Since the pandemic began, local leaders have said data from the county health department is more reliable for understanding what is happening in Hamilton County as there can be delays in what the state reports.

(READ MORE: Tennessee ending daily COVID-19 data reports in 2022 as omicron drives record case surge)

Athena Esoterix opened a testing location at 308 Signal Mountain Road to provide tests on-site or take-home tests, whose samples must be returned to retrieve testing results. The on-site testing is available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and people must register online.

COVID-19 tests are also available at LifeSpring Community Health and Clínica Médicos.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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