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With rising cases, Vanderbilt doctor recommends vaccine

After weeks of steady decline, COVID-19 cases in Warren County are on the rebound, state health figures show.

Local COVID numbers had inched close to zero, unfortunately the trend has shown a sharp spike in July.   

The COVID case rate per 100,000 population was a miniscule 0.7 in the previous 14-day reporting period from June 23 to July 6, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. But in the most recent two-week period July 7-20, the average rate jumped to 3.3, more than quadrupling.

Three new cases emerged in Warren County in one day, July 16.

“Our circumstances are more serious than we thought earlier,” nationally recognized infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner says in a “Focus” interview airing on public radio WCPI 91.3.

A frequent guest on major TV news networks, Schaffner is professor of preventive medicine as well as professor of medicine in the Division of Infec-tious Diseases at Vanderbilt Uni-versity Medical Center.

The half-hour radio conversation will air Friday on WCPI 91.3 FM at 1 a.m., with special repeats Monday at 10:05 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Like virtually all other bona fide health experts, Schaffner strongly urges the unvaccinated population to accept the free, easily accessible shots at a local pharmacy or the Health Department.

In the nationwide upsurge in coronavirus hospitalizations, 97% are unvaccinated, according to university and news organization research. 

At Vanderbilt Medical Center where Dr. Schaffner practices, that number is 98%.  

Tennessee, like most other Southern, conservative states, lags behind the national proportion of citizens vaccinated against COVID-19. And Warren County’s population which has received at least an initial vaccine dose is even lower, 33%. For those who’ve received both jabs of the two-shot regimens, the number is 29.7%.

The emergence of the delta variant of the respiratory virus is several times more infectious than the original strain that accounted for some 608,000 deaths in the United States, doctors and scientists have warned.

An average, unprotected person can infect as many as eight others, and these victims may include young children in homes with unvaccinated parents, Schaffner cautioned.

Since March 2020, there have been 84 Warren County residents die from COVID, state figures show. There have been a total of 5,618 COVID cases.

While there are some legitimate concerns about any vaccine for certain people, the Vanderbilt physician noted, most of the vaccine skepticism and hesitancy was born in unfounded rumors swirling on social media and unscientific opinion.

“I am absolutely convinced the risks from COVID outweigh any risks that are associated with the vaccines,” Schaffner stressed.

Depending on the community acceptance of the vaccines, the delta variant could overwhelm health systems, touching off a firestorm of the deadly infections, health officials warn.

Schools and other public places may see a return to mask mandates, and social and economic life could nosedive into a second great wave of distress. 

The Warren County Board of Education is set to determine its policy on masks this coming Monday, July 26. The first day of school is Aug. 11.