Tennessee ranked #1 in country for COVID cases per capita, CDC says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee is ranked number one in the country for new COVID cases per capita, according to the CDC.

It’s a dire statistic not even seen during the highest points of the pandemic.

The state is averaging more than 7,000 new cases a day. 40 percent of those cases are kids, according to data.

As of Friday, more than 3,500 Tennesseans are in hospitals for COVID-19 across the state. About 90 percent of those patients are not vaccinated.

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey says ICU cases are now 20 percent higher than the winter peak. That means we are breaking records set last year.

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Although the stats are sobering, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is not changing his stance.

Shelby County may have a mask mandate in place for all schools, but parents have the last say and can opt their kids out. Governor Lee does not plan to retract his Executive Order as cases surge.

“It’s disappointing, but I don’t think I’m surprised,” Laura Jones told FOX13.

Data shows children are leading the surge.

Kids make up roughly 40% of COVID cases across the state.

Despite that information, Gov. Bill Lee is doubling down on the state’s pandemic response.

“It’s disappointing, but I don’t think I’m surprised just given the pulse here the last year and a half,” Jones said.

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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Diego Hijano says he believes the state is long overdue for a universal mask mandate, specifically in schools.

“I favor and recommend everyone use masks in schools,” Hijano said. “I don’t think it’s the time to back down or opt-out.”

Dr. Hijano says he believes children should continue in-person learning, but parents must do their part by vaccinating kids 12 and up.

“We have safe ways to do it. We just need everyone to get vaccinated, use their masks, and provide physical distance. And then everyone can attend school and learn the best way possible,” said Dr. Hijano.

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They are measures Laura Jones is already taking to protect her children.

“There’s vulnerable people all around us, and I appreciate it when people make that effort,” she said.

Data shows only 23% of kids in the state have been fully vaccinated, and 10% have received one dose. There has been a slow increase week over week.