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VOL. 45 | NO. 32 | Friday, August 6, 2021

Health chief: Vaccinations on the rise in Tennessee

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee has seen a 90% increase in people receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination over the past two weeks, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Friday.

Piercey praised the bump in inoculations while warning that the virus continues to surge throughout the state. She said pediatric cases are "quickly on the rise."

"We've had increased vaccine uptake among Tennesseans, and I don't really care what the reason is. I want our work to be effective but whatever it is that's causing it, I appreciate that and am encouraged by that," Piercey told reporters.

About 39.4% of the state's population has been fully vaccinated, among the lowest rates in the country.

Tennessee's low vaccination rates recently attracted national scrutiny after Piercey fired the state's former vaccine director and paused outreach for childhood vaccines. Piercey later said the pause was to ensure that childhood vaccine marketing targeted parents, not children, as some lawmakers claimed.

Meanwhile, Shelby County's health department issued an order Friday saying masks will be required in any indoor area of a K-12 grade school, pre-K school or day care facility starting Monday, when public school classes are scheduled to begin. The Shelby County school system had released similar information earlier.

The order also "strongly encourages" employers to require COVID-19 vaccinations or regular testing for all unvaccinated employees, including those who are not showing symptoms. Two Memphis bars have said patrons will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter starting Aug. 12.

Tennessee has seen more than 12,790 COVID-19 deaths to date, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins. The state is averaging 1,136 virus-related hospitalizations, according to data through Wednesday from the Department of Health and Human Services.

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