Health officials say new COVID variant continues to get closer to Tennessee

JACKSON, Tenn. — The omicron variant continues to inch closer to Tennessee.

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With the holidays approaching and the confirmation of a new COVID-19 variant, Tennessee health officials are unsure if a third outbreak will take place.

Dr. Lisa Piercey with Tennessee Department of Health said so far they have not seen a significant increase in COVID hospitalizations.

“Over the last two to three weeks, we have gone from about 700 hospitalizations to about 820. We are not alarmed about it but we have seen a little bit of an uptick in the last couple of weeks,” Piercey said.

New omicron variant cases have showed up in over 15 states.

Piercey said there has been one confirmed omicron case in Missouri. She said, just like the delta variant, it is only a matter of time before it reaches Tennessee.

“There were big outbreaks in Missouri and Arkansas. You started to see it come into Memphis and Rural West Tennessee and move across the state. Anytime you have a new variant, you really don’t know how it is going to act,” said Piercey.

Piercey said they have limited information on the variant but have heard it may not be as severe.

“There is some speculation that it is more transmissible. Maybe, we will see. There is also some speculation that it could be less verierlent, which means it makes you not as sick,” Piercey said.

With the holidays getting closer, Piercey said the best thing to do is celebrate with your loved ones.

She said we should start getting used to COVID because it’s not going anywhere.

“Get out there, celebrate with your family and friends, live your lives. We have got to learn to live with COVID virus, flu virus, just like everything else. I want you to be safe and healthy, particularly those in your family or friend group who may be at high risk,” said Piercey.

Health officials are not sure if the vaccine protects against the new variant but encourages Tennesseans to get it because it is the best line of defense.

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