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Tennessee expects to receive 90K COVID-19 vaccines a week

December 22, 2020 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee expects to start receiving 90,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines a week going forward, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Tuesday, as the state continued to try to fend off one of the biggest surges in new coronavirus cases per capita in the country.

In a video call with reporters, Piercey said the vaccines would be in addition to those already on their way, and the weekly supplies could start coming in as early as next week. As of Tuesday morning, 24,200 people in Tennessee have been vaccinated with their first dose, Piercey said.

So far, the state estimates receiving upwards of 67,000 doses of the Pfizer shot, which are being used on hospital workers. The number counts one or two extra doses expected in Pfizer’s vials.

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Tennessee has begun receiving a round of 115,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which do not require ultracold storage that the Pfizer ones need. The state says the priority groups for those are smaller hospitals not receiving the Pfizer vaccine, first responders, long-term care facility residents and staff, home health providers and student health providers.

The state is also getting an “unexpected” shipment of an additional 40,000 Pfizer doses this week, Piercey said.

With the weekly shipments, Piercey said the state is awaiting clarity on whether federal officials will have vaccines at the ready for people’s second doses.

“With 360,000 doses a month, we believe that could be 360,000 individuals,” Piercey said. “There is a chance that they will say that that has to be both doses, and so we’ll have to cut that number in half.”

Meanwhile, the state continues to report caseloads at or near levels unmatched in viral spread per capita nationwide. There were 1,785 new cases per 100,000 people in Tennessee over the past two weeks, which ranks first in the country for new cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. One in every 104 people in Tennessee tested positive in the past week.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Tennessee has risen from 58 on Dec. 7 to 85 on Monday.

The worsening scenario has prompted growing scrutiny from critics over Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s resistance to implement a statewide mask requirement, which only a dozen states don’t have. He instead is letting counties decide whether to require masks in public, citing personal responsibility and saying a statewide mandate is “controversial” and reasoning that some who refuse to wear masks rebel against the idea.

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Over the weekend, Lee opted to limit certain some public indoor gatherings to fewer than 10 people, while asking in a statewide address for people to wear masks and not gather with people from other households indoors for the holidays.

Piercey said COVID-19 patients now make up 47% of all intensive care unit hospitalizations statewide, about a 7 percentage point increase from Sunday.

While most people with the virus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.