“It’s a matter of time before it comes to Tennessee” warns Tennessee Health Commissioner

Dr. Lisa Piercey says cases of the Omicron variant could start to pop-up in Tennessee very soon.
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Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 5:55 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -On Monday, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey spoke during a media health briefing about COVID-19 case trends and the new Omicron variant.

She says little is known about the virus, but there has been speculation about how the variant may act.

“There’s a whole lot we don’t know. What we do know is that it has a lot of mutations. 45 or 50 mutations from what we considered our common variant or the most recent variant which is Delta. What we don’t know is how those mutations will manifest. Do they make a difference or not? There is a lot of speculation, but I would caution you that it is just that. It is only speculation right now,” shared Dr. Piercey.

Dr. Piercey says two of Tennessee’s bordering states have confirmed Omicron cases, one of those bordering states is Missouri, but she could not announce the second state at the time of the briefing.

She says the next two weeks are a key period for learning more about the new variant.

“There is some speculation that it is more transmissible. Maybe, we’ll see. There is also some speculation that it is less virulent which means it makes you not as sick, that it’s not any worse and may be a bit milder. Those are things we do not know yet. Those are things we’re going to be learning over the next several weeks as the Omicron variant takes a bigger hold in the United States. It will inevitably come to Tennessee,” says Dr. Piercey.

Dr. Piercey also shared the state has seen a slight increase in overall cases during the last couple of weeks, with more hospitalizations in Northeast Tennessee.

To their knowledge, those patients do not have the Omicron variant.

When it comes to celebrating the holiday season, she warns to do it safely. She advises families and friends to continue practicing social distancing, washing their hands, wearing a mask within crowds, and if you are feeling sick to stay home.

Although more is yet to be learned about the variant, Dr. Piercey says getting vaccinated and getting a booster shot is the best option for protecting yourself.

“As I mentioned earlier we very well may be dealing with a variant that is a little bit milder, you may have the tendency to blow off those symptoms and could transmit it to someone who is really high risk,” shared Dr. Piercey.

Other topics discussed during the media briefing included the flu season and the development of anti-viral medications to help reduce the number of deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19.

Dr. Piercey says only 21.6% of Tennesseeans have gotten their flu shots so far. She feels this is because of a hesitancy to get vaccinated.

Anti-viral medications for COVID-19 could be released within a few weeks according to Dr. Piercey.

She says the pills would have to be taken within three days of the first symptoms, with 30-40 pills to be taken throughout a time period of 5 days.

To find out where to get your COVID-19 vaccine, click here.

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