New COVID Cases in TN Are So High, State Would Rank Second in World if It Were Nation: Doctor

Heart surgeon and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said on Thursday that Tennessee's high number of COVID-19 cases would make the state rank second for new virus cases in the world if it were a nation.

Tennessee now has the highest number of new COVID cases by population compared to any other state in the country, according to the latest data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday.

Tennessee is now marked a state with a high level of virus transmission, according to the CDC. The state also currently has a seven-day COVID case rate of 790.1 per 100,000 cases.

"Our TN elected leadership must NOW step up & take action," Frist wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

TN now is #1 in U.S. for daily new #Covid cases per population. If we were an independent nation, we would be #2 for new Covid cases in the world. This week, TN reached highest level of hospitalizations from the virus yet. Our TN elected leadership must NOW step up & take action. pic.twitter.com/drt7Y7FXvB

— Bill Frist, M.D. (@bfrist) September 2, 2021

In another tweet, Frist wrote that unvaccinated individuals are five times more likely to contract COVID than fully vaccinated people.

Unvaccinated people are nearly five times more likely to be infected with Covid than fully vaccinated people. Only 42% of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated, putting our population at high risk.

— Bill Frist, M.D. (@bfrist) September 2, 2021

The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed that the number of hospitalized COVID patients has been underreported since summer last year. Around 5,100 more COVID patients have been hospitalized over the last 14 months than previously reported.

The revised total of hospitalizations in the state now stands at 29,694.

The state underreported numbers every day, according to The Tennessean with as many as dozens of untracked COVID cases. The largest number of untracked cases were recorded during the winter when the virus spiked.

Tennessee Department of Health spokesperson Sarah Tanksley told the news outlet that the untracked COVID hospitalizations were noticeable when the agency factored data from the Tennessee Hospital Association into its tracking system.

The department was unaware of how to combine these two data sources before and therefore didn't have accurate COVID cases count statewide until recently, according to Tanksley.

"Our data stewards completed a project linking an additional hospitalization data source from the Tennessee Hospital Association to our COVID surveillance data," Bill Christian, a media spokesperson for Tennessee Department of Health told Newsweek on Wednesday

"This is not a marker of current or recent hospitalizations but rather reflects all patients that have ever been hospitalized with COVID-19 and is helpful in assessing disease severity, the impact of vaccination status, the demographics of hospitalized patients, etc.," Christian added.

In another tweet on Thursday, Frist urged more Tennesseans to get vaccinated against COVID and called upon community leaders to do more to curb the spread of the virus amid the highly transmissible Delta variant.

It’s time our leaders did more to prevent community spread and encourage Tennesseans to take the life-protecting step – for them and for others – of getting vaccinated. Without action, hundreds, even thousands, will needlessly die whose lives could have been saved.

— Bill Frist, M.D. (@bfrist) September 2, 2021

Last month, the Tennessee Department of Health said that total vaccinations increased 47 percent during the period between July 12 and August 2.

"Tennessee has always done well at ensuring routine vaccinations for both children and adults are up to date," said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey in August. "While we are focused on routine vaccination, we must also continue to encourage the COVID-19 vaccine."

Newsweek contacted Dr. Bill Frist's office and the Tennessee Department of Health for further comments but didn't receive a response by the time of publishing.

Doctor concerned about Tennessee's high COVID cases
Heart surgeon Bill Frist said on Thursday that Tennessee’s high number of COVID-19 cases would make the state rank second for new virus cases in the world if it were a nation. Above, a heart with wings is drawn on the window as nurses care for a COVID-19 patient inside the ICU (intensive care unit) at Adventist Health in Sonora, California on August 27. Photo by NIC COURY/AFP via Getty Images