Tennessee 'Worst in the World' For COVID Transmission, Doctor Says

The state of Tennessee is one of the worst regions nationwide for COVID transmission, an infectious disease specialist in Memphis has warned.

Dr. Steve Threlkeld, who works at the Baptist Hospital in the city, has said cases of coronavirus will continue to rise if no changes are made, putting intense pressure on hospital services.

"Tennessee, as we speak, is the number one hot spot for transmission for the coronavirus in the entire world," he said, according to Fox News.

"We're not just high. We are the number one place in the world right now, in Tennessee, for coronavirus transmission. This is not a drill. We are the worst in the world."

The Tennessee Department of Health stated the total COVID case count in the state was 484,285 as of Wednesday, marking a rise of 11,410 cases in a day. There have been 5,668 deaths, an increase of 53 new deaths.

There are currently 2,874 hospitalizations, although there may be more due to a delay in hospitalization reporting.

Tennessee ranked second for daily cases per 100,000 people over the past week, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday. Oklahoma was in first place.

However, other data ranks the state as the worst in the U.S. for COVID transmission. The COVID Tracking Project showed Tennessee as the worst state for daily cases per 1 million people earlier this week.

Tennessee coronavirus testing
Tennessee drive thru testing sites allow those without symptoms of coronavirus to receive testing Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

"It's not so much that the foundation has cracked yet but we have a whole lot more load on that foundation chronically throughout this time period and it's not going away," Threlkeld said.

"What we are worried about is what we would face the next month with added difficulties, more cases, more healthcare workers sick and unable to be here, all those things could contribute."

There are 57,599 confirmed cases of COVID in Shelby County, according to City of Memphis data, with a total of 756 deaths so far.

Threlkeld said he and his colleagues had been seeing patients around-the-clock and said health services were under increasing strain in the area.

"I cannot tell you how many people, it's just all day long and into the night, I'm seeing people who are sick and some go into ICU and they say, 'Well I've been good but we had this party the other night and ten people came to the house, and I didn't feel good doing it, I feel it was probably the wrong thing to do,'" he said. "And guess what - it was the wrong thing to do."

He added that the crisis was "more severe" now than when the pandemic first struck.

"The danger is so much larger and the vaccine is so close to bringing us relief from this that we really just need to practice common sense," Threlkeld said. "If we can't do that we're going to find ourselves in a very difficult situation, more difficult."

The state received its first shipment of the COVID vaccine to be used as an emergency backup supply this week. The rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved by the FDA, is the biggest vaccination drive in U.S. history.