COVID-19: New deaths reported; State chosen for Pfizer pilot program

Here is a look at the latest information dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In Anderson County, one new death was reported on Tuesday by state health officials, bringing the total number of Anderson Countians who have died due to COVID or COVID complications to 25 since the early days of March. 36 new cases were reported in Anderson County on Tuesday, and 429 are described as “active.”

Roane County reported three new COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, bringing the number of fatalities there to 17. 385 cases are said to be active in Roane County.

You can see all the county-by-county data by following this link.

Statewide, almost 321,000 Tennesseans have tested positive, and with 72 new deaths reported Tuesday, the state says that 3995 people have been killed by the virus.

The state releases updated numbers each day, and you can find more by following this link.

MEDIC Regional Blood Center said Tuesday it is completely out of COVID Convalescent Plasma, or CCP, used to treat COVID patients.

For COVID patients, plasma from someone who has had, and recovered from, the virus, can be transfused into someone who is still stricken, in some cases help the sick patient recover.

If you have recovered from COVID-19, you can donate plasma to help treat others if you qualify. MEDIC says that there is some pre-screening required before one can donate, but that it does not take too long. Appointments for CCP donation are required, and you can do that by visiting www.medicblood.org, or by calling 865-524-3074.

Gov. Bill Lee stuck to his guns Tuesday, reiterating that he will not issue a statewide mask mandate to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but did encourage all Tennesseeans to make smart decisions as they prepare to gather for Thanksgiving, and heading into the holiday season.

A “crisis” is very much upon Tennessee, Lee acknowledged, but said that he believes the state’s current approach of encouraging responsible behavior is “working,” despite rising numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the state Health Department, said the 7-day positivity rate is now 13.9 percent in Tennessee. It should be 5 percent or less, she said.

The governor says that Tennesseans need to decide for themselves how safe they’re going to be, and that they should take loved ones’ health into consideration.

Lee and Piercey said they’re looking forward to distribution of a vaccine in the coming months. Pfizer and Moderna have both this month announced encouraging results for a vaccine.

Lee said a vaccine likely will be available widespread for the public in the spring. Piercey said health experts are planning for distribution in December, if a vaccine should be ready by then.

Health care workers would get the first shots. More vulnerable populations would be next in line.

Speaking of the Pfizer vaccine, which company officials said today was just days away from being submitted to the FDA for authorization for emergency use, Tennessee has been selected as one of four states to participate in a pilot program for delivery of the Pfizer Inc. COVID-19 vaccine, which is said to have passed all safety checks and is 95% effective. This program is designed to address distribution challenges posed by requirements for ultra-cold storage of the vaccine.

“We have a robust plan in place for distribution of this vaccine, and we’re honored to be chosen to help establish a model for other states in providing COVID-19 vaccine to their residents once it’s approved,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP, in a press release.

Tennessee will participate in the pilot along with New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas, states chosen based on their differences in size, population diversity and immunization infrastructure. Lessons learned through this program will help support all states in development of effective immunization programs for this COVID-19 vaccine.

Once the vaccine is approved, Tennessee and other states participating in the pilot will not receive vaccine doses earlier than other states by virtue of the pilot. Pfizer expects to have enough safety data on the vaccine from ongoing trials before the end of November before applying for emergency use authorization. Pfizer is working with Operation Warp Speed and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that following approval, their COVID-19 vaccine can be provided to those most in need as quickly and equitably as possible.

TDH in coordination with other state and local agencies submitted an initial draft of the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan for Tennessee to the CDC on October 16, 2020. This plan will be modified as more is understood about the virus and the availability of approved vaccines currently in development. Tennessee is preparing to begin distribution of COVID-19 vaccine as early as December 2020.

TDH is working to onboard hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and other partners capable of storing vaccine and administering it to priority populations. TDH will ensure distribution of vaccination sites across all 95 counties, especially in rural counties and areas with high concentrations of people in vulnerable populations. Providers who wish to administer COVID-19 vaccine may find more information online at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/covid-19-vaccine-information.html.

In other virus-related news, the State Supreme Court issued an Order Tuesday suspending all jury trials in Tennessee through January 31st, 2021, unless an exemption is granted by the Chief Justice. According to a release from the Court that you can see in its entirety on our website, the Order is “designed to protect all of the participants in the judicial system and the public at large while keeping the courts open and accessible to carry out essential constitutional functions and time-sensitive proceedings.”

The Order also directs judicial districts across the state to review and make sure their reopening plans are being followed, and leave sin place the directive that anyone entering a Courthouse on court-related business must wear a face mask.

(State Supreme Court press release) In response to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in the state, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued an Order today designed to protect all of the participants in the judicial system and the public at large while keeping the courts open and accessible to carry out essential constitutional functions and time-sensitive proceedings. This is the Court’s sixth order related to the pandemic since it declared a state of emergency for the judicial branch on March 13, 2020.

Today’s Order suspends jury trials from November 23, 2020 through January 31, 2021, unless an exemption is granted by the Chief Justice. Jury trials were previously suspended from March 13 – July 3, 2020. In addition, the Order directs judicial districts to revisit and strictly adhere to their previously approved reopening plans; reiterates that the Court’s July 9 Order mandating face coverings for all persons who enter the courthouse for court-related business is still in full effect; encourages video conferencing whenever possible; reminds judges and attorneys that they have an ethical obligation to comply with Court Orders and the reopening plans drafted by the judicial districts; and prohibits anyone with COVID-19 from participating in an in-person proceeding. In addition, the Order directs judges to schedule and conduct in-person hearings in a manner that minimizes wait times in courthouse hallways, which often have limited space for social distancing.

Provisions of the Court’s May 26 and July 9 Orders remain in effect. Read today’s Order here.

The Tennessee Department of Education announced on Tuesday that it has once again partnered with all of the state’s PBS stations to air academic instructional videos focused on early childhood literacy and math over the upcoming winter holidays.

The Winter Foundations Bootcamp will begin November 30 and run through the end of January. 

While the majority of lessons will focus on providing instruction for literacy and math for K-2 grades, programming will also include Pre-K lessons and science lessons for grades 3-5. 

Families will be able to watch these instructional video lessons created specifically for Tennessee students on all six state PBS stations– WNPT Nashville, East Tennessee PBS, WCTE Upper Cumberland, WKNO Memphis, West TN PBS, and Chattanooga WTCI from 9 a.m. –11 a.m. CST.

The schedule for the Winter Foundations Boot Camp can be found on the department’s website.

In response to COVID-19 school closures, the TDOE-PBS partnership launched April 6th. From June through August, the partnership continued with the Summer Learning Series and featured PBS LearningMedia programming that was specifically chosen for a continued focus on early literacy and math, aligned to Tennessee standards.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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