A report was recently released by WalletHub stating that Tennessee is currently the least safe state to be living in during the pandemic. The study compared all fifty states and the District of Columbia using five weighted metrics including vaccination rate, death rate, positive testing rate, hospitalization rate, and level of community transmissions. Tennessee’s total score was 15.69. The next lowest, Mississippi, had a score of 19.73. The safest state was Maine with a score of 82.54.
Tennessee ranked 48th for death rate, 47th for vaccination rate and 42nd for positive testing rate in the study. The state ranked 26th for hospitalization rate and 17th for community spread. Community spread relates to the number of cases of virus transmission that have happened without a traced source, meaning that the source is not controlled.
Related: COVID-19 Community Levels Across Middle Tennessee
Minimal spread means there are less than 10 cases per 100,000 or less than three cases in a county in a week. A moderate rate means between ten and 100 cases per 100,000 or between four and nine new cases in a week. And substantial spread means more than 100 cases per 100,000 or more than ten new cases in a week. Community rate is calculated by taking the number of new cases Sunday through Saturday divided by the county’s population multiplied by 100,000. Currently, most of the Nashville MSA is rated as “Substantial” by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. Davidson County and a significant number of surrounding counties have more than 17 new transmissions a week. CDC suggests residents mask when indoors at these levels.
Hospitalizations have primarily been of those over 50 according to COVID Tracker. While hospitalizations were down in the spring, they have increased over the summer, probably due to the increase in omicron ba.5 which is driving reinfections and according to npr.org, “[r]esearchers studied blood samples from people who had been vaccinated and boosted, and they found they had a reduced ability to neutralize the BA.5 virus, compared to prior sub-variants, BA.1 and BA.2.”
Tennessee’s positivity rate is currently 28% and the national rate is 17.2%. According to an article in The New York Times on Tracking Coronavirus in Tennessee, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 1 in 3 residents have been infected, a total of 2,138,559 reported cases.” Scott County is the “hot spot” currently, followed by Haywood County and Carroll County.
Only three counties in the Nashville MSA have a vaccination rate over 70%, and only four in the state. The state vaccination rate is only 55.5% for those who are fully vaccinated as of July 20. The national rate is 66%.
Death rates for COVID-19 in Tennessee are the fifth highest in the country, the highest being Wyoming, followed by Mississippi, Louisiana, and Indiana. According to information from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine on COVID-19 in Tennessee, the pandemic is hitting the white population the hardest being 63% of the cases, but 76% of the deaths.
WalletHub notes that some states are safer than others based on how well they have kept the pandemic under control and how much they are vaccinating. The pandemic is not over, and increasing the percentage of people who have been vaccinated and received booster doses is still the key to getting back to life as normal.