Northeast TN pediatric COVID case rates climbing, vaccination uptake slow | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tennessee (WJHL) — Schools in Tennessee have been quarantined over a new state COVID law, and as students head into a long vacation weekend and families gather, COVID-19 rates are rising among school-aged children.

TDH reports 262 new COVID cases on Tuesday, 2 new deaths in NE Tennessee

The week ending Halloween saw Northeast Tennessee’s lowest weekly total of cases for children ages 5 to 18 since early August at 132. But cases rose nearly 50 percent the following week to 193 (before the new quarantine rules came into effect).

Childhood COVID cases dropped for weeks as the delta variant declined, but started rising again this month. Childhood vaccination rates are lower in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia than national averages and well below Virginia’s.

After staying relatively flat in the week ending November 14, they soared again last week to 278.

The rise in cases was most pronounced in Johnson County, where more than 10% of its students were with COVID or had been quarantined early last week.

PREVIOUS: Johnson County schools hit hard as county COVID-19 case hits highest rate in state

The rising numbers don’t translate into a rush to get children vaccinated now that 5 to 11-year-olds are eligible for a reduced dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.

About 5% of children in that age bracket are vaccinated in Northeast Tennessee, based on estimates. The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) has not yet published the specific percentages of children in each county who fall into that age group and have been vaccinated.

TDH updates those percentages for other age groups and has provided the statewide figure for the 5 to 11-year-olds.

RELATED: Local Health, School Leaders Still Awaiting COVID Guidance From State

Tennessee’s statewide rate is 6.7%, the same as Southwest Virginia’s.

A White House estimate on Nov. 17 brought the nationwide number to 10. In Virginia, nearly 20 percent of children have already had a chance, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

VDH runs school-based vaccine clinics – something not allowed in Tennessee.

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