Hamilton Co. Health Dept. Responds To Logistical Coronavirus Chaos by Further Limiting Public Testing And Vaccine Access

Published January 22, 2021

Hamilton County, TN – Hamilton County residents continue to wait with bated breath for more information about COVID-19 mutations, policies, and vaccine availability. 

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The local CHI Memorial Infectious Disease Specialist Mark Anderson reports that the new variant of the virus is still being studied.

True understanding of the virus is constantly evolving and he issues one warning, “We still don’t know that the standard stuff that we’ve been doing won’t work. I think that we do know that if you’re not taking any precautions at all, you will definitely get this virus easier than you would have in the past,”

The new variant of the virus, initially reported around Europe and the United Kingdom, has had a mutation in its spike protein. British data suggests the variant may be 50-70% more easily transmissible.

“A smaller amount of virus is going to make you sicker,” said Anderson.

Despite this information and the ongoing uphill battle to quell rising death and diagnostic rates, Chattanooga has announced that they are no longer going to offer testing seven days a week in order to to allow healthcare workers to focus more on developing and implementing inoculation plans. 

“There has been a steady decrease in the demand for testing,” claimed Becky Barnes of the Hamilton Co. Health Department, “and an increase in both the demand and supply of vaccine. Therefore, we are making changes to accommodate this new phase of pandemic response and will redirect staff from our testing site to our vaccination sites on Sundays. We want to assure the community that we will continue to offer free testing as long as there is a need.”

The site will no longer offer testing on Sundays. This shift would seem to offer hope to anyone eager to receive their first dose of the experimental vaccine, but despite this change, there appears to be no updates on the inoculation front. 

Although announcements have been made to the effect of creating one event offering return visits for those who managed to get through the initial gauntlet, we still have little to no reliable knowledge of ongoing planning in the city. 

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The Health Department’s latest COVID-19 Vaccination Site is located at the CARTA Bus Barn. This announcement comes alongside the announcement of CARTA”s CEO receiving a $7k bonus. This is an indoor, drive-thru event during which patients remain inside their vehicles throughout the process.

However, right now the CARTA Bus Barn is serving as a location for second dose appointments only.

First dose appointments are currently unavailable but we are promised once again that additional appointment days will be added when the county receives additional vaccine shipments from the Tennessee Department of Health. 

Unfortunately this plan may be even more limited as Tennessee expects to receive half the amount of the previous vaccine shipment in the next round. 

Due to this expectation, TDH has announced a plan to “cease new vaccinations for the public in Tennessee.”

According to the release, this comes amid changes in policy related to allocation and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Officials stated that the Tennessee Department of Health made a policy decision to “shift distribution away from hospital.”

This will suffice to say that vaccination availability at your doctors’ offices and pharmacies could be months away still. 

While at this time Hamilton County’s Health Department maintains there is nothing available for first-dose residents, data still indicates that more than half of the initial shipment remains unaccounted for in Tennessee.

This may have something to do with the next shipment being smaller, as the allotted doses have been broadly based on the number of doses provided. 

Despite administrative chaos through this pandemic experience, we can continue to stand by each other and our legislators to pursue the best course of action to restore health and liberty to our community. 

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