New coronavirus cases in Tennessee have pretty well stabilized statewide in recent weeks. But the death toll hasn’t let up. And now hospitalizations are rising sharply again.
When coronavirus cases were concentrated in Tennessee’s urban areas, the state had a lower fatality rate than much of the country. That’s partly because younger, healthier people were getting the virus, and they’re less likely to die from the disease.
But the map has flipped in recent weeks, with less-populous counties seeing the largest increases. And Tennessee’s rural communities have higher rates of obesity and other chronic conditions that lead to complications with COVID-19. Residents also tend to be older.
“With this infectious disease being for those populations more deadly — it seems — then in that sense, we would expect there to be much higher death rates in these areas,” says John Graves, a health economist at Vanderbilt University.
The highest death rates in the state are in Houston, Decatur, Chester, Van Buren and DeKalb counties, according to tracking by the New York Times.
And while the overall numbers of cases coming out of these communities are dwarfed by the record highs over the summer in Nashville and Memphis, hospitals across the state are starting to feel the pressure.
On Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Health announced a record one-day jump in COVID hospitalizations with 108 new admissions. The state’s hospitals are now caring for more COVID patients than they have in the last six weeks.