Northeast TN pediatric COVID case rates climbing, vaccination uptake slow

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee schools have quit quarantining due to a new state COVID law, and as students head into a long holiday weekend and families gather, COVID-19 rates are rising among school-age children.

The week ending Halloween saw Northeast Tennessee’s lowest weekly total of cases for kids 5 to 18 since early August with 132. But cases jumped by almost 50 percent the next week to 193 (before the new quarantine rules became effective).

After staying relatively flat the week ending Nov. 14, they rose sharply again last week to 278.

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

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

Roughly 5% of kids in that age category 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 that fall in that age group and are vaccinated.

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

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

A White House estimate on Nov. 17 put the nationwide percentage at 10. In Virginia, almost 20 percent of kids have already gotten a shot according to Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data.

VDH is conducting school-based vaccine clinics — something that’s not allowed in Tennessee.

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