NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Governor Bill Lee gave an update Thursday afternoon about Tennessee's response to a significant surge in COVID-19 cases.
During the meeting, he spoke about the COVID-19 strain on hospitals across the state along with some health leaders. They said almost all patients on ventilators for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, and urged people to get vaccinated.
They also specified differences between booster shots and third doses. They said booster shots have not been approved by the state, but third doses are being given to eligible people. The third dose is the same as other vaccines and is given to people in order to boost their immune response if they are immunocompromised.
People on chronic steroid therapies are also eligible to get a third dose of the vaccine since the medication can suppress immune systems.
"Our hearts go out to anybody [who died due to COVID-19]. It’s tragic when we lose anybody in this state for any reason," said Governor Lee. "There have been hundreds of thousands who died due to the pandemic, it’s the reason we’re doing the work that we’re doing."
Lee also responded to President Biden's requirement for federal employees to get vaccinated, calling it "a terrible idea." However, he also said that he had not read the full policy yet.
"I’m always going to encourage anyone to comply with the law, but it is an ill-advised law," he said.
He also briefly addressed a letter from Knox County Schools requesting schools that go virtual continue to have extracurricular activities. Lee said that there are clear rules on a waiver given to schools that move virtual, but also said the decision should be made by the school board.
It is not clear whether Knox County Schools will continue hosting extracurricular activities in schools that move to virtual learning.
On Sept. 7, the Tennessee Department of Health said that nearly 1 in 75 people in the state was sick with COVID-19.
During the height of the pandemic several months ago, Gov. Lee and health leaders gave regular updates about their response to the pandemic. However, they stopped holding the meetings as cases dwindled.
Later, as the number of cases broke records, they announced regular updates would return.
On Wednesday, health leaders said that there were 5,422 new cases across the state. They also announced 83 new deaths and 79 more hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
They said 20.88% of COVID-19 tests across the state were also positive on Wednesday.
Health officials continued to say that getting a vaccine was the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. They are also recommending people wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash their hands to stop people from getting sick.
You can watch the update here: