KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County and Tennessee at large both hit major milestones Tuesday in the ongoing fight to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.
As of Tuesday, 47,626 people in Knox County had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That's now more than the current number of people who've tested positive for COVID-19 in the county -- which was 45,489 on Tuesday.
Knox County Health Department director Dr. Martha Buchanan said she was encouraged by the news, but said people should not be lured into a false sense of security by this milestone.
"I think that's great... but we're not through this yet. Keep on getting vaccinated. That's your best protection, but even after that you have to wear a mask and social distance," she said. "This is not the time to let down our guard."
Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday also announced a major milestone for the state: 1 million vaccine doses administered. With COVID-19 positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths continuing to decline -- Buchanan said she feels Tennessee has begun to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
"I can comfortably say we've passed the halfway mark... just barely. It's going to be a long race to get to the other side of it," she said. "It's not time to stop. It's not time to slow down. Keep following the five core actions or we're going to go backward."
Knox County remains in phase 1a2 and is still trying to vaccinate people 70 and up along with the majority of other Tennessee counties.
Buchanan said there are currently more than 9,000 people signed up on the vaccine wait list, and KCHD is administering first and second-doses of the vaccine every day this week. More opportunities have begun to open up at pharmacies such as Walmart and local hospitals, which she said people should be on the lookout for.
At the moment, the supply of vaccine continues to fall short of the large demand. Buchanan said KCHD intends to move on the next phases of vaccinating educators, school staff and people 65 and up once supply allows, but she said if the Tennessee Department of Health is ready to advance phases across the 89 counties in the state under its wing, then Knox County will follow to avoid confusion.
Currently, KCHD is working to distribute vaccine to underserved communities, including Black, Latinx, immigrant and Knox Countians with disabilities.
"What we know about vaccine in underserved communities is typically we see low uptake, typically with African American community. All of those folks are at higher risk for complications and death, so it's very important they get protected."