The sign at the Walgreens Pharmacy on the Asheville Highway encourages passersby to get vaccinated against the delta variant of COVID-19 that is sweeping the region. According to Ballad Health, the delta variant appears to be four to five times more infectious than previous COVID-19 strains, and it appears to be infecting children at a higher rate.

COVID-19 cases have continued to climb in Greene County over the last seven days.

There were 170 new COVID-19 cases reported in Greene County during the seven-day period July 29-Aug. 4.

There were 101 new COVID-19 cases reported in Greene County during the previous seven-day period.

Out of the 170 new cases reported July 29-Aug. 4, 115 were in people younger than 50. Forty were in people and children under the age of 20.

Ballad Health officials said earlier this week they’re seeing similar patterns across the region. A new strain of COVID-19, the so-called delta variant, is more transmissible and is affecting younger people, in large part because the older people previously most affected by the virus are now the group most vaccinated against it.

The system had three children in intensive care on Wednesday, with two of those children having been placed on ventilators.

Overall, Ballad Health had 125 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Wednesday, up from 46 hospitalized a week prior.

“We weren’t expecting numbers like this until September. At this rate we could see hospitalization numbers that are higher than last year. We could see over 400 or 500 COVID-19 patients hospitalized,” Ballad Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said Wednesday.

He said 95% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.

Ballad will be introducing more mitigation measures in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, including limiting visitation to one visitor per patient as of Friday. Pediatric patients, expecting mothers, and end of life patients are permitted two visitors at a time.

Greene County’s case total for the pandemic now stands at 8,393, with 160 deaths due to the virus.

The percentage of residents fully vaccinated in Greene County stands at about 35.66%, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Statewide, about 39.5% of residents have been fully vaccinated. Nationally, 58.4% of the population aged 12 or older has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Greene County Health Department on 810 W. Church St. is currently offering free COVID-19 vaccines, either drive-up or walk in. No appointment is necessary. However, those who prefer to make an appointment can go to to reserve times for a first or second dose.

Adults aged 18 and older are eligible for all COVID-19 vaccines while children ages 12 and older are eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The Health Department is open 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.