Greene County had 313 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths due to the virus over the Dec. 26-Jan. 1 period, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

The case count represented an increase over the 209 new cases recorded in the county the previous seven-day period, Dec. 19-Dec. 25.

The Sun has reported a weekly COVID-19 case count each Friday. However, those reports, and the period covered in them, will be changing slightly due to the Tennessee Department of Health adjusting its data release schedule.

The Tennessee Department of Health announced it would now be releasing COVID-19 infection and death data once a week, covering a seven-day span in each release. Previously, the Department of Health released such data each day.

The Department of Health has scheduled the releases of data for four days after the conclusion of each week period. Therefore, there will be a four day lag period before data can be reported due to the state’s release schedule.

Therefore, the Sun’s local COVID-19 case reports will now be adjusted to coincide with the weekly release of data from the Department of Health.

The Department of Health’s first release of weekly date covers the week of Dec. 26-Jan. 1. The data was released on Wednesday.

Of the new cases reported Dec. 26-Jan. 1, 219 were in people younger than 50. Of that number, 48 cases were in children ages 18 or younger.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region continued to increase.

Ballad Health officials reported the system had 280 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Wednesday, including one pediatric patient. That is an increase from 254 the previous Wednesday.

Of the COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the region, about 91% are unvaccinated. Ninety-six percent of COVID-19 patients in Ballad intensive care units are unvaccinated, and 97% of those on ventilators are unvaccinated, the health care system reported.

As of Thursday, the percentage of residents fully vaccinated in Greene County stood at just under 44%, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Statewide, 51.4% of residents have been fully vaccinated. Nationally, 66.3% of the population aged 5 or older has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Greene County Health Department at 810 W. Church St. is offering free COVID-19 vaccines. No appointment is necessary. However, those who prefer to make an appointment can go to vaccinatetn.gov or call the Health Department at 423-798-1749 to reserve times for a first or second dose.

Adults ages 18 and older are eligible for all COVID-19 vaccines while children ages 5 and older are eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The Health Department is also offering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to those who are eligible.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health statement, while the antivirals now available may help treat COVID-19, vaccination is the best approach to prevent infection.

COVID-19 testing is taking place at the county Health Department. Drive-through nasal swab testing is available 8:30-9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Self-testing kits are available at the Greene County Health Department Monday through Friday.

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

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