Hamilton County officials confirmed Thursday that a much more contagious variant of the coronavirus is spreading in the Chattanooga region, even as they offered the first detailed plans for the opening of a third vaccination site on Friday, in Enterprise South Nature Park. .
The county’s vaccination efforts are expanding to the third site as case levels continue to decline. The initiative comes when the county mayor, Jim Coppinger, confirmed the presence of the variant for the first time.
“They’ve heard a lot about variants across the county. We’ve identified that here in Hamilton County,” Coppinger said during a live broadcast Thursday afternoon. “This just means that it is much more contagious [strain] of this virus “.
Coppinger told the Times Free Press after the live broadcast that he was referring to COVID-19 samples analyzed by research scientists from the Baylor School, who presented their findings during the Joint Task Force COVID-19 meeting of this week.
Elizabeth Forrester, a Baylor school scientist, said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed that several patients from the Chattanooga region whose samples were sent to Baylor for testing were infected with the variant B117, commonly known as the UK variant.
B117 spreads more easily and quickly than other variants, according to the CDC. Some reports from the UK indicate that B117 may be associated with an increased risk of death, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding.
The health department will begin dosing at Enterprise South on Friday at 9 am to those with appointments.
Sabrina Novak, director of administrative services for the health department, presented a map of the traffic flow through the park. Dose seekers will drive the one-way road through a short loop in the park, with a waiting area, a detection station, and a section of road for people to stop and wait to make sure. that there are no negative reactions to the vaccine.
“The good thing about the Enterprise South location is that, although we are starting with the small circuit, we actually have the opportunity to expand it to a medium route and also to a large route. So, if at some point we want to increase the number of appointments that go through this property, we have that flexibility to be able to do it, “said Novak.
As of Wednesday, more than 59,000 doses of vaccines had been administered in Hamilton County, and the county averaged about 850 new first-dose vaccines per day over the past week, according to data from the Hamilton County Health Department. Starting Monday, county residents 65 and older, as well as workers in phase 1b, will be eligible for the vaccines.
The decision to expand age eligibility to include preschool and child care workers, as well as K-12 teachers and school personnel, will add tens of thousands of people to the eligible pool, as county officials continue to say that the supply of vaccinations is limited.
Coppinger said Thursday that the goal is to vaccinate 80% of Hamilton County and asked residents to speak with people they know who may be hesitant to get a dose.