Williamson County overall positive COVID-19 cases are still rising and have crossed the 2,000 threshold, with 129 new reported cases coming through Wednesday from the Tennessee Department of Health.

The total tally is now at 2,119 overall in Williamson. 

Two more people have died in the county as well, bringing the number to 18 overall. 27,429 negative tests have been conducted in the county thus far.  

The Tennessee Department of Health has also reported a total of 69,061 cases of COVID-19 across the state, up 2,273 cases since Tuesday on 25,733 test results.

Of the total cases, 39,857 people have recovered, 3,434 have been hospitalized and 783 have died — up 1,585, 56 and 16, respectively, from the numbers 24 hours earlier.

The number of active cases in Tennessee has risen 64 percent in the past two weeks, a slightly slower rate of growth than the mark of late last week. On Wednesday, the state reported an all-time high of 28,421 residents currently infected with the virus. 

The number of patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19 has risen more than 43 percent in the past two weeks, with 905 people hospitalized throughout 106 facilities statewide. 

In terms of capacity, the state reports that 19 percent of inpatient beds (2,322) and 17 percent of ICU beds (342) remain available. Nearly 68 percent of the state's ventilator supply — which was low in March until officials acquired about 1,000 more — is still available.

VUMC to recruit 1,000 volunteers for vaccine trials

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center will late this month begin recruiting 1,000 volunteers as part of a late-stage study of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna Inc.

The randomized, placebo-controlled phase three trial will be open to people 18 years old and older. Participants will receive two shots of either the vaccine or an inactive placebo and will be followed for two years, testing the efficacy and longevity of the immunity provided by the potential vaccine.

VUMC is one of several institutions across the country participating in the phase three trial, which will enroll 30,000 volunteers over the next two months, according to a press release.

“We are pressing full speed ahead to provide an answer to this pandemic, while also taking the necessary steps to ensure that new vaccines and therapeutic drugs are both safe and effective,” Buddy Creech, associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, said in a statement.

Major insurer won’t cover work-mandated COVID-19 testing

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will not cover COVID-19 testing for workers required to receive a test prior to returning to work. 

“Now that businesses are reopening and adapting their health and safety practices, many are requiring routine COVID-19 testing as part of their return-to-work or ongoing safety procedures. Similar to pre-employment and periodic drug testing, employment-based COVID testing is not part of your employees’ health plan benefits, and coverage for it isn’t included under the CARES Act,” the insurer wrote to its members. 

BlueCross will continue covering medically necessary testing if recommended by a physician, as well as COVID-19 treatment only if given through in-network providers until the national emergency declaration expires. 

Dalya Qualls, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee director of corporate communication, told the Post the decision to not cover return-to-work tests was based on guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Treasury, which said health insurers are not responsible for covering them.

Testing for COVID-19 is free to everyone at any county health department in Tennessee and at Nashville’s three assessment centers located at Nissan Stadium, Meharry Medical College and the former Kmart site on Murfreesboro Pike, as well as in Williamson County at the WillCo Ag Expo. 

This post originally appeared in our sister publication, the Nashville Post

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