CVS Health will begin administering COVID vaccines at 415 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in Tennessee starting Dec. 28.

The effort is part of a larger push in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to vaccinate residents and staff in more than 40,000 long-term care facilities. That effort is launching this week across 12 states but Tennessee — although it is currently experiencing the worst outbreak in the country and by some marks, the world — is in the second round of this vaccine program.

According to a press release, CVS expects to complete the effort in about 12 weeks. Pharmacy teams will make three visits to each long-term care center to ensure residents and staff receive their initial shot and the follow-up booster.

In Tennessee, a quarter of overall deaths are attributable to residents in long-term care facilities, where outbreaks persist to this day. The state health department in October funded the creation of COVID-specific units in some nursing homes to help alleviate the strain on hospitals and turnover bed space.

Democrats again ask for more from Lee 

Tennessee Democrats met with reporters Monday to once again call for a statewide mask mandate — something Republican Gov. Bill Lee declined to put in place when he delivered a statewide address Sunday.  

“We were at least mildly hopeful that the governor was finally starting to take the advice of medical experts around the state,” Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro said. “But Gov. Lee last night did not match the moment. The governor needs to have political courage to do the right thing.” 

Case growth in recent weeks has vaulted Tennessee to the top of nationwide and worldwide rankings of the worst COVID outbreaks. Democrats have for months been asking Lee to institute a statewide mask mandate, as some of his fellow Southern Republican governors have already done, but he has repeatedly declined to do so. On Sunday, he signed an executive order limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people, though the order includes several exceptions.

“You must take immediate action,” Sen. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) said. “If you don’t, hundreds of other people will die unnecessarily. It’s not fair to our doctors and nurses to keep ignoring their advice.”

TMA calls for mask mandate

Tennessee Medical Association President Kevin Smith on Monday called on all counties in the state to impose a mask mandate as cases of COVID continue to surge and tax hospitals' capacity limits.

“The physicians of the Tennessee Medical Association have consistently recommended that mask requirement orders be issued in all counties with over 10 new cases per 100,000 population per day. Since the best county in Tennessee at present has over 80 new cases/100,000/day over the past 7 days, we believe all Tennessee counties should be under mask requirement orders at this time,” he said in a statement.

“We agree that the next several weeks will be a critical time for Tennessee in regards to the COVID pandemic. We expect serious illnesses and deaths to significantly increase in coming weeks. We plead with all Tennesseans to stay safe, stay apart, wear masks, and stay home to protect their families and friends from this deadly virus.”

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

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