NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — A trauma patient at Vanderbilt hospital was saved after a car wreck, only to die five days later from COVID-19. That's one of many grim stories gripping Tennessee hospitals right now.
Dr. Alex Jahangir shared the story this week during a national TV interview focusing on the strain the virus has put on hospitals.
“We fixed him, got him stabilized...Incidentally about five days later he got COVID and he died from COVID.”
Dr. Jahangir, an ER doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and head of Nashville's COVID-19 Task Force, said these coronavirus deaths could aren't necessary.
“People are dying. It’s really unnecessary,” Dr. Jahangir said. “Just like everywhere else, these are all unvaccinated patients for the most part.”
This comes as Tennessee is ranked among the top in the nation for new COVID-19 cases.
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Last week, the health department reported 32,709 school-aged children in Tennessee tested positive for COVID-19 the last 14 days. Right now, there are 49 children hospitalized with the virus across the state, 16 who are in the ICU and 10 who are on ventilators. VUMC says they're currently treating 13 children who have COVID-19. 89% of the admitted COVID patients are considered unvaccinated.
“We had a 17-year-old kid die this weekend from COVID in East Tennessee,” Dr. Jahangir said. “He’s 17-years-old. Can you imagine that? It just breaks my heart because I suspect he and his family are unvaccinated from everything I’ve read."
Dr. Jahangir was talking about Justin Leming who friends describe as a "joy to be around."
Pediatric hospitals aren't just filling up with COVID patients, they're also seeing an uptick in other viruses as people become more active.
"It’s just unnecessary that we have this. It is lack of leadership that we’re having this problem," Dr. Jahangir said.
Dr. Jahangir took strong stances on recent orders handed down by Gov. Bill Lee, like allowing parents to opt-out their kids from wearing masks in schools.
"Here’s what we need: We need to be not be able to opt of mask mandates in schools. The two largest school districts in Tennessee have not allowed that and they have half the number of COVID-19 cases per capita than any other school district.
We need to encourage vaccinations. Not just COVID but all kinds of vaccinations in Tennessee to keep our children safe. That’s something that is actively being attacked
We need to make ensure that public health infrastructures, such as the local health boards, which have been striped of powers, and even the state health department, which some have talked about dissolving , that that doesn’t happen. We need to protect our kids, our neighbors and our friends for those reasons."
While Dr. Jahangir says Nashville is faring better than Tennessee when it comes to COVID-19, having one of the highest vaccination rates and lowest case rates, it really is a team effort.
“At the end of the day, we still are in Tennessee and Nashville has a lot of people that commute in and out of our state and visit our city and we’re proud of that. But we really need to get our overall vaccination rate up."
Some places in Nashville, like Bridgestone Arena and other music venues, are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative virus test for entry. Dr. Jahangir said he hopes safety measures like these will spread throughout the state.
And what comes next?
Well, Dr. Jahangir says he wishes he could "say somewhere goodI think a lot of my colleagues are exhausted, I don’t see this just miraculously going away."
“My hope is that people will start seeing that this is real, will start listening to actual factual information. They’ll do that because they’ve been closely impacted by this.”
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