Erlanger Hospital stands on East 3rd Street. Monday, February 7, 2022.

Southeast Tennessee hospitals are currently overwhelmed with the number of Omicron patients which is leading to a shortage of ICU beds for COVID and non-COVID related cases alike.

This increase in cases is likely due to the more transmittable nature of Omicron compared to the previous variants. 

According to Dr. Dawn Ford, Chief Epidemiologist at UTC, “30% of all cases happened in January–we believe that we’ve peaked.” However, she also states that we “are not going to get down to baseline in February like we thought we would.”

Although the number of cases in Chattanooga is daunting, health services on and off campus are doing the best they can to keep up. The problem is that according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, there aren’t enough staff members to man the ICU beds due to them needing an extensive amount of training. 

Staff at UTC are more or less using the same protocols that they did for the Fall semester to handle COVID-19 cases, as stated by Dr. Smith, Committee Chairperson of the UTC COVID-19 Campus Support Team. 

Dr. Smith expresses that they “meet several times a week and keep in communication daily” to make sure that they are addressing and handling the influx of cases properly. 

University staff continue to urge members of the community to isolate themselves if they feel unwell or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

UTC is also offering on-campus isolation housing, which unlike Tennessee’s ICU beds, is plentiful. Dr. Smith explained that UTC has 70 on campus beds to offer, but the amount of students quarantined in them has never been more than 20 at a time. 

UTC is also offering additional testing opportunities by appointment at the Collins Street Annex. If you are experiencing symptoms and need a rapid test, you can go to this link: to sign up for an appointment.

Omicron cases have decreased from January, and hopefully will continue on this downward trend. Vaccination, masking, and distancing are recommended when needed to continue to support the Chattanooga healthcare system.

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