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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

New Vanderbilt maps show COVID-19 spread statewide in Tennessee

Researchers say community spread is rising.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — New heat maps from Vanderbilt University researchers show how COVID-19 is spreading and intensifying across the state. 

They say data shows the transmission rate across Tennessee is also climbing. Vanderbilt researchers say all you have to do is look at the numbers, and it is clear there is real community spread of COVID-19

"It's definitely increasing and the pace its increasing is scaring me," says Melissa McPheeters, a Vanderbilt Epidemiologist.

McPheeters says all you have to do is look at the latest heat maps of COVID-19. From the Memphis Metro area to Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee, McPheeters says you can see the increase in cases across the state and in areas not previously seen.

Credit: Vanderbilt

"We had, sort of, these centers that were really dark red previously, and seems to be spreading out all across the state. Everybody is being hit by this," says McPheeters.

Another concern is that the transmission rate, known as the "R" rate, keeps going up. Not long ago, the R rate was under one. Now metro Memphis' rate is from 1.12 to 1.29. Nashville's is as high as 1.32 and statewide, it is 1.15 to 1.29.

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"They don't sound like very big numbers now, do they? And yet they have an incredible impact in the community," says McPheeters. "The change from a 1.1 to 1.2 to 1.3 to 1.4  actually has a really big impact in cases, and then in hospitalizations."

Credit: Vanderbilt

McPheeters says the recent decisions to roll Nashville back to Phase 2, and Tuesday's announcement of further restrictions in Shelby County, will hopefully slow the spread. But it could take weeks to tell if it's working.

McPheeters says Tennessee really needs to get its transmission or "R" rate back to 1.0 or below. It may be hard, but she says we did it before, and if people wear masks and social distance, we can do it again.