NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - COVID-19 continues to go in the wrong direction in Tennessee as health experts say our state is now number one in the country in new COVID cases per capita.

The news is disheartening for health care workers.

Dr. Alex Jahangir is with Metro's COVID-19 Task Force and said the state did not have to be at this point, and this wasn't inevitable.

In a tweet, Jahangir wrote, "If we, were our own country, we would be number two for new cases in the world. It does not have to be this way. "

"Since yesterday, we now would be number 1 country in the world per capita as far as new cases, and that's just devastating," Jahangir said. "People feel it. People see it, and it's just really unfortunate. Because it wasn't inevitable, it just did not have to be this way, but here we are."

Tennessee added about 3,200 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday, and more people are getting hospitalized, putting a strain on hospitals.

"Local hospitals systems have canceled a large amount of elective surgery to redeploy staff to take care of patients with COVID," Jahangir said. "This is not a drill. This is not hyperbole. This is a crisis of health care happening right now."

Doctors and healthcare workers are also sounding the alarm about COVID-19 and kids. President and CEO of Meharry Medical College James E.K. Hildreth said the number of COVID cases among Tennessee children is "unacceptable and unnecessary."

"About 40 percent of our cases right now are in children," Jahangir said. "That's why kids wearing masks in schools should not be something we debate. It's something we should do if we really care about our kids."

Jahangir said the delta variant ravages the southeast, including Tennessee, where vaccination rates are about 10 percent less than the national average.

"It can get worse in that more and more hospitals and healthcare workers are no longer available. And people will die. People will die of COVID. People will die of heart attacks and other things. It's bad, and it can get worse, unfortunately," Jahangir said. "I'm typically a very optimistic person. And I do believe we will get through this, but what I worry about is how much it will ravage us until we get there."

Jahangir said Nashville's vaccination rate is in line with the national average, about 52 percent fully vaccinated. However, Jahangir, as well as doctors and healthcare workers, continue to urge people to get vaccinated.

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