To the citizens of Franklin County

August 24, 2021

To the citizens of Franklin County:

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our community last year, I knew it would be challenging. Throughout that difficult time, our incredibly talented, committed and courageous healthcare heroes bravely faced the challenges brought on by the virus - going above and beyond the call of duty to fight against COVID-19, working hard to ensure a safe place of care for our patients and for each other, and contributing to protecting the health and well-being of our community. 

Sadly, today we are experiencing many of the same challenges we faced when the pandemic first began, except our current situation is worse than it has ever been. The situation we are in is very difficult, and our healthcare heroes are tired. Their resilience is remarkable, but I see how this crisis wears on them. They need your help. Now is the time for us all to be heroes and do our part to help slow the spread of the virus.

One critical way that we can all help is by getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Tennessee has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, with only 40 percent of the population fully vaccinated. Our own community’s vaccination rate is even lower at 31 percent. We are seeing an increase in COVID-19 in Franklin County and with the documented increase in confirmed positive cases, Southern Tennessee Regional Health System-Winchester/Sewanee is seeing an increase in hospitalizations. At this point, most of the patients we are seeing who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated and are very sick. We are doing everything we can to manage the rapid increase in patients while also continuing to care for the ongoing, non-COVID-19 healthcare needs of our community.

The hardest part of what we’re facing right now is knowing this is avoidable, and with your help, we can turn the tide against COVID-19.  Getting vaccinated greatly reduces the likelihood of someone contracting the virus, being hospitalized or dying.  I know many people have questions or concerns about the vaccine – I did too, at first. After talking to clinicians I know and trust, and reviewing the facts, I feel very confident in my decision to get vaccinated. If you are on the fence about getting vaccinated, please pick up the phone and call your physician to talk specifically about the vaccine.

Further, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently granted full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.  We have known that the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines were safe and effective, and we are pleased that the FDA has taken this important step to further validate this based on thorough research and comprehensive data review. I am hopeful this decision will help reduce vaccine hesitancy among unvaccinated individuals. 

Additionally, we strongly encourage our community to take other precautions that we know are effective in slowing the spread of the virus, including wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and continuing proper hand hygiene. When ALL of these measures are consistently practiced, they will help lower the transmission rate and reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in our community.

Even in the midst of this challenging time, we strongly urge our community not to delay essential and emergency care when it is needed. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 9-1-1 or head to the nearest ER.

On behalf of our team of healthcare heroes at Southern Tennessee Regional Health System-Winchester/Sewanee, we appreciate the opportunity to serve you. Please join us in doing everything we can to help end this pandemic.

Sincerely,

Cliff Wilson

CEO, Southern Tennessee Regional Health System-Winchester/Sewanee