With COVID-19 surging throughout East Tennessee, five health care professionals from across the region came together on Wednesday to address the growing crisis. 
 
Dr. James Shamieyah from the University of Tennessee Medical Center, Dr. Mark Browne from Covenant Health, Dr. Joe Childs of East Tennessee Children's Hospital, Dr. Frank Beuerlein from Tennova Healthcare and Blount Memorial Hospital's Dr. Harold Naramore detailed several aspects of East Tennessee's struggle against the virus during Wednesday's virtual meeting. 
 
Shamiyeh spoke first, giving an update on collective hospital data from health care facilities across the region. Shamiyeh presented a number of sobering statistics, in particular highlighting the fact that only 2.6% of ICU beds in the entire region are currently available. Shamiyeh also pointed out that the current surge of COVID-19 has hit East Tennessee harder than the winter peak earlier this year. 
 
While each of the medical professionals discussed a different aspect of the virus and how it is impacting each of their communities and the region as a whole, there was a common thread running through every doctor's segment: Get vaccinated. 
 
Childs, who addressed COVID's impact on children, advised that the best way to protect vulnerable children is to get the vaccine. 
 
"The most important thing you can do right now in your household — if you have kids that are at risk for COVID or kids that you certainly want to prevent this infection — is to vaccinate the adults that are around them," Childs said. 
 
Naramore spoke last and discussed the staffing issues that are plaguing health care facilities amid the current COVID surge. Blount Memorial's chief medical officer once again pleaded with East Tennessee residents to get vaccinated, not only to protect themselves, but to protect their communities. 
 
"I'm going to say some of the things you've heard already: Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. Please consider the vaccine. Please look at the science," Naramore said. "None of us have a crystal ball about how long this is going to last or how bad it's going to get. But we can work together in our community to improve where we're at and help all of us now, together."

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