The Investigators: Shelby County’s COVID-19 test positivity rate declines even as businesses reopen

The Investigators: Shelby County’s COVID-19 test positivity rate declines even as businesses reopen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As more people test for COVID-19, the number of cases will continue to rise but health officials are watching the testing positivity rate.

A testing positivity rate is the number of positive tests compared to the number of tests taken.

On May 14, 7.59% of the total tests in Shelby County were positive.

That’s down from over a week ago when the County’s positivity rate was 8.37%.

Still, Shelby County’s positivity rate is higher than the state’s rate.

“Positivity rate reflects the people who’ve tested positive but it largely also reflects the population that you’re testing,” Dr. Scott Strome, Executive Dean for the UT Health Science Center’s College of Medicine. “So if you’re largely testing a symptomatic population, which we are in Memphis, by definition your rates are going to be higher than if you test an asymptomatic population.”

Not only does it matter who you test but also where, said Dr. Strome.

For example, Nashville’s positivity rate is 9.5%, which is higher than both the state and Shelby County average.

“We know some regions are relatively hot,” said Dr. Strome.

Meanwhile, Arkansas keeps track of its daily positivity test rate, which is currently below 5%.

The lower percentages are promising but Dr. Strome remains concerned.

“I do not think we’re doing this well,” said Dr. Strome. “When I drive by a Target and I walk in and see the majority of people not wearing their masks, that means by definition almost, that the number of cases are going to rise.

“We really need to respect our social contract with one another, which means mask wearing when you’re outside and in contact with other people,” he said.

Dr. Strome also reminds people to continue to socially distance, maintaining a 6-foot distance from those in other housholds, and regular, vigorous hand washing.

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