Shelby County reaches grim milestone, daily positivity rate spikes

Shelby County reaches grim milestone, daily positivity rate spikes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County reached a grim milestone on Wednesday, marking over 100 deaths related to COVID-19.

In addition, the county recorded its highest number of daily new deaths since the pandemic started, and the daily positivity rate, a key measure in determining if there's enough testing being done, also spiked to its highest level in more than a month.

Simply put, the numbers show COVID-19 remains a top concern for health leaders, even as Memphis and other parts of the Mid-South continue to reopen.

The county's total number of deaths stands at 102.

This includes eight new deaths, the largest number reported in a single day. Three of those deaths were at nursing homes, including two at Quince Health and Rehab and one at Highlands of Memphis Health and Rehab.

The total number of confirmed cases in Shelby County stands at 4,581.

Then there's the positivity rate.

The positivity rate is the number of tests performed versus the number that came back positive.

Experts say a higher positivity rate may indicate that there's not enough testing being done.

On Sunday, the daily positivity rate spiked to 13.5 percent, the highest in more than a month, according to Shelby County health department data.

However, the overall positivity rate is 6.8 percent. Officials have been aiming to remain under 10 percent.

"Health Department leadership is still examining the increase in the testing positivity rate reflected in today's data. One data point doesn't necessarily indicate a trend," Joan Carr, the health department's public information officer said in a statement to WMC Action News 5. "Today's data will be evaluated in relation to the testing positivity data over the next few days to determine what this spike may mean."

On Tuesday, county health department director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said an increase in the daily positivity rate last week, before the holiday weekend, was a combination of more targeted testing, like at nursing homes, and less social distancing.

" We're all getting back to work," said Haushalter. "Sometimes people are less likely to wear their masks if it's hot outside."

Baptist Memorial Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld agrees that one or two days doesn't indicate a trend.

"It tells us that we still have a problem that we have to attend to," said Threlkeld. "It does tell us the virus is still there. We know this. And it does tell us that if we don't do those things that we know work, we absolutely could get into a bigger problem."

The county also announced this week that ten employees tested positive at the penal farm. So far, only one inmate has tested positive, though only five tests have been given to inmates.

The county is planning more testing there for early June.

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