MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The number of new COVID-19 cases per day is increasing in Shelby County, but officials have said some of that is expected. The next few weeks are key they reiterated Thursday in gauging how well we have slowed the spread of the virus amid reopening efforts.
“We are observing what appears to be an uptick, but we are still evaluating," said Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Officer.
More specifically, 122 new cases of COVID-19 were added to the county’s tally Thursday, yet another example of daily case counts creeping up.
But public health officials said they are conducting surge testing at nursing homes and other facilities, and those tests could be behind the uptick.
Washington, D.C. publication “The Hill” cited information from a Philadelphia model which suggests cities like Memphis and Nashville could become emerging hotspots for the virus in the coming weeks, as Tennessee continues reopening efforts and residents slack on social distancing.
Other potential virus epicenters mentioned were Houston and Dallas.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Thursday he was told about the report but advised that’s why medical experts on the task force, as well as himself, ask the public to wear a mask and social distance. Strickland noted hospitalizations because of the virus have increased as well.
“None of the doctors that I’ve heard of have sounded the alarm. I do know that they are concerned about it, and they monitor that every single day,” he said. “Which is also why they strongly recommend that we continue to stay vigilant.”
Randolph said even if a wave of new patients hits, the Memphis area is prepared with the alternative care hospital at the old Commercial Appeal building, ready to be activated if needed.
“The next 14 days will be very crucial for us to see exactly where we are and whether things are going in the right direction,” said Randolph.
Shelby County has been in phase two of its reopening plan since May 18. Public health officials have said it will be at least three weeks before phase three would begin, putting it at the second week of June at the earliest.