Officials probe whether COVID-19 uptick is start of surge or simply ‘new normal’

Officials probe whether COVID-19 uptick is start of surge or simply ‘new normal’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter briefed commissioners Wednesday on the COVID-19 pandemic. She said members of the COVID-19 task force are trying to determine if recent case spikes signify a surge coming or just represent our new reality of living with the virus among us.

"A lot of our transmission is occurring in family clusters and in employment clusters," she said.

Haushalter in an update to county commissioners said the county is currently averaging about 100 new COVID-19 cases a day and increased social activity with less social distancing through May is believed to be behind the uptick.

"So, while being out in public is a concern, what we are seeing is particularly around Mother's Day and the Memorial Day holiday is people spent time around family and close friends and were less likely to wear a mask," she said.

Tuesday the department reported 190 new cases of the virus, the largest one-day spike in cases since the pandemic started. Wednesday the department added 98 new cases to the tally.

"We are trying to take a deeper dive to understand is that an indication of a beginning of a surge or what we would call a new normal, an expectation that as we get back to business we would have an increased number of cases day-to-day," she said.

Haushalter said the health department began interviews Tuesday in a multi-million dollar expansion with federal funds from Memphis and Shelby County to fight COVID-19. There are 141 jobs available and she told commissioners employees would be brought on quickly so they could get to work. Dozens of contact tracing positions are included in the expansion.

Tuesday the county health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said it was unlikely the county would move to phase three of reopening next week, given the additional positive cases we are seeing.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland extended phase two through executive order in the city until June 16.

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