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Shelby County delays move to phase 3 after county’s largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases

Health department director calls spike ‘alarming’
Updated: Jun. 15, 2020 at 2:00 PM CDT
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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County health officials announced Monday the county will not move to phase three of the Back-to-Business plan Monday as anticipated.

“What we have is an increasing trend," said Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter. "We had questioned ourselves, do we have a new normal? No, we have not level-set at a new normal. Our cases are continuing to incline,” said Haushalter.

The county recorded its largest day-to-day case increase of COVID-19 Monday with 256 new cases since Sunday. Across Shelby County, 6,892 coronavirus cases and 139 deaths have been reported.

Haushalter said last week they anticipated moving to phase three June 15; however, speaking at a news conference Monday afternoon, Haushalter said several factors led to the delay, including the upward trend in cases and the reproductive rate, which she said are signs of significant transmission in the community. Increased hospitalizations and the decreasing ability to do contact tracing also played a part in the decision.

The health department said they began to get concerned late when case spikes could not be traced back to the Memorial Day weekend holiday.

Haushalter called the overnight increase in cases “alarming.”

A member of the COVID-19 task force, Dr. Jon McCullers, Dean of Clinical Affairs at UTHSC, tweeted Monday that many new hospitalized cases are previously healthy young adults.

“Worrisome part of our increased trend in hospitalizations is that many of the new cases are in previously healthy young adults in their 20s and 30s,” wrote McCullers. "We need to get the word out to wear masks and social distance.”

It’s not immediately clear when the county will move out of phase two. Haushalter said she would not give a date when asked but said the decision will be data-driven.

Haushalter said Shelby County needs to see a downward trend of cases over a period of 14 days before moving to the next phase.

The Memphis City Council is set to vote Tuesday on the final reading of an ordinance that would require the wearing of facial coverings in public.

Haushalter said the health department has been advised they cannot mandate a requirement on masks county-wide, but municipalities within the county can.

“It is the opinion of our attorney to the health department at the current time that we could not dictate masking through a health directive,” she said. “We will continue to explore that. So we will use the words strongly encouraged, but that does not change our perspective.”

Under phase three, grocery stores, restaurants, libraries, gyms and retail stores may open at 75% capacity. Capacity is restricted to 50% under phase two.

Of the county’s COVID-19 cases, 68.8% have recovered from the virus.

Recovered coronavirus cases in Shelby County, June 15
Recovered coronavirus cases in Shelby County, June 15(Source: SCHD)

More than 98,000 people have been tested for the coronavirus across Shelby County.

Click here to see demographic data from SCHD.

According to SCHD, there are active outbreaks/clusters at more than a dozen long-term care facilities in Shelby County.

Long-term care facilities with coronavirus outbreaks/clusters in Shelby County
Long-term care facilities with coronavirus outbreaks/clusters in Shelby County(Source: SCHD)

Outbreaks/clusters have been resolved at another 10 facilities in the county. The Shelby County Health Department said a cluster is considered resolved once a facility has gone 28 days without a new case.

Resolved outbreals/clusters at long-term care faciltiied in Shelby County
Resolved outbreals/clusters at long-term care faciltiied in Shelby County(Source: SCHD)

The most recent testing data from the Shelby County Division of Corrections shows six inmates and 13 employees with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to SCHD, after 700 inmates were tested.

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