Public plays critical role in stopping the spread of COVID-19, health officials say

Public plays critical role in stopping the spread of COVID-19, health officials say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As cases of COVID-19 continue to spike from reopenings across many southern states, health officials are pointing out the public plays a critical role in stopping the virus, and that’s true no matter where you live.

“I am really fearful going into the fall,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi Health Officer. “It is going to be an absolute disaster. I am very, very concerned.”

Dobbs sounded the alarm about a lack of public adherence to social distancing and mask wearing in Mississippi, where COVID-19 cases have spiked.

“You don’t have to shut everything down to shut down COVID. You can do real simple things, and it would work,” he said.

Dobbs later told the Jackson Free Press he’s worried hospitals in Mississippi could be so taxed later this year patients with other health issues like traumas from car wrecks or heart attacks might have nowhere to go.

“Masks make a difference, and so it’s critical that everyone wear their mask while they are in public but also while they are in the workplace and when they may be visiting individuals who are vulnerable,” said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department Director.

In Shelby County public health officials shelved a move to phase three of reopening indefinitely as day-to-day numbers of COVID-19 cases have grown, but they stopped short of sending the county back to phase one.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Wednesday in an update a move back to phase one would only come after more signs of significant transmission.

“The only way I will push to move back to phase one is if the data and the doctors find that we have random community spread, and we cannot control it. As it stands right now, that is not happening,” Strickland said in a daily update.

The Memphis City Council passed a mask ordinance last week requiring the wearing of a facial covering in indoor public spaces. Mayor Strickland has not signed it and his staff said Wednesday it remains under legal review.

In terms of overflow hospital space in Shelby County, the old Commercial Appeal building is built out and ready to go in the event of a surge.

The president of the Mississippi Hospital Association told WMC Action News 5 rural hospitals will be an important part of their strategy if a surge happens, because of the bed space they can provide.

A spokesperson for Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said Camp Shelby, which is a military training post near Hattiesburg, has been put on standby as a possible surge site.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.