MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The number of COVID-19 cases continues to spike in Shelby County, as our neighbors to the south in Mississippi and the west in Arkansas are seeing additional significant increases.
Public health officials are already warning about the July 4 holiday next week.
"We would caution people given the number of cases in the US, given the number of states seeing increases, we would ask people to be more careful," said David Sweat, Chief Epidemiologist of the Shelby County Health Department.
Shelby County added 294 cases of COVID-19 to its tally Thursday, the second highest day-to-day increase since the pandemic hit.
The highest number came last Saturday, when the county logged 385 additional cases. Officials later said that number was due to a testing backlog at a laboratory.
Statewide Mississippi recorded 1,092 new cases Thursday, its highest number ever. The state's public health officials said in a late afternoon news conference that Mississippians are not taking the virus seriously.
“There have been lots of parties where 300 plus people are getting together, and they’re close. And they’re drinking after each other,” said Dr. Paul Byers, State Epidemiologist for the Mississippi State Department of Health. ”This is something we can really have an impact on if we all buy in.”
Arkansas is part of a list of eight states on a travel advisory list, rolled out Wednesday by the Governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, who ask visitors from Arkansas to quarantine for 14 days.
"We are clearly on pause here in the state in terms of moving to lift further restrictions until we are comfortable with where we are in controlling the spread," said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Thursday afternoon.
"We are very much trying to keep our finger on the pulse of what's going on regionally," said Sweat.
Leaders at the Shelby County health department say local and national trends point to more infections in the younger population as a result of social gatherings.
And it's that kind of activity they are sounding the alarm on, one week before the Independence Day holiday.
“A lot of the transmission that’s occurring right now is going on in social situations, such as people going to a bar, people having an event, people at a backyard barbecue, pool party things like that,” he said. ”Those kinds of events increase the risk the virus can find a new host, move into a new family and create another household cluster.”
Public health officials said it's also becoming increasingly obvious there is no seasonality to this virus, where there was hope it would die down in the summer, they are not seeing that currently.
Sweat said the most recent numbers show a peak of cases in Shelby County according to the models in October.
Hospitalizations locally have been increasing, with 232 people in the hospital at the time of Thursday's media briefing.
Sweat said at this point, that number remains within capacity, and the old Commercial Appeal site on Union Avenue is built out and ready to be activated as a hospital if needed.
“If we get to some trigger points around the hospitals activating surge plans, they are staffing as many beds as we can staff, and numbers continue to climb, then we will have conversations with the state about when is the right time to open up the alternative care site,” he said.