Health officials concerned after Tennessee sees largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases; Shelby Co. cases still on the rise

Spike in cases among young people in Shelby Co.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The state of Tennessee saw its largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases Friday, with 1,410 new cases reported. That number includes 157 additional cases in Shelby County.

Two well-known physicians WMC Action News 5 spoke with Friday said they feel this is a very significant point locally in the pandemic, with cases and community spread up, they said what you do will determine what happens next.

“I am afraid that we are not taking this seriously enough quickly enough,” said Dr. Jeff Warren. “I am afraid that we let our guard down and now we have to figure out how to get it back up again.”

Dr. Jeff Warren is part of the city-county COVID-19 task force and a member of the Memphis City Council. In fact, he’s one of the council members who spearheaded the passage of the mask ordinance, which Mayor Jim Strickland signed Thursday.

The ordinance requires the wearing of a facial covering in Memphis in indoor public spaces.

“I think people know what they should be doing,” said Warren. “I think they’ve just decided they don’t want to do it anymore, and we can’t do that.”

Local doctors concerned as COVID-19 cases and spread steadily rise

Statistics from the task force show the number of new cases over the past 14 days in Shelby County is steadily increasing.

More problematic, Warren said, is that cases of the virus increase exponentially or double on top of each other. That means once you realize there's a major problem with spread, it's typically too late.

"It sneaks up on you. You're looking at it. You're looking at it, and all of a sudden it's out of control," he said. "And it happens very dramatically."

“We have seen, unfortunately, a significant upturn in hospitalizations from low 30s to upper 60s in just a little over two weeks,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist.

Threlkeld said hospitalized patients typically acquired their infection two to four weeks before needing care in a facility.

Statistics from the task force show county-wide 84% of acute care beds are utilized and 83% of ICU beds are utilized, with a status of yellow.

"Let's not put ourselves in a situation a month from now where we say I wish we would've taken this seriously, and I wish we would've done the things that we know would have worked," said Threlkeld.

Threlkeld said limiting social interactions, hand washing, and mask-wearing when around others are proven strategies for keeping the virus at bay.

“I think it’s going to be increasingly important in the next month,” he said. “The numbers are up. We need to curtail that. If we don’t, we could find ourselves, even with preparation, even with being ready, even with taking significant steps, with bad things happening like the medical systems being stretched.”

The old Commercial Appeal building on Union Avenue is built out as a 400-bed hospital. The decision on whether or not to activate it and when will come from the state of Tennessee.

Numbers from the task force show 21.2% of Shelby County's COVID-19 cases are among those ages 25 to 34, followed by 18.4% among those in the 35 to 44 age bracket.

Warren said he’s seeing increasing numbers of young patients testing positive for the virus.

“In the last two weeks, I’ve had more young people test positive than I have from the beginning,” said Warren. “They go out. They are hanging with their friends, and the problem is they are going to go home and kill their parents or grandparents. So we really have to have that group of people do a better job at wearing masks and social distance.”

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