Shelby Co. health officials expect to see increase in COVID-19 cases following holiday weekend

Cases, positivity rate continue to increase Shelby County

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Health Officials expect to see COVID 19 cases increase following the Fourth of July weekend. The weekly positivity rates have more than doubled since Mother’s Day.

The last weekly positivity rate recorded is at 10.3%, which ties the highest since the pandemic began. That means more than 10% of all tests over a one-week period came back positive.

Shelby County’s health officer said that high number concerns him most. Six weeks ago the rate was the lowest since the pandemic began at 4.5%.

Shelby County COVID-19 testing positivity rate, June 30
Shelby County COVID-19 testing positivity rate, June 30 (Source: SCHD)

“The trend that we’re seeing that is immediately concerning is the increase in the positivity rate,” Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said.

Tuesday the Shelby County Health Department released two days worth of data. The total cases sit at 9,904 which is a 594 case increase from Sunday.

Data shows the total positivity rate through June 20 is 7.8%. It’s high but still below the 10% alarm, and that rate does not factor in last week’s positivity rate.

As we celebrated summer holidays, Mother’s Day to Memorial Day to Father’s Day, health officials have seen the number of positive cases go up. The next holiday is coming this weekend.

Memphis/Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force meeting -- June 30

“We’re anticipating increase following the July Fourth holiday, but we’re hoping you prove us wrong,” Dr. Randolph said.

Randolph said do not attend gatherings of more than 10 people. Doctors said bad social distancing is at the root of a lot of transmissions.

“We’ve had several cases where families have gotten together for several occasions and family members have gotten infected as a result,” said Randolph.

Since that weekly positivity rate has doubled since the start of phase two of the area’s Back to Business plan began, a lot of people are wondering if we will go back to phase one.

“We believe there are additional measures we can take that are short of returning to phase one,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said.

Harris said he’s looking at everything from measures to force more social distancing at bars and restaurants to more protections at nursing homes to help bring COVID 19 cases down in Shelby County and avoid going back to phase one.

COVID-19 surging in Shelby Co. as holiday weekend nears

Harris said the start of these increased measures are outlined in a new executive order he signed Tuesday providing more protections at the Division of Corrections. The order stops all in-person visitation, ends the housing of inmates from outside the county and provides more testing opportunities to inmates and staff.

“We’re driven by data and we’re looking at ways to tighten the faucet if we need to,” said Harris. “That includes discussing if we’re in the right phases, but we don’t want to get ahead of that discussion or analysis.”

Randolph said Shelby County is doing more testing than any other county in the state with more than 126,000 tests administered.

“Which could roughly be 13% of the population,” said Randolph.

Mayor Lee Harris weighing options, trying to avoid returning to phase 1

At Tuesday’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing, Dr. Latonya Washington said the virus is still disproportionally affecting communities of color. She said 50% of COVID-19 cases in Shelby County and 61% of deaths are among African Americans. Twenty-eight percent of cases are among Hispanics.

Right now 82% of ICU beds and 86% of acute care beds have patients in them.

“Certainly we are concerned but we’re not panicking,” said Randolph.” We’re just maintaining a watchful eye.”

The old Commercial Appeal building on Union Avenue has been converted into a patient overflow site. It has yet to be used.

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