FEMA, CDC fighting against COVID-19 case increase in Shelby County

Updated: Jul. 2, 2020 at 5:58 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Members of the federal government are in Shelby County, working to get a hold on the rising COVID-19 cases. The county is quickly working its way toward 11,000 cases after recording more than 400 new cases over the past 24 hours.

Leaders from the White House, FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control are here to help support local officials in the fight against COVID-19.

At a press conference in Shelby County Thursday, a message was delivered straight from the CDC.

“Everyone here in Shelby County should wear face masks or coverings over their mouth and nose whenever they can’t ensure social distancing,” Rear Admiral Jonathan Mermin with the CDC said.

Mermin and a team from the White House and FEMA are in Shelby County in response to rising case numbers of COVID 19. Similar groups are dispersed around the country.

“What we’re seeing is there are many cities and counties seeing dramatic increases,” Mermin said. “Teams were brought together to go out to the top ten jurisdictions which we did two days ago to see if there are any ways we can support the efforts locally.”

The United States recorded more than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday which is a single day record. Tennessee also recorded its single day case record Wednesday with more than 1,800.

On Thursday, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health, Shelby County recorded its single day record of new cases with 421.

“We are concerned about the trajectory of the virus in Shelby County and across the nation,” Mermin said.

Cities coast to coast are pausing or reversing their back to business plans including Nashville which is moving back from phase three to phase two, and closing all bars for at least two weeks.

Within the past 24 hours, several businesses in Shelby County have shut down for cleaning because employees tested positive for COVID-19. Walgreens at Union and McLean closed Wednesday. On Thursday, Aldos Pizza, Bardog Tavern and Slider Inn closed after someone within its restaurant group tested positive. Hattie B’s in Midtown said its also closing for the same reason.

Officials held off on moving to phase three because of the upward trend in cases they continue to say that was the right move. As for moving back in phases no decision has been made, but they are talking about other restrictions.

As COVID-19 cases increase throughout the Mid-South, there are eyes on Shelby County’s hospitals. For most of the week hospitals here have seen more than 80 percent occupancy of its acute care and ICU beds.

That kind of hospital occupancy is what is being seen in hospitals across the Mid-South. Shelby County does have an overflow care site that has yet to be needed.

Even as COVID-19 cases rise, now more than 10,700 cases recorded in Shelby County, doctors have not had to admit patients into the Tennessee Health Department’s overflow care site in the old Commercial Appeal Building.

“It stands ready to be used when needed. Our goal is to get the transmission down so the facility is not needed. That’s always been our goal,” Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said.

Haushalter said the site is meant to be a regional care site which could mean patients from other states. In nearby DeSoto County, Mississippi more than 1,300 cases have been recorded which is the second most in the state.

The Arkansas Department of Health reports more than 800 of its 982 IUC beds are filled.

“It’s a regional approach so what would happen is they’d have to reach out to the Tennessee Department of Health and ask to partner,” Haushalter said.

So far no state has reached out to do that.

“It’s not beyond reason but at the current time that’s not in the plan,” Haushalter said.

We’ve reached out to the Mississippi Health Department about hospital bed occupancy in the state but have not heard back.

Doctors are keeping their eyes on how this holiday weekend may affect hospitalizations a couple weeks from now. They saw spikes in cases after Memorial Day and even Mother’s Day so as always they say if you’re celebrating this weekend avoid large crowds, social distance and wear your mask.

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