Health officials discourage use of ‘daily’ positivity rate in COVID-19 testing analysis; Awaiting governor’s order on contact sports

Health officials discourage use of ‘daily’ positivity rate in COVID-19 testing analysis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The positivity rate from tests reported Thursday to the Shelby County Health Department appeared to be 53 percent, but officials said delays in lab processing are impacting those numbers. Of 610 tests reported, 326 results were positive.

“I want to caution people about looking at the day-to-day positivity rate,” said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department Director.

Haushalter said a more accurate measure is the weekly positivity rate, which is currently trending around 14 percent. The daily rate can be misleading, she indicated, because lab delays cause results to be reported from a variety of collection days.

She said testing capacity has been reduced, and labs are still working through delays in processing results.

WMC Action News 5 saw a steady stream of cars Thursday morning pulling into the city’s old vehicle inspection station off Lamar Avenue, which UTHSC has transitioned to replaces its Tiger Lane testing site.

“We have high levels of community transmission of this virus,” said Dr. Jon McCullers, Pediatrician-In_Chief at Lebonheur and Dean of Clinical Affairs at the UTHSC College of Medicine.

McCullers said Lebonheur has been inundated with questions from parents and school officials about what to do this fall. He acknowledged Thursday that every option carries some risk, but the decision remains with the school districts and families themselves.

Shelby County Schools announced Monday they would start the school year all virtual. Other districts in the county still plan to offer some version of in-person learning.

“There is no good answer to this. We know if kids go back to schools, we are likely to see transmission within the schools,” he said. “Having kids in school, having face-to-face learning is the best way for kids to learn.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced this week he would sign an executive order allowing school contact sports like football and girls soccer to resume this fall.

“We do think there are inherent risks as far as contact sports,” said Haushalter.

Officials locally said they are waiting to see the order, and Haushalter indicated the health department would make a more formal statement after it was sent out.

“It’s very clear from the medical perspective that with the degree of transmission we have in the community right now, it is not safe to go back to contact sports such as football,” said McCullers.

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