County health officials concerned with growing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations amid fall surge

Updated: Oct. 26, 2020 at 5:47 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Health officials say the numbers are concerning. There have been more than 400 new COVID-19 cases in Shelby County between Sunday and Monday.

Hospitalizations continue to go up, and it’s likely we’ll see numbers similar to what we saw during the peak of the pandemic this summer. Doctors said our surge is behind other states, but after seeing what happened at hospitals in those states there is reason for concern.

“We hardly got out of the first wave so it’s hard to call it a third wave here though we certainly we did see dips,” said Baptist Memorial Hospital Infectious Disease Doctor Dr. Steve Threlkeld.

Whether you call it the fall wave or second or third wave, doctors call it concerning. COVID-19 cases are continuing to go up in Shelby County and so are hospitalizations.

Healthcare Resource Tracking System, 10-26-2020
Healthcare Resource Tracking System, 10-26-2020(Source: Shelby County Health Department)

On Monday Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter told the County Commission over the last few weeks we’ve averaged about 220-300 new COVID-19 cases a day. From Sunday to Monday that number was 404.

“At least one of the hospitals when we looked at their data of Thursday of last week 40 percent of their admissions were not Shelby County admissions,” said Haushalter. “They were from other counties.”

Threlkeld said hospitalizations aren’t at the highest of the pandemic, but they are surging. At Baptist Memphis, there are nearly 80 people there with COVID-19. Two weeks ago there were 50.

He said the trend is one many states have already seen.

“Some of these north and Midwest states have had trouble with their hospitals being full,” said Threlkeld. “Some states have even had protocols on how they will use ICU beds.”

But what hasn’t been used is the more than $50 million alternate care facility the state set up at the old Commercial Appeal headquarters on Union Avenue. Haushalter said the state stands ready to use it if necessary.

“We reached out to the State Health Department last week because of our concerns locally,” said Haushalter. “I’ll be honest, the state was less concerned with Shelby County because our growth wasn’t as high as some others, particularly Davison County and Knox County.”

Over the summer we saw large surges in cases around the holidays. With Halloween coming up the health department continues to say trick or treating is still allowed, but use best practices like washing your hands, wearing a mask and avoiding as much contact with those not in your immediate circle.

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