MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Health leaders announced Thursday that Tennessee has the highest daily COVID-19 rate in the nation.
Numbers show Tennessee has 639 cases per 100,000 population, compared to the national average of 451 per capita– most of the cases in Tennessee are in the Eastern part of the state.
”I think it correlates with the uses of the mask, unfortunately, we’re dealing with situations where wearing a mask is becoming a political statement,” Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Officer, said. “People are just not wearing them.”
The Shelby County Health Department reported another 1,163 new coronavirus cases and four more deaths on Thursday– the first time in the pandemic that Shelby County has topped more than 1,000 new cases in a single day.
Although numbers are continuing to grow, health leaders say there’s some good news for Memphis and Shelby County.
”Our rate in Shelby County is the sixth lowest in all of the 94 counties in the entire state, so what you are doing is working,” Doug McGowen, Chief Operating Officer for the City of Memphis, said.
Meanwhile, hospital beds in Shelby County are limited with 95 percent of acute care beds and 97 percent of ICU beds currently utilized.
“Though the numbers are very high, there is still capacity to treat people who are very sick who need hospital care,” McGowen said.
As of Monday, there were 512 people hospitalized in the Mid-South with COVID-19 complications, but health leaders say there are early treatments available for people infected with COVID-19 that will dramatically reduce the need to be hospitalized– which is a Monoclonal Antibody Treatment.
“That is a great tool, just like vaccinations, we are getting more and more doses of monoclonal antibody, and early treatment with that is shown it’s a huge percentage of people who will not need to be hospitalized with that treatment,” McGowen explained.
According to the CDC, these antibodies could help the immune system recognize and respond more effectively to the virus.
However, if COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase, local facilities are prepared to adjust, including expanding the ICU capacity by filling additional rooms with ICU equipment, which is what McGowen says they’ve had to do the last few days.
“We may never reach that 100% point if we continue to expand that existing care and the ability to care that we have right now,” McGowen said.
Health leaders urge residents not to let their guard down, especially with the holiday quickly approaching, foreshadowing a difficult period between Christmas and mid-January.
”Wear your mask, get tested, know your status, wash your hands, avoid crowds, avoid gathering with people that are outside of your household,” McGowen said.