Shelby County tops 1,000 COVID-19 deaths as community reaches ‘worst part’ of pandemic

Shelby County tops 1,000 COVID-19 deaths

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - An early look at Shelby County’s Friday COVID-19 data release shows the county has reached a grim milestone, surpassing 1,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The county’s COVID-19 data dashboard is updated nightly ahead of the next day’s release. As of Thursday evening, it showed 1,003 deaths, an increase of 19 since Thursday’s briefing, and 898 new confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Health officials expected to exceed the 1,000 death mark by the end of the week, acknowledging this is the worst part of the pandemic thus far for Shelby County.

On Thursday, Shelby County reported 31 deaths. Health officials said those deaths happened between Dec. 11 and Jan. 5. Meanwhile, vaccinations continue in the county, but the Shelby County Health Department said those doses are running out.

“We are very much in the middle of the worst part of this epidemic in our community,” said David Sweat, Chief of Epidemiology with the Shelby County Health Department. “We’re experiencing the surge in cases after the holiday break.”

With more than 650 people in Shelby County hospitals -- the highest since the pandemic began -- health officials said we need to stay the course in fighting this virus even as more vaccines go into arms.

Shelby County leaders push for more vaccines

The question of just how many people we can keep vaccinating is up in the air. Wednesday the Shelby County Health Department said it is running out of its first allotment of the vaccine with no word on when it will receive more.

However, on Thursday health officials said they haven’t run out just yet and are continuing to vaccinate people in congregant settings for the rest of the week.

“Trying to determine when our next shipment will arrive and how many dose will be sent to us,” Sweat said. “Hopefully we’ll get information from the state about that either today or tomorrow.”

Across the county there’s a plea for a faster rollout of vaccine distribution. With the demand greater than the national supply the rollout has been slow, but Tennessee has been faster than most other states in the country.

SCHD hopeful more vaccine doses will arrive soon

“We see Tennessee ranks in the top three in the nation for distribution and administration of vaccine,” Sweat said.

Not much of a consolation, the Shelby County Health Department said, for those who feel the vaccine rollout has been too slow. More than 24,000 in Shelby County have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sweat said he’s hoping more vaccines come on the market to increase supply. Until then he said the State Department of Health is looking at ways they can reallocate doses ready for use.

“Participating in a lot of conversations. Some communities seem to have reached saturation points and other communities similar to ours have more demand and no vaccine available so the state is seeing how they can reallocate those and move those around,” Sweat said.

The state gets about 90,000 doses a week. Shelby County health officials have said at that rate it will take about a year to vaccinate the 650,000 people necessary to reach herd immunity.

Shelby County in middle of worst part of pandemic, health officials say

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