SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - While vaccinations continue in Shelby County, health officials continue to look at what restrictions are necessary to decrease COVID-19 cases locally. The safer-at-home order outlined in the current health directive will end on Friday, but a new health directive will take its place.
The new health directive, Health Directive 17, will go into effect on Saturday, with full details being released Wednesday.
It looks like restaurant capacity will be increased and mandates like masks in public areas still in effect.
“This directive places a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility,” said Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph.
By Saturday restaurants can increase their occupancy from 25% to 50%, but dine-in still ends at 10 p.m.
“We are still limiting the number of people seated at a table, no more than six with six feet apart,” said Randolph.
Health Directive 17 will also require masks at restaurants when customers are not eating or drinking and at gyms.
Health officials said staying the course is key as they work to get more people vaccinated. About 3% of the county is vaccinated according to the Shelby County Health Department.
While logistics of vaccinating more than 650,000 people are taking up much of the Shelby County Health Department’s time, officials are positive about the trajectory of the pandemic locally. Cases are dropping. Between Monday and Tuesday, 362 cases were reported and zero deaths.
The county is also moving away from the 1:1 transmission ratio.
“We’re very, very proud to acknowledge as a community our reproductive rate is below one. It’s at .89 percent,” said Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter.
The work continues to locate any new variants of COVID-19 including the B117 variant spotted in the United Kingdom.
Haushalter said identifying new variants quickly can prevent restrictions like we saw at the beginning of the pandemic.
“We know that strain is currently more transmissible than we are seeing in Shelby County,” said Haushalter. “That can impact our pandemic significantly. So we’re working with the labs to do genotyping of different specimens.”
Vaccinations at the Pipkin Building started back up Tuesday for health care workers, first responders and those 75 and older.
As of Saturday, the Shelby County Health department has vaccinated more than 13,000 people alone. While vaccination appointments remain filled through the rest of the month, the department is now finalizing plans to start administering people’s second doses.
The Shelby County Health Department administered its first vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, on Dec. 28. That means the 28 day window between the doses is coming to a close.
“We have received our second dose vaccine,” said Haushalter. “We’re not able to administer that yet because we haven’t reached the 28 day window. We will be administering that dose likely the first week in February, but we’re looking at other opportunities to begin that the last week of January.”
Haushalter said an announcement will come this week about a site where the second doses will be given.
“We know we have about 9,500 people to receive vaccines in that first round so we want to make sure we’re able to deliver all 9,500 of those in a week,” said Haushalter.
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