COVID-19 deaths remain high as case counts and hospitalizations drop

COVID-19 cases decrease but deaths remain high statewide

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A new set of vaccine appointments is set to begin this Tuesday in Shelby County as COVID-19 case numbers are drastically decreasing but deaths from coronavirus remain high statewide.

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said with an on-going vaccine supply problem, they’re choosing each group receiving the vaccine very carefully.

Meanwhile, there are positive signs the situation surrounding COVID-19 is improving in Shelby County and statewide.

Related: Improved vaccine process leads to positive results as SCHD expands vaccine centers

As COVID-19 vaccine distribution increases in Tennessee, the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to drop.

Statewide, case numbers have dropped by two thirds in the last month.

In Shelby County, the positivity rate of COVID-19 tests is at 9.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since early November.

“This is a very dramatic decline that we’re very encouraged by,” said Dr. Piercey.

But deaths from COVID-19 remain at the highest rate statewide since the pandemic began.

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said death reports lag behind case numbers by several weeks and she hopes that number decreases very soon.

“Death reporting does continue to be at a very high level, that is to be expected and it does not necessarily signal that anything bad or unexpected is going on,” said Dr. Piercey.

This week, the State of Tennessee lowered the required age for a vaccine from 75 plus to those 70 years old and older.

According to the New York Times, 12 states nationwide are already vaccinating people 65 years old and older.

Dr. Piercey said there are not enough vaccines in Tennessee to move to 65 plus at this time.

“70-74 year olds have a 40 percent increase risk of hospitalization and a 70 percent increase risk of death more than those just 5 years younger than them,” she said.

Sunday, WMC Action News 5 received an email from a viewer who said their elderly neighbor and his wife were turned away Saturday while attempting to get their 2nd vaccine shot.

The Shelby County Health Department said they’re looking into the issue.

On Friday, the Health Department said people were turned away by mistake as they attempted to get their second shot at the Pipkin Building.

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Meet the Press warned against skipping or delaying a second dose of the vaccine, since no studies have been done regarding just one dose of those vaccines.

“What we have right now, and what we must go with is the scientific data that we’ve accumulated and it’s really very solid,” said Dr. Fauci.

“The longer you delay a second dose and those two vaccines, the murkier and murkier is the water that you’re swimming in. If you chose to skip it altogether, you just don’t have any idea what’s swimming in there with you,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Infectious Disease Specialist Baptist Memorial Healthcare.

The Health Department told WMC they are committed to providing second shots to everyone who has recieved a 1st dose at one of the vaccine centers.

Health experts across the country hope that people avoided large gatherings or parties for the Super Bowl today.

If not, we may see a spike in COVID-19 cases in a few weeks.

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