Cluster of the UK COVID-19 variant infected several at the University of Memphis

City of Memphis changing online COVID-19 vaccine sign-up system

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The highly transmissible UK COVID-19 strain infected several people with the University of Memphis Athletics Department earlier this year.

The Shelby County Health Department said it saw a fivefold increase in variant cases in February compared to December and January, in big part to this cluster found within Memphis Athletics students and staff.

While many are looking forward to getting the vaccine, officials said it’s still important to get tested for COVID-19 to help prevent transmission and catch any strains early.

“It’s a part of a critical formula,” Memphis COO Doug McGowen said “Social distancing, masking and testing so you can know your status on a regular basis, then vaccinations.”

There will be well over 200,000 people vaccinated in Shelby County by the end of the week.

City leaders say testing is key as variants are confirmed

As we work toward herd immunity, health officials said knowing your status will keep the transmission from happening.

Along with the regular test locations, two pop up testing events will take place this weekend at Iglesia Bella Vista on North Highland and at Poplar Healthcare on Hacks Cross Road.

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The Shelby County Health Department said quick and immediate testing helped reduce transmission in a local cluster involving the UK variant.

“In February we had a new cluster at the University of Memphis also in the Athletics Department that was being driven by the highly transmissible UK strain,” SCHD Deputy Director David Sweat said.

The University of Memphis said more than two dozen people tested positive in the cluster for the UK variant of more than 2,000 people tested.

The Shelby County Health Department has reported 42 total variant cases in all of the counties including Brazil and the South Africa strain.

The health department and the University started aggressive contact tracing, testing and quarantining resulting in stopping any further transmission.

It’s an experience both organizations got during a previous cluster at the school this summer.

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“Even though it was a strain of the virus that was three times more transmissible the size of the cluster was less than half than it was in the previous experience in August and September,” Sweat said.

The U of M said surveillance testing continues following this cluster.

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