MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As we get closer to the end of March, Memphis and Shelby County hit an important milestone Sunday. Nearly 300,000 vaccines have been administered and COVID-19 cases are dropping.
People are itching to get back out and socialize with COVID-19 cases dropping recently, thousands of vaccines administered each day and the weather warming up.
But local health experts say it’s still important to be cautious with deadly COVID-19 variants and a large number of people still unvaccinated.
Sunday, Shelby County officially surpassed 200,000 people who have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition, daily COVID-19 numbers have stayed below 200 cases thus far in March and Shelby County currently has the lowest infection rate among COVID-19 tests since last March.
Recently, Memphians appear to be more confident to venture out and socialize.
“There are some great things out there to give us a whole of optimism,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Infectious Disease Expert Baptist Memorial Healthcare
Threlkeld says everyone needs to continue being cautious with the more infectious and deadly UK B117 COVID-19 variant spreading in Shelby County.
“We’ve seen numbers go up 25 percent of more in the past week or so in the hospital and we’ve had a couple of deaths in younger age groups,” he said.
Threlkeld says caution is especially important for those who are unvaccinated.
“The people that we see coming into the hospital now and getting really sick and indeed some still dying are people who have not been vaccinated,” said Threlkeld.
“There’s also the danger that a lot of people think, well all this is over, it’s not. It’s not over,” said David Sweat, Shelby County Health Department Director of Epidemiology.
Sweat explains even if you’re double vaccinated you can still become infected and spread COVID-19 without getting sick or having symptoms.
He is also concerned that COVID-19 cases are being missed with testing down over 50 percent in Shelby County from the peak in December.
“Testing is still important to do,” said Sweat. “It’s still free, it’s still widely available.”
Health experts understand the public’s desire to socialize uninhibited.
They’re stressing patience as the City of Memphis works to get the county to herd immunity before letting our guard down.
”We need to get everybody vaccinated before we can really cut loose,” said Threlkeld. “That after all, is the goal to get back to normal. If you’re not vaccinated yet, you still have to be very very careful.”
Health experts say if you’re vaccinated, you can gather with other vaccinated people without masks.
Gatherings outdoors are still the safest with unvaccinated people, and warmer weather makes that more enjoyable to do.