MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In Shelby County, some of the biggest key COVID-19 indicators were on a downward trend for most of 2021.
That was until recently when the positivity rate increased a full percentage point last week, dropping as low as 3.3% then increasing to 4.3%.
There was also a slight increase in the virus reproductive rate.
Another concern is hospitalizations, which makes health leaders wonder if this is the start of another COVID-19 surge.
James Gunn is one of the lucky ones.
After fighting the coronavirus for 100 days in three different hospitals, last Thursday he was released from a Tupelo hospital.
“To God Be the Glory,” said Gunn after finally being allowed to go home.
Gunn tested positive when the country was plagued with its last wave of COVID-19 and hospitals were overwhelmed with patients.
The Centers for Disease Control is concerned that might happen again.
Hospitalizations are increasing across the country including in the Mid-South.
“So we are seeing the number of people hospitalized starting to go back up and the number of people in the intensive care unit is starting to go back up. Now does that mean we are heading into a fourth wave? It’s too soon to say, but it is something we’re concerned about,” said Shelby County Health Department Epidemiologist David Sweat.
According to the Shelby County Health Department’s website, ICU bed utilization over the weekend in the region including Crittenden, Desoto, Lauderdale, Tipton and Shelby Counties fluctuated between 89 and 94%.
However, only about 14% of those were occupied by COVID positive patients.
Memphis City Councilman and Physician Dr. Jeff Warren says it’s a race to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
“What we really want now is we want to protect the people most likely to spread it, so we want younger people to get that vaccine when it becomes available and more of those people who get vaccinated the greater our chance of it having a huge surge like we’ve seen the last two or three times,” said Warren.
Warren points to the increase in COVID-19 variants circulating in the community for the uptick in hospitalizations.
The good news is the vaccine does provide protection against the mutations and so far nearly 100,000 people in Shelby County have received both doses.
Warren says he’s also concerned about the P1 variant originating in Brazil.
It has been identified in Shelby County and it is much more contagious.
He says mask-wearing, social distancing and vaccination can help to slow down the spread of all variants.