COVID-19 task force lays out details on J&J vaccine pause, vaccine waste and new health directive

Health department reports 6th consecutive day of 100+ new COVID-19 cases in Shelby County

Memphis-Shelby County COVID-19 task force addresses J&J vaccine stoppage, announces new directive

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department reported the county’s sixth straight day of more than 100 new COVID-19 cases.

With 111 new cases Tuesday, Shelby County has had cases above 100 on nine of the last 13 days.

  • Thursday, April 1 -- 129
  • Friday, April 2 -- 175
  • Saturday, April 3 -- 89
  • Sunday, April 4 -- 103
  • Monday, April 5 -- 76
  • Tuesday, April 6 -- 55
  • Wednesday, April 7 -- 59
  • Thursday, April 8 -- 152
  • Friday, April 9 -- 161
  • Saturday, April 10 -- 155
  • Sunday, April 11 -- 155
  • Monday, April 12 -- 196
  • Tuesday, April 13 -- 111

Speaking at the Memphis-Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force briefing Tuesday, Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said the decreases we’ve seen in recent weeks has leveled off the last few days, and the health department is monitoring any increases.

No new deaths were reported Tuesday.

The county has had 92,836 cases and 1,585 deaths to date. Data from the health department shows 1,373 active cases currently in Shelby County.

Randolph announced a new health directive -- No. 20 -- that allows buffets to reopen with some restrictions, including hand sanitizing stations, and changes guidance for music and dancing as well as addresses evictions and requirements for notifying tenants. The new directive will be released later this week.

Randolph said if there isn’t a surge in the next 30 days, the health department will make other changes to the health directives. He stopped short of saying the mandatory mask mandate could become a recommendation, but he did say more responsibility will be placed on individuals with highly-recommended guidance versus mandatory requirements.

The task force addressed the Johnson & Johnson stoppage with City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen saying it will not affect Shelby County’s vaccination efforts. Any scheduled J&J vaccination pods and appointments are being substituted with the Pfizer vaccine.

McGowen said between 2,000 and 3,000 people in Shelby County have received the J&J vaccine while another 17,000 doses are set aside following the FDA and CDC’s recommendation to pause usage while the agencies investigate reports of potentially dangerous clotting.

McGowen said no one in the community has experienced any adverse side effects of receiving the J&J vaccine and his only concern is any barrier that causes people to have a reason not to get vaccinated.

McGowen also announced changes at the Pipkin Building’s mass vaccination site, now operated by FEMA. Wednesday is now Wide Open Wednesday and no appointments are necessary to receive a vaccine from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Anyone with a previously-scheduled appointment for Wednesday will be ushered to the front of the line. First and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine are available.

McGowen said over the weekend, the Pipkin site reported 25 unused or wasted doses after vaccinating more than 2,500 people. He said they overestimated the demand by the end of the evening and had about 70 doses already drawn into syringes remaining. Volunteers turned to the waitlist and social media while others recruited people from establishments near the Pipkin Building, in Overton Square, downtown and in Cooper Young. He said they recruited about 40 people to get the vaccine but they still had 25 unused/wasted doses by midnight.

McGowen says they identified the error and corrected the process that allowed too many people to tell the pharmacist they needed another dose.

Since the City of Memphis took over vaccination efforts for Shelby County, McGowen says they’ve lost less than 100 doses to waste, and more than half can be attributed to vials cracked or broken in transport.

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