Shelby County COVID-19 task force monitoring case increases for possible 4th wave

First time with 200+ new cases in one day since February
Updated: Apr. 15, 2021 at 10:08 AM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis-Shelby County COVID-19 task force is looking closely at recent increases in COVID-19 cases to determine whether a fourth wave is on the horizon.

The Shelby County Health Department reported 262 new COVID-19 cases Thursday -- the first time to break 200 in a single day since February.

The health department also reported seven more deaths.

It’s the eighth straight day of more than 100 new cases and the 11th since April 1.

  • 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
  • Wednesday, April 14 -- 148
  • Thursday, April 15 -- 262

According to the health department, the last time Shelby County had more than 200 new cases in a single day was Feb. 24 when there were 224 new cases.

Speaking at the joint task force meeting Thursday, David Sweat, SCHD chief of epidemiology, said they’re seeing increases in several key indicators. The weekly test positivity rate increased from 4.9 to 5.8 percent as of Wednesday, and the reproductive rate had its biggest jump in months -- now 1.1.

Sweat says Thursday’s spike and other recent increases can be attributed to one of two things. Either it’s a temporary increase driven by spring break travel, Easter holiday gatherings and the dominance of the U.K. variant or it could be a sustained increase that began last week, which would mean Shelby County is entering a fourth wave.

Sweat says the county averaged about 100 cases a day two weeks ago. That went up to about 130 a day last week.

He said the task force is watching data over the next seven days to determine whether the increase is, in fact, a trend or just temporary.

Shelby County health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said the latest increase caused the task force to pause and look more closely at the data.

Shelby County new COVID-19 cases by specimen collection date (7-day average) as of April 15, 2021(SCHD)

Shelby County has had 93,246 cases and 1,593 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Data shows 1,524 active cases across the county.

Randolph said earlier this week if the county can avoid another surge in the next month, the health department will look at dropping more restrictions. Until then, Health Directive No. 20 goes into effect at midnight Friday. It loosens restrictions on buffets and indoor dancing.

According to the health department, 169,528 people in Shelby County are now fully vaccinated and 114,401 are partially vaccinated.

Sweat said about 30 percent of the population is now vaccinated, and the county has now achieved about 40.6 percent of its goal of vaccinating 700,000 people.

With the U.K. variant now the dominate strain of COVID-19 in Shelby County, he and Memphis Fire Department Director Gina Sweat urged people to take advantage of vaccination availability at the Pipkin Building and other sites.

Gina Sweat said more than 33,000 people have received vaccines at the Pipkin Building in the last seven days, and the average wait time is about 11 minutes.

This Friday and Saturday, the first 2,500 people to get vaccines at the Pipkin Building will also receive $20 Kroger or Walmart gift cards, and the first 500 people to get vaccinated at the University of Memphis’ spring football game Friday night will receive $10 vouchers for the concession stand.

Across the Mid-South, health officials are reporting dozens of breakthrough cases, or COVID-19 cases in fully-vaccinated people. Arkansas and Tennessee haven’t released those numbers, but Mississippi reports 78 breakthrough cases and one death.

Shelby County has seen 21 breakthrough cases, but experts say the vaccine is still highly effective at preventing serious illness.

“It’s still by any measure a widely effective vaccine, but wildly effective vaccines do have breakthroughs,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis.

There were 1,535 new cases, Thursday, bringing the total to 829,114 since the start of the pandemic.

Nine additional deaths were also reported, bringing the state’s death toll to 12,041.

There are currently 803,302 active cases across Tennessee.

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