Herd immunity half way reached in Shelby County as memorial Day approaches

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 4:22 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A year ago, the Memorial Day weekend kicked off a surge in COVID-19 cases that lasted months in Shelby County.

This holiday, health officials said Shelby County is in the best spot it’s been in all pandemic.

With 345,000 people vaccinated in Shelby County, health leaders are feeling better going into the holiday weekend than they did last year.

However, they’re still concerned about who the virus is affecting, and what transmission could look like after Memorial Day.

As the community gets ready for its second Memorial Day weekend of the pandemic, Shelby County health leaders reported some optimistic news following our last holiday- Easter.

“We have peaked on our hospitalizations and they’re starting to come back down,” said David Sweat, Shelby County Health Department deputy director. “In terms of recent uptake in hospitalizations following Easter, I think we’ve weathered that surge.”

But even in the month since Easter, the county is in a different place. With more than 345,000 people at least partially vaccinated, the county is 49.2 percent of the way to herd immunity.

“We’re really in a much better place than we’ve ever been before,” Sweat said.

Between Wednesday and Thursday, Shelby County logged 109 cases.

Sweat is still concerned with case trends. Over the past two weeks, 77 percent of new cases were in African Americans. Plus, children and those under 35 years old continue to be affected. Health leaders said that’s mainly due to lower vaccination rates in those age groups.

“Forty-three percent of cases in the epidemic overall have been in people less than 35 years,” Sweat said. “In the last two weeks, 56 percent of our cases diagnosed have been in people less than 35 years old.”

However, over the last week there has been an uptick in the community’s youngest eligible group getting the vaccine since it was approved for those 12 to 15. More than 8,000 people 12 to 17 years old in Shelby County are at least partially vaccinated.

“We’re seeing parents who want to get their children vaccinated so they can get back to school, back to playing sports, back to activities,” said Memphis Fire Director Gina Sweat.

The scope of public vaccination sites continue to change in Shelby County. Wednesday, federal partners left Memphis and took with them the extra 20,000 vaccine doses provided to the federal vaccination site at the Pipkin Building. Friday, Bartlett’s First Baptist site will close.

Thursday, the City of Memphis announced the Gill Center site in Frayser and the Greater Imani site in Raleigh will also close next week.

“Thursday, May 27 will be the last day of the Gill location to get vaccinated and next Saturday will be the last day for the Raleigh location,” Director Gina Sweat said.

Director Gina Sweat said there are now more opportunities to get vaccines from other partners.

“About half [the vaccines] are being administered at our community pods,” Director Gina Sweat said. “To me that’s a good sign. That means we’re starting to normalize vaccines. People are getting them at their doctor’s office and other locations, drug stores.”

While some of the public fixed sites closed or scaling back, the city is putting more of an emphasis on smaller, temporary community pods. A group is planned for this weekend near some of the zip codes where there is the least uptake of the vaccine. Those zip codes are 38118, 38115, 38126, 38127, and 38106.

Though, like the fixed sites, the community pods have seen less demand.

“Our earlier community pods we were getting upwards to 1,000 people at events and now we’re feeling good if we get 100 or 200 at some of these events,” Director Gina Sweat said.

Friday, a pod will open at Rivana Foods at 2314 S. Lauderdale St. 38106 from noon to 4 p.m.

Saturday, a pod will open at Greater Community Temple North at 924 N. Dunlap St. 38107 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

There are two community pods planned for Sunday. One is at Handy Park on Beale Street from 10 a.m. 4 p.m. Participants will receive Beale Street meal vouchers.

Also on Sunday, there will be a pod at 4350 Stage Rd. 38128 from noon. to 5 p.m.

All community pods will administer Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

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