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Mix of immunities helping keep Mid-South COVID-19 case rates low

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 7:44 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - COVID-19 case numbers continue to go down more than three weeks after the Shelby County mask mandate was loosened. The CDC has found previously infected people are helping improve immunity rates among states, even those with lower vaccination rates.

More than 1,000 people are getting vaccinated a day in Shelby County. Still, states in the Mid-South tend to rank near the end of states with the highest uptake in the vaccine. However, immunity rates are leveling out, even compared to highly vaccinated states, because of so many people who have been previously infected with the virus in the region.

“What you’re seeing is the effect of vaccinations and the effect of people who have had COVID,” Memphis doctor and City Councilman Jeff Warren said.

According to the CDC high immunity rates do not necessarily mean you have high vaccination rates.

When responding to someone’s questions on Twitter about why case numbers in Mississippi are not going up even if vaccination rates are low and business protocols have ended, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said in part “A high proportion of MS residents have already had the virus.” He tweeted with it a CDC graphic showing seroprevalence rates, which gives a glimpse into a state’s immunity levels.

Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas seroprevalence rates, or rates of people with COVID-19 antibodies, are at 27.7 percent, 29.5 percent and 26.4 percent effectively.

“We know we’ve had about 100,000 people infected in Shelby County, so we know we’ve had that many infections,” Dr. Warren said. “We have probably had another 100,000 to 200,000 who may have been infected and we don’t know about.”

Doctors said the mix of immunities is helping us keep case numbers low since the local mask mandate ended. Shelby County has averaging about 47 COVID-19 cases a day.

However, the reality is, in the Mid-South nearly 25,000 people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Doctors said our goal should still be herd immunity through vaccinations.

“There’s no arguing with the fact that if most people have had the virus then most people are protected from the virus,” Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Michael Threlkeld said. [Getting COVID] is not necessarily a good thing when you have a vaccine that’s doing the job well because still those who come down with the native virus are at risk of dying form the native virus.”

Doctors still don’t know how long immunity through infection will last.

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