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Shelby County health officials say the alarm is still sounding on rapidly growing delta variant

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 4:40 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County Health officials suspect the delta variant makes up at least 72 percent of current COVID-19 cases here. That’s far outpacing the national average.

Health officials have one message- get vaccinated.

“I’m preaching, pleading, begging get vaccinated,” Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said.

About a month after Shelby County Health officials said they were sounding the alarm about the start of widespread transmission of the delta variant, Thursday they said that alarm is in overdrive. There were more than 180 new COVID-19 cases were reported between Wednesday and Thursday.

The positivity rate has tripled since the start of the month to nearly 9 percent. The reproduction rate is the highest it’s been since April 2020 at 1.5.

The delta variant is poised to be making up 80 percent of newly reported cases in the county soon.

“Nationally it’s only 58 percent so we have a higher percentage of cases that are due to delta than the national average that’s the reason we are concerned” Dr. Randolph said.

More than 200 delta cases have been reported in Shelby County, with 18 being in fully vaccinated people. Dr. Randolph said nearly 100 percent of hospitalizations are in unvaccinated people.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said new community health restrictions won’t be the first focus during this surge.

“Right now we want to sound the alarm and convince people to be vaccinated,” Mayor Harris said. “As Dr. Randolph said the majority of people who have faced negative and severe consequences are unvaccinated.”

In the midst of an ever present pandemic, changes will likely soon come to the Shelby County Health Dept. Harris said he will nominate Dr. Michelle Taylor for the role of department director.

Dr. Taylor is a pediatrician and graduate of White State High School and Howard Univeristy. She also holds degrees from Johns Hopkins and Harvard.

Most recently, she’s coming off of a role at the Office of the Air National Guard Surgeon General. Harris believes she’s poised to take on the needs of the community even in the middle of a wave in cases.

“As part of her military service she had responsibility of keeping those in the military safe. Safe from COVID,” Harris said. “So that was another attractive feature of this candidacy.”

If Dr. Taylor’s nomination is approved she’ll start next month.

To see where and when you can get vaccinated call 901-222-SHOT or click here.

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