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First 200+ daily case increase reported in Shelby Co. since lifting COVID-19 restrictions

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 10:47 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 12:33 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department reported a case increase of more than 200 for the first time in months.

There are 259 new cases in Shelby County with an active case count of 1,808 as of Thursday. The latest numbers bring the county’s total case count to 102,502 cases and 1,706 virus-related deaths.

It was a big enough increase to bring the Memphis-Shelby County Joint COVID-19 Task Force back together for its first briefing since June.

Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said the current seven-day average is 174. A month ago it was 22. The positivity rate went from 2.7% a month ago to 11.1%.

Randolph says there have been 458 breakthrough cases of the approximately 333,000 people in Shelby County who are now fully vaccinated. He says the delta variant was responsible for 30 of those cases, and two of those people died.

“But what is a more important concern is 88 percent or more of those individuals who are hospitalized, who are severely sick, who are in intensive care, 88% or more of those are unvaccinated,” said Randolph. “And that’s my message is that if you are unvaccinated, you are at risk.”

Randolph and Shelby County Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen opened the briefing Thursday, saying at the last news conference in June he said if things changed substantially they’d be back.

Beyond vaccinations, McGowen encouraged people not to dismiss any symptoms and to get tested. Testing and vaccination sites are listed at covid19.memphistn.gov.

With the uptick in cases, schools are beginning to update mask protocols ahead of the upcoming school year with Shelby County Schools and several districts in Mississippi requiring masks for the fall.

But as for the county, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris says there are no talks of reinstating a mask mandate at this time.

“I will admit 30 days ago when the case rates were low, and I am fully vaccinated, I was very comfortable going almost anywhere without my mask,” said McGowen. “Felt confident that I was protected. With the rise of the delta variant, some of the breakthrough cases we are seeing and the possibility of spread among people you are close to, I just recommend that people wear a mask if you are in a place where there’s lots of people and you are unsure of everybody’s status.”

McGowen said hospitalizations are up dramatically with 106 people in acute care and 56 in ICUs. The task force didn’t have data on ages of patients but said they’re trending younger.

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