Shelby County Health Dept. confirms 3rd case of coronavirus; Tennessee up to at least 73

Updated: Mar. 17, 2020 at 2:39 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -The Shelby County Health Department will now be holding daily news conferences at 2 p.m. to keep the media and the public updated as things rapidly evolve with respect to COVID-19. An investigation is underway into the third positive case in the county, which was announced Tuesday.

It’s possible that the case could open the door to community transmission of the virus.

“We have a third confirmed case in Shelby County. This case is not connected to the previous two cases in any way,” said Alisa Haushalter, Director of the Shelby County Health Department.

Tuesday county health officials said the third patient who tested positive for COVID-19 arrived in the county feeling ill, sought medical care and the treating physician had a test performed by a private lab.

That person is now isolated in a home setting and is not hospitalized. The patient is from out of the country with lengthy travel history. Their age and sex were not released.

“This is an individual that absolutely is from out of the U.S. that has been in the U.S. for many months and has been traveling extensively over the U.S. and throughout the U.S,” she said.

Of concern for the health department and their investigators is what activities the patient might have done while in Memphis. The patient was directed to isolate and the health department said they’re working to interview this person to locate potential exposure to others if it exists.

“We know that person didn’t contract it here, but we also don’t know where all that person has been and so that might change the equation as we continue that contact equation,” said Haushalter.

The prior two cases of COVID-19 in the county were related and traced back to Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans.

The health department expects to have more guidance Wednesday on the third case and whether that person did anything while ill in Memphis that could infect other people.

Haushalter said citizens and business owners should be changing behavior regardless of what their investigation into the third case finds.

“Each business needs to look at workflows and determine how they reduce contact between individuals. I think as citizens we need to look at what we’re doing and what we might alter,” she said.

The health department says 114 people in the county are being monitored for COVID-19.

As testing ramps up through private labs, health officials said they will not have a count of how many people total in the county are tested.

That’s because private labs are only required to report positive test results to the health department, not negative ones.

Haushalter said the city, county, and UTHSC are working to offer a pilot location for “expedited testing” by sometime this week. Information about the costs of the tests was not yet available.

“Both the city and county are working with UT to be able to implement expedited testing locally. Our goal is to have a pilot site by this week to see how that goes,” she said. “We all are sensitive to the number of uninsured in our community and looking at ways that we ensure people that don’t have insurance, may not have financial resources, are able to access testing as well.”

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