COVID-19 cases rise dramatically in Shelby County amid Delta variant spread

Published: Jul. 17, 2021 at 8:13 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 5:51 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - COVID-19 cases locally in the Mid-South have been dramatically rising for several weeks and health experts are starting to sound the alarm again.

They say not enough people are vaccinated to prevent spread of the virus and more people will die unnecessarily.

In Shelby County, the COVID-19 pandemic has been getting more severe in recent weeks.

According to the Shelby County Health Department, new daily COVID-19 case numbers averaged 141 per day for the past week, rising sharply.

The positivity rate has reached 10 percent of all COVID-19 tests, the highest it’s been since January.

“We’re just allowing more of an open door,” Dr. Steve Threlkeld, infectious disease expert with Baptist Memorial Healthcare said. “We’re a little complacent, let’s face it. We’re very tired of this.”

The demand locally for a COVID-19 vaccine has dropped dramatically since March.

Currently 326,468 people are double vaccinated in Shelby County, with 397,864 total people with at least one shot, only 56.8 percent of the goal of 700,000 thousand vaccinated.

Vaccine hesitancy is leading to more cases and more deaths from COVID-19 according to Dr. Threlkeld.

“We have the solution,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “It is very frustrating for those of us who take care of this not to see people take it, because the data is out there.”

“We have to meet people where they are,” Dominique Winfrey, Shelby County COVID-19 Coordinator said. “So we have to go to the communities where most people shop and frequent.”

Saturday, members of the Shelby County COVID-19 prevention program canvassed a Latin-X community, attempting to combat the on-going problem of vaccine hesitancy with packets of vaccine information.

“Meeting people where they are,” Winfrey said. “Allowing them to take it in there home, reading it on the comfort of their couch where they can make a decision on their own by having all of the information right in front of them, that’s trusted and that’s been vetted.”

Dr. Threlkeld says continuing to spread the factual information and data, as well as making the vaccine more accessible in local physician offices will hopefully help push vaccination numbers back up and push COVID-19 case numbers back down.

“We have the solution, the vaccine is extraordinary effective,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

Health experts believe the more infectious Delta variant is driving COVID-19 case numbers up.

Doctors say they’re also seeing more young people with severe illnesses in recent weeks.

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