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Amid deadly Delta surge, vaccination rates increase in Shelby County, Mid-South

Published: Jul. 31, 2021 at 3:30 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For the third day in a row, Shelby County confirmed more than 400 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday.

Doctors blame the surge in cases on the highly contagious Delta variant, which they say is also leading to more deaths.

But there is a silver lining: more people are getting vaccinated.

Data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows the number of active cases in Shelby County soared in July from 434 at the beginning of the month to 3,414 on July 30, an increase of 692 percent.

The number of people who’ve died from COVID-19 also increased from 14 in June to more than 40 in July.

Dr. Jeff Warren, a Memphis city councilman, is among those who tested positive for COVID-19 in July, even though he’s fully vaccinated.

Warren said he initially thought his symptoms were due to allergies.

“Not many symptoms but that’s the key thing because the data now shows that those of us who’ve been vaccinated can get this thing and actually be spreaders,” said Warren.

Doctors say while breakthrough cases do happen, they’re rare.

They say fully vaccinated people who get COVID-19 may not have any symptoms.

If they do develop symptoms, the symptoms are more likely to resemble those of a cold or the flu.

Doctors say almost all of the people who end up in the hospital with a severe illness or who die are unvaccinated.

Tabitha Cole says she had her doubts about the vaccine, but the increasing cases in Shelby County persuaded her to visit the Pipkin Building on Saturday to get vaccinated.

“The new Delta [variant] and everything, I can’t take the chance, especially since I have an underlying illness,” said Cole.

She’s not the only one changing her mind.

Weekly vaccination rates are up in Shelby County by 64 percent since the beginning of July.

All three Mid-South states reported an uptick in vaccinations this past week.

Since July 19, vaccinations have increased by 4.2% in Arkansas, 3.8% in Mississippi, and 2% in Tennessee, according to data from the CDC.

But there is still a long way to go.

Only 39 percent of Tennesseans, 36 percent of Arkansans, and 35 percent of Mississippians are fully vaccinated.

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