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COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, positivity rates surge in Shelby County

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 5:08 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Hospitalizations have increased nearly ten fold over the last month, and it’s projected to get worse before it gets better. The only way it can get better, health officials said, is for people to get vaccinated and follow CDC recommendations on masking.

On Thursday, 423 people were in Shelby County hospitals with COVID-19 right now. Some of them are children. Forty days ago there were 50 people in local hospitals with the virus. That’s an eight-fold increase.

Two of the nine people who have died in the last week in Shelby County of COVID-19 have been children.

“We’re on an upward trajectory which means we’re going to have more people hospitalized and sicker people hospitalized,” Memphis COO Doug McGowen said.

Hospitalizations aren’t the only indicators continuing to go up. Shelby County cases jumped another 623 in 24 hours. Test positivity rate is now at nearly 19 percent. The reproduction rate of the virus is the highest it’s ever been at 1.47.

“We know the way to get out of this hole,” Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said. “It’s for more people in the community who are eligible to get vaccinated, get vaccinated.”

To find a convenient vaccination location in Shelby County click here. For locations across the entire Mid-South you can click here.

Dr. Taylor made her Joint COVID-19 Task Force briefing debut on Thursday, four days after starting the job. The pediatrician said protecting children is a top priority of the department.

A quarter of all active cases in Shelby County are pediatric cases. That means more than 1,000 children currently have COVID-19.

“We’ve had two pediatric deaths this week. Any one death is devastating especially when it’s preventable,” Taylor said.

“This is a drastic change from what we’ve seen previously in the pandemic where for the most part kids were admitted with other illnesses and were found to have COVID-19 incidentally,” Director of Infection Prevention at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital Dr. Nick Hysmith said. “We’re now seeing kids with respiratory symptoms and shortness of breath requiring oxygen.”

Hospitals of all kinds are coming up with plans to free up more beds for increased patients. Those on the front lines calling the hospitals strained and stressed.

For now the current Shelby County Health Directive will remain as is. It aligns itself with CDC guidance on masks, strongly recommending them for everyone and not mandating them.

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners said it will vote whether to recommend the Health Department reissue a mask mandate or not on Monday.

The final decision comes down to the Health Department. Dr. Michelle Taylor says not yet. A spokesperson for the Health Department said it has no comment on what the Department would choose if the recommendation did pass next week.

Commissioners Mark Billingsley, Tami Sawyer and Michael Whaley have said they’ll vote for the recommendation. Commissioner Mick Wright said he’d vote against it.

Chairman Eddie Jones said his decision will be made once he sees final wording on the recommendation. In an email, Commissioner Willie Brooks said “I support wearing the mask. Not sure how to enforce it.”

Action News 5 reached out to all Shelby County Commissioners. This story will be updated as we hear back.

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