Shelby County sees record-breaking daily case increase of more than 2.2K cases

Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 10:15 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 30, 2021 at 1:02 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County set another record for daily COVID-19 cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic. On Thursday, the health department reported a daily increase of 2,259 newly confirmed cases.

These new numbers bring the county’s active case count to more than 11,000.

Shelby County Health Department says pediatric cases are up by 424 with pediatric active cases topping 2,300.

School-aged children account for about 22% of all active cases in Shelby County.

This kind of rapid spread of COVID-19 is something doctors expected. Still, nearly two years since the pandemic started the most contagious variant of COVID-19, the omicron variant, which now makes up about 60 percent of sequenced tests in Shelby County, is causing the county to see the most cases it’s ever seen.

“No business is safe, no household is safe, no individual is safe until there is some modicum of safety for everyone in this community and communities across the country,” Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said.

Serious and direct words came from the Shelby County Health Director during her last COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing of 2021 as the community faces its fastest moving COVID-19 surge yet.

Shelby County is now reporting more than 1,200 cases a day. It’s a 20 percent increase in just 24 hours and a 200 percent increase in a week.

A major difference during this surge, the county does not have the power to issue a mask mandate, because of a state law passed this fall, leaving mitigating factors up to the individuals.

“Understand that we are at a critical moment and if we have a health system that collapses just because somebody doesn’t want to put a mask on to slow this thing down then we’re all in this together,” Dr. Taylor said.

Shelby County hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have nearly doubled since last week. Now, 317 people hospitalized with the virus.

“Quite frankly we can’t sustain that kind of rate of increase in our hospitals for long,” City of Memphis COO Doug McGowen said. “We’re not at the levels we were but that kind of jump in acute care is alarming.”

Lines at all community testing sites have formed since the holidays. Now, 24.5 percent of tests performed in Shelby County are positive. That is up from just over seven percent last week.

There are more than 11,000 active cases in the county with possibly thousands not being reported due to the rise in home tests.

“Whether on New Years Eve if you’re going to a private club, you’re thinking about gathering with a large group of people or you choose to go down to Beale St or some other location like it just think about that,” McGowen said. “One in every 100 people have a confirmed case of COVID and many others are very likely.”

The Shelby County Health Department is working to expand testing by working to open two new testing sites by the end of next week.

Hospitalizations are being watched closely as the highly-transmissible omicron variant makes its way through the Mid-South. It’s now the dominant variant in Shelby County.

Both ICU and acute care utilization are in the red zone, according to the health department’s health care resource tracking system.

These are the most virus-related hospitalizations seen in Tennessee since October.

Healthcare resource tracking system - Dec. 30
Healthcare resource tracking system - Dec. 30(SCHD)

The variant and holiday gatherings are heightening the demand for more COVID-19 testing as well -- a demand that the health department is working to meet.

This week, two new testing sites opened and several will be open on New Year’s Day.

RELATED | COVID-19 testing sites to open during New Year’s holiday

The vaccine is suggested as the best way to combat symptoms of the virus.

Shelby County vaccine data:

  • 1,130,642 total vaccinations administered
  • 538,867 total people vaccinated
  • 9,400 vaccinations reported within the last seven days

For more information on COVID-19 in Shelby County, visit

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