School changes underway amid COVID-19 surge in Shelby County

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 5:22 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Another record has been broken in Shelby County.

More than 3,000 COVID-19 cases were reported Friday in Shelby County. It’s the highest single-day total since record-keeping began. It broke the last record of 2,256 that was set the day before.

The surge in cases is leading some to make changes going into the new year, including area schools.

As the year wraps up, so does thousands of students’ winter breaks. Students will go back to class Monday in the midst of our largest case surge yet. Friday, 3,004 COVID-19 cases were reported in Shelby County.

However, Dr. Amit Prasad with Methodist South is optimistic about the new year.

“I think 2022 will bring us a lot of relief,” he said. “I think the vaccination rates are going up slowly, but surely. Hopefully, these messages you’re sending out will make people do the right thing to get vaccinated and get boosted, and that will be the eventual way out of this pandemic.”

First, doctors said there’s more to get through before any corner is turned in this pandemic.

“Temporarily, it’s going to be a painful January,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Steven Threlkeld.

“I think the crisis is unfolding. More than 3,000 cases reported today,” Prasad said.

This week, 317 people were in the hospital with COVID-19. Doctors said the omicron variant is showing to be less severe than others, but with 3,000 cases being reported in a day, they expect a strain still on the healthcare system.

“There are enough cases where we’ll have plenty of hospitalizations,” Threlkeld said.

Doctors said with vaccines, therapeutics, and mitigating factors, like masks, we’re more prepared than ever to curb this pandemic.

But in Tennessee, government bodies now lack the authority to issue mask mandates because of a new state law, though the Shelby County Health Department said it will request permission from the state to issue one.

In Shelby County, masking can still be required in schools as the issue is fought in federal court, though many Shelby County municipal districts keep masking optional.

However, Germantown Municipal Schools said Friday, masking will be required in schools when students return Monday due to “current circumstances, including uncertainties regarding the new omicron variant of COVID-19.”

Rhodes College has also decided to start its spring semester virtually.

Several community testing locations will be open New Year’s Day. Some vaccination locations will also be open.

The Shelby County Health Department’s website has a full list of testing and vaccination locations.

Action News 5 reached out to Governor Bill Lee’s office Friday to see where he stands on giving permission for mask mandates. There has been no reply as it’s an office holiday.

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