Shelby County Health Department decreasing COVID-19 Response Unit as grant funds come to an end

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department is reporting nearly 200 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, a far cry from the zero new cases in early April.

As cases continue to increase in Shelby County, the health department is decreasing its COVID Response unit.

After weeks of falling COVID-19 numbers, the case count curve is on the way back up.

There were 199 new cases reported Thursday with a 7-day rolling average of 169.

“I know people are concerned, but I will tell you that the number that you should really be looking at is the hospitalization number and right now our hospitalizations are still very low,” said Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor.

Taylor  says the hospital system is pretty strong.

Across the Mid-South Thursday there were only 38 COVID-19 positive patients hospitalized, six in ICU.

“The good news is that we have a good portion of our population vaccinated so most of the people who have had at least one dose, if they are unfortunate enough to get COVID should have mild cases probably won’t have many symptoms at all,” Taylor said.

Shelby county is a little over 81% towards their goal of vaccinating 700,000 people in Shelby County.

Taylor says her biggest concern is the county’s unvaccinated population, or those most at risk for driving up hospitalization numbers.

The health department is preparing to ramp up its COVID-19 vaccination messaging campaign, which includes booster shots, but dial back other COVID-19 fighting measures.

State funding for the COVID Response Unit comes to a close June 30.

Shelby County has received over $17 million in a COVID-19 grant.

The funds were used to hire 172 full-time employees for things such as COVID-19 tracing, outreach and other measures.

A small portion of the original unit will remain in place just in case there is another surge.

“We are working diligently to make sure to place the folks that have been working in the unit because all of those employees knew coming into those roles that they were temporary to help us fight the pandemic,” said Taylor.

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