Shelby County health officials optimistic after COVID reproductive rate hits new low


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — COVID-19 numbers continue to trend in the right direction across Shelby County, and officials are optimistic that cases will continue to decrease if residents are able to follow safety guidelines.

“We’re making progress,” said Shelby County Health Officer Bruce Randolph. “There’s a downward trend in a lot of our metrics.”

COVID-19 continues to plague Shelby County. With more than 400 new cases and 14 new deaths overnight, the virus is still doing damage. But with the post-holiday surge cycles finished, there’s room for hope.

“We are calculating the current reproductive rate of the virus right now at 0.84. So, we continue to be below 1. That’s actually the lowest calculated reproductive rate that we’ve experienced,” said David Sweat, Shelby County’s chief of epidemiology.

Officials also continue to express optimism about improved vaccine distribution under the Biden administration. While county leaders would not reveal exactly what communication has occurred behind the scenes, they’re hoping that a higher rate of residents will be able to get vaccinated in the coming weeks.

“Having the vaccine available is clearly a game-changing opportunity for all of America,” Sweat said.

 Just moments after today’s task force meeting ended, a second Shelby County distribution site became official, with the Germantown Baptist Church set to begin vaccine operations on February 1.

With numbers down, and more vaccines on the horizon, it would be easy for Mid-South residents to become complacent. Health officials urge everyone to remain focused safety and making responsible decisions.

“We still need everybody to wear masks, we still need everybody to wash their hands, and to practice social distancing,” Sweat said.

The health department has also confirmed that they’re hoping to add even more vaccine distribution sites in the upcoming weeks.

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