MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As Shelby County moves past the holiday surge in COVID cases, there’s a renewed push for the public to stay the course.
“Now is not the time to let your foot off the gas,” said Bruce Randolph, Shelby County health officer. “We must remain steadfast.”
Some progress is being made, but health experts are not ready to reverse the current health directive.
“We won’t commit to that at this point. We’ll wait to see the remaining days,” Randolph said.
Emphasis is also being placed on vaccinations and appointments, which have been a problem.
“Within 24 hours, all of the appointments for the remainder of January were filled,” said Dr. Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department director. “Unfortunately, we could not appoint beyond February 1 because we did not know the amount of our allocation moving forward.”
The Pipkin Building at the fairgrounds will now be a permanent vaccination site.
“We started with the Pipkin Center, but we’ll have other permanent locations that we will open up in upcoming weeks and anticipate have some moving sites,” Haushalter said.
The goal is to reach more people and avoid potential racial disparities.
“I’m not ready to say there’s disparity,” Haushalter said. “What I can say is we know long term we have to put mechanisms in place to assure equal access.”
The health department wants to create a queue-like waiting system for those wanting the vaccine.
“We want to focus on those priority populations that have a waiting list or queue that we could contact those individuals. One, if we have open slots during the day,” Haushalter said.
And as they tackle the pandemic, the focus is also on another public health crisis: gun and violent crime.
“If we invested as much time in gun violence, we would have a positive outcome,” Haushalter said. “First, it’s recognizing it’s a public health crisis that includes an enforcement component and education component.”
As for COVID cases in Shelby County, there have been more than 76,043 reported, 548 new ones since yesterday and 1,093 have died since the beginning of the pandemic.