Local COVID-19 joint task force urges public to keep up social distancing as surge nears

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Officials from the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force said they have hope social distancing efforts are working, but there’s still a ways to go.

The number of confirmed cases in Shelby County continue to climb, at 949 Thursday, which is up 52 cases from Wednesday.

“We have not yet reached our peak here in Memphis and Shelby County, and it’s important we stay away from each other,” City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowan said.

The health department said 23 people have died, which is about a 2.4% mortality rate for COVID-19 locally.

“That’s higher than some communities,” Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said. “We will watch that that as we have increased numbers in death to see what that means specifically for Shelby County.”

Haushalter said right now 53% of the cases are women. She also said 21 to 30 years old is the age group with the highest amount of cases.

“68% are African American, 28% Caucasian and 9% other—that may be individuals who opted not to enter race or ethnicity,” Haushalter said.

Haushalter said the local community has done a slightly better job of social distancing.

She said there is a team of professionals working to predict when the surge will happen in Shelby County, and that info will be released early next week.

“We need to do social distancing two to four incubation periods, so that’s 30 to 60 days to see an impact,” Haushalter said. “We will monitor but it is positive.”

In the meantime, the city said it has opened more testing sites and will continue expand.

“To those areas where it’s hard for people to reach a testing site or are transportation challenged, we don’t expect that to be broadly available until sometime late next week,” McGowan said.

Officials also warned churches about services this Easter Sunday and instead recommended virtual services.

They said more than 10 people are not allowed to gather in one space, and people need to be six feet apart. They will be enforcing that.

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