MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As of Monday, everyone in Shelby County over the age of 16 is eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine and health officials are urging everyone who is eligible to get the shot.
The pandemic is not over and cases are on the rise again in Tennessee. In just the past two weeks, the number of new cases is up 13 percent. Deaths are up 20 percent and hospitalizations are up nine percent.
That’s especially concerning for health officials because not nearly enough people have been vaccinated to reach herd immunity. In Shelby County, only 11 percent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated. Health officials say at least 70 percent need to be vaccinated to end the pandemic.
New, more contagious variants of the virus are spreading through the country, and Dr. Anthony Fauci says that, along with fewer restrictions, threatens to cause another surge.
“When you’re coming down from a big peak and reach a point where you plateau, once you stay at that plateau you’re really in danger of a surge coming up and unfortunately that’s what we’re starting to see,” he said. “The variants are playing a part but it is not ocmpletely the variants. What we’re likely seeing is things like spring break and pulling back on the mitigation measures that we’ve seen. Several states have done that.”
Helath officials in Memphis said last week it plans to keep its mask mandate in place for the foreseeable future. Arkansas has plans to lift its mask mandate this week and Mississippi lifted the masks mandate there weeks ago.