COVID’s death toll in Shelby County hits 300, but health officer hopeful about overall trend

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County has passed a gruesome milestone, as the state reports 300 people have died from COVID-19 in Shelby County.

This comes as the county’s health officer says we are making progress fighting the virus, but also as the state of Tennessee on Thursday reported its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 deaths, 42.

Shelby County health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said he believes wearing a mask, social distancing and the closure of bars is working to bring the COVID case count down locally. 

“We’re seeing decreases in our numbers and we’re hopeful that will continue,” Randolph said.

The county on Thursday reported 235 new COVID-19 cases, a number that was significantly lower than in recent weeks. So why are the numbers so low? 

Randolph was questioned about fewer people getting tested. 

“The labs have caught up and there may be a decrease in the amount of testing that has occurred, and hopefully that will increase now that people have gained confidence in ‘Hey, if I do get tested I’m going to get my results now in 48, 72 hours,'” Randolph said.

That’s compared to the weeks it took for some to receive results. Randolph says the average right now is around four days.The goal is two to three days for results. 

Randolph also talked about the upcoming football season at the University of Memphis. There will be limited capacity, 4,500 people allowed to attend, facial coverings must be worn and people 12 feet apart. 

But yelling in the stands could project the virus even more. 

“That six feet of separation is not enough,” he said. “They could potentially project it 18 feet and some studies have shown it may go as far as 27.”

WREG asked how long this downward trend would need to last for bars to reopen. Randolph said they would need to look at a 28-day downward trend before making decisions.

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