Post-holiday numbers improving, but health department is still monitoring Covid data before loosening restrictions

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Coronavirus numbers across Shelby County are starting to improve after the post-holiday surge, but with only 10 left in the latest health directive, health experts are still monitoring the data before loosening restrictions.

The Shelby County Health Department reported 75,016 cases Tuesday morning, an increase of 508 cases in the last 24 hours.Previous numbers for the week include 691 cases Monday and 639 cases Sunday.

Health officials noted in their Tuesday news conference that while those case numbers and reproductive rate are starting to stabilize from the holiday surge, they are still higher than experts would like them to be. Shelby County is currently averaging about 600 new cases a day when it should be around 400.

There have been 1,046 deaths. The health department says 10 new deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. The deaths account for 1.4% of all cases in Shelby County.

The number of cases considered recovered is 66,000, or 88.0%. There are 7,970 known active cases, which accounts for 10.6%.

Usage of local Acute Care and ICU beds was 91% and 92% respectively as of January 11. There are 579 COVID patients in the hospital.

The current health directive is set to expire in 10 days and health experts are monitoring the data closely to determine which steps to take next. There are several options on the table including extending the current health directive.

“We’re going to continue to monitor the data and use that as our driving force,” said Dr. Alisa Haushalter.

Dr. Bruce Randolph encouraged those who have received the vaccine, as well as those who have not, to continue to adhere to the guidelines, which include social distancing, washing of hands and wearing of masks. He reiterated that how residents handle things now will have a direct impact on the numbers and what happens 10 days from now with the health directive.

The health department is also on the look out for the new strain of COVID-19, which is reportedly more contagious. No known cases have made their way to the Mid-South yet.

“We are monitoring through the laboratories what would be indicators of that variant, so that we as a health department can respond very quickly,” said Haushalter.

There was even more good news from the health department on Tuesday as they opened the Pipkins Building as a distrbution center with more sites under consideration.

The county is currently vaccinating those in the 1a1 and 1a2 categories, and health officials reminded everyone that Shelby County is one of the largest in the state when it comes to the number of people in these groups. It will take time to get through these populations.

On Friday, the state said it will be sending Shelby County 8,900 doses of vaccine per week through the end of January, which will be given first to first responders, health care workers and other priority groups by appointment only.

The health department said all appointments for the month of January have been filled as of January 9th.

The news comes as the Trump administration asks states to speed delivery of vaccines to those over the age of 65 and others in the high-risk groups, instead of holding back for the second doses.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires a second shot about three weeks after the first vaccination. Another vaccine, this one produced by Moderna, requires a second shot about four weeks afterward. One-shot vaccines are still undergoing testing.

When asked if Shelby County would follow these guidelines, health officials said they will be seeking guidance from the state of Tennessee on how to proceed. But they do anticipate being able to utilize more vaccine with this announcement.

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