COVID data shows alternate care hospital not needed at this point, Memphis-area leaders say

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As Tennessee is declared by a White House task force as being in the “red zone” due to increasing virus diagnoses per capita, Mid-South officials said progress is being made in the fight against COVID-19 by masking up.

“We acted early,” Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner said. “We’ve been more adamant about protecting the citizens of Shelby County so we see the results.”

The health department said there have been more than 20,000 total cases, more than 360 new cases as of Wednesday and a total of 262 deaths.

But will the Shelby County COVID-19 cases trigger the state to open the alternate care facility at the former Commercial Appeal building?

“The thing to remember is right now with the numbers that we have, we don’t need that hospital,” Dr. Warren said. “If we continue to see a decrease in the rate of increase, we slow our rate of increase.”

The rate of increase can be slowed by wearing face masks, proper hand washing and social distancing to avoid talk of opening an alternate care hospitals.

“If we do this right, we won’t need a second one, and we may not even need the first one, and if we do this wrong, we may need a second, third and fourth one,” Warren said. “We don’t want to go there because that means people are dying left and right.”

Long before the Commercial Appeal site, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Tennessee began retrofitting the Gateway shopping center on Jackson Avenue until plans stalled.

“The community I think didn’t want a lot sick people there, and I think the C.A. is a much better position because its in a more industrial area,” Dr. Warren said.

“I can understand that being an issue, but it’s not like the pandemic or virus will spread because that facility is near you,” Turner said.

To avoid more hospitals opening up, city leaders say to mask up.

“A masking study out this week shows we’re doing a better job at it,” City Councilman Dr. Jeff Warren said. “We have to keep at it, and we can’t let down our guard.”

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