Shelby County falls short of worst-case COVID projections made in March

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — According to the latest numbers from the Shelby County Health Department, Shelby County is at 3,523 COVID-19 cases and 78 deaths.

It’s a far cry from the number infectious disease physician Dr. Manoj Jain was warning could happen if local leaders did not take action.

In late March, his worst-case scenario projection for the next 12 months was just over 405,000 coronavirus cases in the Memphis area and more than 8,100 deaths.

“That high estimate number is if you had done no interventions. You had done no social distancing, you had done no masking,” Jain said.

But Jain, a member of the county’s COVID-19 task force, said he never anticipated Memphis or Shelby County would take such a hands-off approach. A day after he presented his projections, the city issued its Safer At Home directive.

“We were thinking that we would be between the low and the medium range,” Jain said.

His mid-range projection was 189,000 cases and almost 1,900 deaths. At the low end, he estimated 13,000 cases and 68 deaths.

Shelby County has slightly exceeded his low-range estimate for deaths, but so far, is 10,000 cases shy of his estimate for total COVID-19 cases.

“We have made a phenomenal change in the trajectory of this virus. Otherwise, we would have seen an astronomical number of cases,” Jain said.

Still, Jain said it’s too early to breathe a sigh of relief.

There could still be a resurgence of cases and the numbers from the health department only reflect the cases they know about.

“For every one person that we test, there may be five or ten other individuals who we did not test and we don’t know that they were positive,” Jain said.

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