Shelby County health officials watching coronavirus impact across county lines


SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County leaders are keeping a close eye on county borders, claiming coronavirus is spreading faster in surrounding counties.

The health department director said social distancing lowers the transmission rate, but so many areas around Shelby County have different measures in place, and they reopened at different times. That could impact people in Shelby County.

“We have been working with that really since the beginning of the epidemic,” health department director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said. “That means if a person has COVID, how many other people are they likely to infect?”

She said we want that number at 1 or below, and the transmission rate is currently at 1.14.

“The closer we get to one or less than 1, we are less likely to overwhelm the system,” Dr. Haushalter said.

She and other county leaders have stressed the importance other counties also working to keep their transmission rates low.

“We can’t control our borders,” Mayor Lee Harris said. “There is no practical way to shut down the borders around Shelby County.”

Shelby County health officials said they are tracking transmission rates across the Mid-South, and some areas are in the red zone.

A measurement from COVID Act Now, which is put together by medical professionals, flags Fayette County as an elevated risk at 1.22. Tipton County is even higher than that, but Crittenden and DeSoto counties are closer to 1.

There are also communities within an hour drive seeing an unsettling spike in cases.

The Forrest City, Arkansas, area has dealt with an outbreak at a prison, and it now appears the virus is seeping into the community.

Dr. Haushalter said surrounding counties could be another obstacle.

“Which means we will continue to monitor that, and if we see significant changes in our transmission rate, we’ll have make adjustments in our safer-at-home instructions.”

You can click here to see if your county is ready to reopen.

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