Shelby County COVID-19 cases predicted to surge in late May or early June

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The number of COVID-19 cases could surge in late May or early June, leaving Memphis and other parts of the Mid-South under ‘stay-at-home’ orders in effect for longer than initially planned.

“You’ve seen some of the evidence that’s come out nationally that doing ‘Safer at Home’ practices will reduce the severity of the surge that is coming,” City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowan said.

McGowan noted the ‘Safer at Home’ practices will delay the predict surge’s arrival.

“We’ve seen that time and again across countries, states and cities that have taken those practices and it is no less applicable here,” he said.

Both local and Shelby County health officials said the current restrictions on people traveling outside their home would have to remain in place for 30 to 60 days while the medical professionals prepare to fight the predicted surge.

Those restrictions would keep non-essential businesses like restaurants, hair salons and other businesses closed, creating uncertainty for thousands of people in multiple industry.

As of Saturday, Shelby County is using less than 50% of the county’s total surge capacity.

“In other words, of people in the hospital, about 50% of our capacity is being used.” McGowan said.

According to leaders, 40% of the county’s intensive care unit capacity is being use and one third of the ventilators in the area are taken.

McGowan said the county is in good shape medically.

In regards to personal protective equipment for medical professionals, McGowan said the county will be fine for a short period of time and that more equipment is coming in a slow rate.

If the county’s burn rate, which means how often products are being used, increases then it will be an issue for the days ahead.


One important fact leaders mention is that less than 10% of the people currently in the hospital are COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Alisa Haushalter, Director of the Shelby County Health Department, said 12,500 people have been tested for the virus. As of Saturday, the health department reported it was experiencing about a 9% positivity rate when it came to test results.

Out of the 12,500 tests, 1,147 of them came back with positive results and over 90% of the people tested negative.

Haushalter said although most of the test results have been negative, the county reported 98 more cases from Friday to Saturday afternoon.

“While we’re continuing to see an increase in cases, the proportion of that is not as high as it is in some communities,” she said.

Haushalter reiterated these results were a prime example of the strict ‘Safe at Home’ orders working.

So far in Shelby County, 26 people have passed away from the virus leading to a 2.3% mortality rate.


County Mayor Lee Harris said all of the mayors throughout Shelby County have extended their executive orders which say non-essential businesses need to remain closed and people should be staying at home, only leaving home for essential needs.

He also barred nursing homes from allowing residents to have visitors. Facilities have been directed to check the temperatures of employees before they come into work.

If the employee has a fever, they are barred from coming to work until the fever is gone.

The mayor said the grocery stores, pharmacies and manufacturing companies are still operating in order to serve the community.

He took a moment to say people should appreciate those who are still going to work in order to make essential goods and services available to the public.

“These men and women, we should recognize, are exposing themselves to the risk of contamination and they are exposing themselves to passing that on to their families,” Harris said.

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