‘Shut it down’: Doctor, city leader has prescription to keep Shelby County safe

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Medical professionals say social isolation is needed to keep people safe and alive. But if the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, how prepared are Memphis and Shelby County?

A member of the mayor’s COVID task force had a tough diagnosis about city’s status. He also talked about the need for ventilators and hospital beds.

“The only thing we can do as a city is shut it down, and hard, and make sure we don’t expose each other,” said Dr. Jeff Warren, a family medicine physician, city councilman and member of Mayor Jim Strickland’s COVID-19 task force.

“We now have our citizens on social isolation, which is what we’re calling Safer At Home in Memphis. It’s hugely important we do this. This is not martial law,” he said.

Warren shared Wednesday’s COVID data sheet. It shows 493 total hospital beds available, 171 emergency department beds and 192 ICU beds. Memphis has 119 out of 201 ventilators available.

“We have closed things down before we had a big boom. Did we do it soon enough? I can’t tell you if we have enough,” Warren said. ‘We are planning for the worst and hoping for the best and trying to see data to make this happen.”

There is also some surprising data.

Of the 170 cases in the county, it’s not just older people contracting COVID-19, but people under 40 as well.

“The vast majority of people who are getting this are under 40,” Warren said. “So the screening that we’ve done here show under 40 people are getting it and transmitting it. They really need to shut down hard.”

That’s why social distancing is being emphasized. Warren says it will mean the difference between life and death in Memphis.

“We have the ability to do something about this if we pull together,” he said. “We’re Memphis. We are Grit ‘N Grind. We’re not going to let this thing grind us down. We will grind it down. Even it means staying at home and being nice to everybody.”

Warren says continue to use common sense — cover your cough, wash your hands frequently, stay inside, and if you do go out for exercise, practice social distancing.

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