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COVID-19 numbers troubling; still short of ‘fourth wave’

Wednesday’s (April 22) new case number was 109, with one new death, officials said, but the transmission rate does not clearly indicate that Shelby County is hitting a fourth wave of the coronavirus.

“I know there are some concerns because for several days, the new case daily number has gone back over 100,” said Shelby County Health Department Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph. “While the numbers have increased, they are actually fluctuating. So, we are monitoring the situation.”

Memphis Chief Operations Officer Doug McGowen, however, expressed concern in a Wednesday update that Shelby County may be “on the precipice of a fourth wave” of new infections.

The Health Department has recorded 94,069 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, including 109 new cases reported Wednesday.

According the latest Health Department date, there were 1,688 active cases Wednesday. One new COVID-19 death was reported by the Health Department Wednesday. Officials said there have been 1,600 virus-related deaths. The local mortality rate of the virus is 1.7 percent.

Tuesday’s (April 21) new case number was 65, the first time that the number has been that low in nearly two weeks. Officials fear the low number is because of fewer people got tested over the weekend.

Officials also said a drastic fall in vaccination numbers is a bit concerning.

“We are somewhat concerned about the drop in people coming in to get a vaccination,” said Randolph. “But a drop-off at some point was to be expected. Everyone who was eager to get vaccinated already has, or at least, has had their first shot. The rest are those who are still undecided and are taking a wait-and-see attitude.”

Randolph said there are those who will not be getting vaccinated at all. Although the rate of infections has been steadily increasing, Randolph said “we have all the tools we need” to mitigate the pandemic’s effects.

As of Wednesday, 296,532 Shelby County residents have received COVID-19 vaccinations. Of that total, 109,100 residents are partially vaccinated and 187,432 are fully vaccinated. About 19.7 percent of residents are considered fully vaccinated.

Local officials have taken steps to make vaccines more accessible in under-served communities.

“Now at our vaccine sites, making an appointment is no longer required,” said Randolph. “Our vaxing is moving into another phase. Everyone in Shelby County who wants the vaccine can get it. We want to do a better job messaging and answering any concerns about taking the vaccine.”

That’s one way to help boost vaccine numbers, Randolph said; getting people the answers they need to make an informed decision can eliminate their concerns about getting the vaccination.

At full capacity, Shelby County vaccination sites were administering 60,000 vaccinations per week. Now, that number is down to 20,000 weekly.

Greater access in locations and the use of walk-in vaccinations without appointments are two measures that will continue to be used to eliminate some hindrances to getting the vaccine.

“Vaccines are important tools in controlling unchecked spread of the virus in Shelby County,” said Randolph. The other important tools are preventive measures we already have in place – wearing masks in public, staying six feet apart, avoiding crowds in poorly ventilated spaces, and washing hands and using hand sanitizer.

Randolph said individual citizens must continue to take responsibility for following the recommended guidelines.

The Tennessee National Guard has been assisting with both testing and vaxing since February of this year. Now that vaxing numbers have plummeted, it is unclear what the timeline is for relieving them of duty.


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