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COVID-19 stats leveling off; health officials hopeful

Daily COVID-19 numbers have skyrocketed following the new year, but Shelby County Health Department officials said Wednesday that new infections are leveling off.

“On Tuesday, there were 508 new infections,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, health department medical officer. “On Wednesday, there were 479. That is still higher than what we want to see. But we feel that Shelby County is now beyond the Christmas surge and we’re moving through the New Year surge.”

Wednesday’s total case number for Shelby County was 75, 016, with 1,055 deaths.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said not only are the numbers “plateau-ing,” other medical data is encouraging as well.

“Our testing capacity continues to be good,” said Haushalter at Tuesday’s COVID-19 Task Force update. “Also, the hospital surge that we have been concerned about is stabilizing as well.”

Officials said word was received from the Tennessee State Department of Health that Shelby County will be receiving 8900 doses of vaccine each week for the remainder of January.

“With the change in federal government in the next few days, we expect to have more vaccines being distributed in greater quantity,” said Haushalter. “Shelby County is receiving a larger share of the state’s supply because we are the largest county in state and at a higher risk.”

Randolph said Wednesday that the health department will be looking at the data this week and next week, leading up to the time that the current Safer At Home health directive expires, which is Friday, Jan. 22.

“We want people to remember that just because someone has been vaccinated, it doesn’t mean we are out of the woods,” said Randolph. “Everyone must take responsibility and mask up in public, continue to social distance six feet, and practice good hand-washing.”

Randolph said the doses which are coming to the county will be used to finish up “1a1 and 1b1 persons. Medical personnel who have direct patient contact, seniors over the age of 75, and senior resident living in community housing, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, Randolph said. A person who has only received one dose is not considered vaccinated.

“Most of the vaccines being shipped each week will be given to persons receiving  first-time doses,” said Randolph. “But within the supplies being sent, we will announce where those due for their second shot may come and receive it. A specific location will be designated for those persons, and a special notification will be sent.”

Randolph said the data from this week and next week will determine the health department’s next steps.

“Whether there is a health directive in place or not, it is still up to the individual to adhere and comply,” said Randolph. “Masks should be worn in public at all times. Social distancing must continue, and thorough hand-washing are all still guidelines set forth by the CDC, as well as Shelby County Health Department. The solution is not the health directive, but people actually doing what is required in the health directive will make everyone safer.”

Contact-tracing and enforcement are major efforts for the health department, according to Haushalter.

“Let’s not get tired of doing the right thing,” Randolph said. “Let us all remain steadfast.”

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