This testing site at 3 Dunlap St. is one of several recently opened by the Shelby County Health Department. The site is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Courtesy photo)

On Dec. 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projected the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could create a massive surge of cases in either January or April 2022.

From the surging daily new-cases virus numbers locally over the first two weeks of 2022, it appears Shelby County is experiencing its surge in January. 

From Jan. 6 through Wednesday (Jan. 12), the daily new-case average for Memphis-Shelby County was 2,322, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

During the same period, the Health Departed reported 26 COVID-19 related deaths, including 10 reported Wednesday.

As a result of the surge, local pharmacies and medical facilities have been flooded with residents trying to get tested.

Local health officials said getting vaccinated against the virus is crucial to Shelby Countians staying healthy and protected from severe illness.

“What we are experiencing in Shelby County is Omicron hospitalization of the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Manoj Jain, an Infectious Disease specialist.

“To just assume that the Omicron variant simply causes mild symptoms in everyone is a massive error in understanding. Our ICUs are filled with those who are suffering with the Omicron variant. About 90 percent are unvaccinated.”

Testing centers operated by the Health Department have reopened to accommodate the massive numbers of people trying to get tested. 

“Although new daily numbers have improved from last week, new infections are still in the thousands,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, Health Department medical office.

“Symptoms are milder than the Delta variant, sure, but the Omicron variant is still making people sick. 

“Those who have not been vaccinated suffer more severe symptoms, and many have to be hospitalized. People are still dying from COVID-19. Most of them are unvaccinated.”

According to the CDC, the omicron variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. 

The agency has warned that the current increases in Omicron cases are likely to lead to a national surge in coming weeks. Peak daily numbers of new infections could exceed previous peaks, CDC cautioned.

Local health authorities hope the numbers are plateauing, and that the lower daily infections, while still high, will bode well for the crowded ICU beds.

“Even those who are vaccinated will experience symptoms when infected with the Omicron variant,” said Jain. “But they are not being hospitalized. 

“I wished I could tell you the number of people of every race and gender who say they are sorry they did not make a different decision about taking the vaccination. By then, they are already in ICU. Some don’t make it out.”

Jain said the “virus is out in the community.” Vaccination is the best protection from it.

For a complete listing of all testing sites, including pharmacies and other entities not operated by Shelby County Health Department, go to: 

Or, if additional help is needed, call: -901-222-9000.