The coronavirus pandemic intersected with the horrific surge in Memphis homicides at the second Community Walk Against Gun Violence last Saturday (Feb. 27.) (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

The reality of the Memphis area’s now yearlong survival bout with the pandemic-causing COVID-19 virus pierced a joint task force briefing on Tuesday.

Soberingly, the coronavirus had killed 1500 Shelby Countians as of the Shelby County Health Department’s Wednesday report.

The noting of the milestone was woven into a COVID-19 Joint Task Force update, where the elephant in the room was last week’s resignation of Alisa Haushalter as Health Department director.

Tuesday’s briefing detailed robust vaccination numbers and a strong push toward broadening the numbers and sites for future immunization efforts.

“We are coming up on the one-year mark when that very first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Shelby County,” said David Sweat, deputy director of the Shelby County Health Department. “To date, the total number of coronavirus cases in Shelby County total 88,153. There have been 1,498 deaths.”

David Sweat, deputy director of the Shelby County Health Department, noted that we are 12 months into the fight against the COVID-19 Virus. (Screen capture)

Sweat said both new daily cases and the number of vaccines being administered are moving in the right direction.

“There were 42 new cases today,” said Sweat. “There have been 140,432 vaccine doses administered: 97,881 first-shots and 42,551 fully vaccinated individuals who have received both their shots. The city of Memphis took over vaccine management on Tuesday, Mar. 23, but there was no interruption of service.”

Fallout from state and federal investigations into misplaced, stolen or expired vaccines led to Haushalter’s resignation. Management of Shelby County’s vaccination drive was taken from the county and reassigned to city officials.

Shelby County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Bruce Randolph assured county residents that city and county officials are continuing to work together for the best outcomes for all Memphis and Shelby County residents.

“It’s been almost a year that this joint task force was formed between city and county officials,” said Randolph. “Since that time, there have been some challenges and some difficult times, but we’re here. 

“There is a downward trend of critical indicators. So we’re moving in the right direction. We must continue the course.”

Shelby County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Bruce Randolph assured county residents that city and county officials are continuing to work together for the best outcomes. (Screen capture)

Randolph said masking and social distancing are going to be important precautions as efforts continue to get everyone vaccinated who wants to be vaccinated.

Information released after the task force update indicates that on Monday, Mar. 8, Shelby County will move into Phase 1C of the vaccination schedule devised by the Tennessee Department of Health. 

The phase includes teens 16 years of age and older who suffer with chronic health conditions that put them at risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Age eligibility, otherwise, will remain at 65 years and older.

Chronic diseases specified for these teens include chronic renal disease, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis or moderate to severe asthma; obesity; heart conditions, including heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy and hypertension; sickle cell disease; cerebrovascular disease or stroke; dementia, and liver disease. 

The vaccine will also be made available to those caring for people with high-risk medical conditions and women who are pregnant.

Individuals in the prior phases, including first responders, health care workers, teachers and child care workers who have not yet been vaccinated remain eligible for vaccination during phase 1C as well. 

Appointment availabilities at City of Memphis and Shelby County vaccination locations will be posted at https://covid19.memphistn.gov/ each Friday for the following week.

Residents without Internet access or who need assistance in setting an appointment may call 901-222-7468 (SHOT) for assistance.

The March 4 numbers: