Officials with the Shelby County Health Department continue to urge those who feel sick and are showing symptoms to get tested and remain at home until test results come back. (Photo: Shelby County Health Department on Twitter)

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris kicked off Tuesday’s (Nov. 10) COVID-19 Task Force update by calling for more uniformity and “aggressive intervention” to curb the pandemic from state officials.

“We are still in the fight against COVID,” Harris said.  “We must continue the course. This is not two viruses — a rural virus and an urban virus. This is one virus, and we must all work together to mitigate the spread.”

Harris’ call for more action came as the Shelby County  Health Department reported new cases of the virus continue to rise.

Officials reported 691 new cases in Shelby County Tuesday, for a total of 40,681 since the onset of cases in early March.

No new COVID-19 deaths were reported Tuesday. There have been 589 virus-related deaths in the county.

Brownsville, Tennessee Mayor Bill Rawls joined Lee in pleading for caution and greater uniformity directed at the state level.

“It is critical that all the counties continue to collaborate,” Rawls said. “We need a statewide mask mandate, but until them we must keep working together until more intervention comes from the state.”

Rawls cited a study at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University, which showed counties in the state that had aggressive interventions in place, such as mask mandates in public places, experienced approximately half the fatalities from COVID-19.

“Please take an abundance of caution and postpone family gatherings until next year,” Rawls said. “During the Fourth of July holiday, Haywood County (where Brownsville is the county seat) had a great surge of new infections because cluster outbreaks from family gatherings quickly turned to into cluster outbreaks in the community.”

Rawls said, given that there is an upcoming holiday season coupled with flu season, gatherings should be put off until next year.

“COVID-19 is a marathon,” said Rawls. “It is not a sprint. And, although we are tired of the restrictions, we must continue to take an abundance of caution.”

Amy Garner, public information officer with West Tennessee Healthcare, said the system’s seven hospitals in Shelby, Fayette, and Tipton Counties, care for about 15 percent of the state’s total hospitalizations.

“We take care of COVID patients across 18 counties,” Rawls said. “A month ago, there were 67 patients in our hospitals. Today, there are better than 100 — 122, I believe. Also, patients in need of ventilation are increasing.”

Shelby County Health Department Deputy Director David Sweat said there is still plenty of testing capacity not being used. He said individuals, who are positive, continue to go about their day as if they did not have the virus.

“One out of three people who do have the virus are going about their normal day, to work and school, and activities of daily living,” said Sweat. “This is the main reason for the uncontrolled spread of the virus.”

The positivity rate of tests being taken is presently at 8.8 percent,

Dr. Bruce Randolph urged those who feel sick and are showing symptoms get tested and remain at home until test results come back.

“Right now, only 35-50 percent of testing capacity in Shelby County is being utilized,” Randolph said. “Anyone who feels sick should go to any of the testing locations and stay home from work or school.”

Randolph urged Shelby County residents to get a flu shot at two locations in Shelby County — at the 1720 RKS Commercial Drive, site of the old auto inspection station off of Lamar Avenue and at Millington’s Public Health Clinic at 8225 U.S. 51.

For days and hours of the two drive-thru, flu vaccination locations, call the Shelby County Health Department at: 901-222-9000.