The first American recipient of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was New York critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay, who received the first dose of the two-shot vaccine at about 9:20 a.m. EST on Monday, December 14. Medical officials administered the dose on camera as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others watched on a livestream. (Screen capture)

Nearly 900 new COVID-19 cases, nine deaths and worsening projected community spread are fallout from large, unsafe gatherings over Thanksgiving holiday, according to Shelby County Health Department officials.

At Tuesday’s Joint Task Force COVID-19 update, surge totals were brutal as rampant and uncontrolled community spread was reported. Few masks and blatant disregard of six-foot, social distancing over the long holiday weekend are being blamed for 893 new cases, nine deaths, and a 12.1 percent positivity rate.

“We are seeing a surge that is related to the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Dr. Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department director. “This is a predictor that we will have a significant number of cases as we go into January.”

Total cases in Shelby County are 56,820, with 752 deaths. Health officials expect that things may get a lot worse moving into the Christmas holiday and on to the new year.

Dr. Bruce Randolph, health officer for the Shelby County Health Department, said despite the health directives on masking, social distancing, limitations on liquor and restaurant hours, taking personal responsibility will ultimately curb community spread and effectively mitigate coronavirus in Shelby County.

“It is up to you to control things, to make an individual effort,” said Randolph. “It’s up to you to get tested. It’s up to you to take the vaccine and do all the other things needed to stay safe. It’s up to you to avoid crowds and large gatherings.”

Presently in Shelby County, there are 5,434 active cases and 8,378 people in quarantine.

Randolph said health department officials would rather appeal to county residents to take personal responsibility for exhibiting safe behavior, rather than reverting back to a stay-at-home and shutting every thing down.

“We don’t make these rules and requirements in a vacuum,” Randolph said. “We try to take measures that have the least adverse effect on many lives. Those steps are increased, based on the data that threatens imminent danger to a large number of people.”

Haushalter said that some doses of the vaccine have arrived in the state, and the state health department is responsible for distributing both the Pfizer and the Moderna doses across the state.

“We will get the vaccine in drips and drabs at first,” said Haushalter. “But as more comes in and becomes available, the process of getting everyone vaccinated will go more smoothly.”


African American nurse first to receive COVID-19 vaccine

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Information on distribution of vaccines is available on the city, county, and state government websites, Haushalter said. Updates will be posted as more information becomes available.

Haushalter said that officials are aware that various communities have some concerns about actually getting the vaccine.

“For every community, certain talking points are significant,” she said. “We will look to faith leaders, medical leaders and government leaders to assure everyone that the vaccine is safe.”

Shelby County has the advantage of a strong medical community, Haushalter said. Training modules are being developed to mobilize students and other healthcare personnel to administer the vaccine.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna substances will be administered in two shots. Pfizer vaccine requires refrigeration of 94 degrees F below 0. Moderna vaccine does not have the same storage requirements.

Haushalter said hospitals in Shelby County have already begun receiving vaccines, and vaccinations should start as early as Thursday for high-risk healthcare workers.