The Southwest Tennessee Community College-Whitehaven Center recently served as a vaccine service site, with nursing students out in full force to help administer first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in conjunction with Shelby County Government and the Shelby County Health Department. (Photo: Twitter)

While Shelby County Health Department officials are encouraged by the dropping number of new COVID-19 infections, they are wary that their optimism could be reversed as suspected variants of the virus enter community transmission.

As of Wednesday morning, the county had recorded a total of 85,404 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, including 170 new cases. There was 3,004 active cases Wednesday (Feb. 10), officials said, compared with 3,267 active cases Tuesday (Feb. 9). 

There were 11 reported new COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, officials said, bringing the reported total of virus-related deaths to 1,398 since the pandemic began here.

Also, Wednesday, Health Department officials said primary vaccination sites will be closed Thursday (Feb. 11), due to inclement weather. 

The Health Department has rescheduled all the appointments for the same time at Pipkin, Germantown Baptist Church, Southwest Tennessee Community College-Whitehaven and the commodity warehouse on Bellevue to Thursday (Feb. 18).

Updated information will be posted on the shelby.community website.

At Tuesday’s Shelby County Joint Task Force update, Dr. Bruce Randolph, health department medical director, said “Thank you” to Shelby County.

“We are on a downward trend. You have been wearing your masks, social distancing and avoiding crowd gatherings. Let’s stay the course and continue to do what we need to do. Let’s not stop now.”

Randolph said there was a presumptive positive case of both the UK variant and a case of the Brazilian variant discovered in the county. Health officials are still waiting on confirmation.

“Our approach is still the same,” said Randolph. “Whether those variants are or are not in Shelby County, we will continue doing what we are doing. We will continue all the safety precautions to guard against COVID-19 and its variants.”

County officials also addressed the “frustration and anxiety” residents are having about vaccine supply and getting that second shot.

“We understand the anxiety regarding that second shot,” said Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department. “With the Pfizer vaccine, the second shot should be administered after 21 days. With Moderna, it is 28 days. Don’t be alarmed if it is not exactly 21 or 28 days. That second shot is a booster shot. The second shot is still good within six weeks of the first shot.”

Wednesday’s vaccine numbers total 86,087 administered; 23,136 have received both shots and 62,951 have received the first shot. Haushalter said 20 percent of the vaccine supply is set aside for second shots.

Those available to receive the vaccines are the 1a1 and 1a2, which consist of medical personnel, long-term care facility staff, residents over the age of 75, and others designated by the state health division in those categories. County residents over the age of 70 can also now make appointments for vaccination.

Shelby County Health Directive 17 is in its third week of activation. Randolph said that as the trend continues downward, county residents should expect a new directive when this one expires next week, which is week four.

Presently, restaurants, bars and clubs may operate at 50 percent capacity, no groups may gather over six people and tables must be kept six feet apart. If alcohol is being consumed, food must be served as well. All food and beverage services must stop at 10 p.m. 

Five businesses were closed this week for multiple infractions.

Walmart Pharmacies will continue to administer the vaccines at 11 locations throughout the county. Health officials hope that long lines at the Pipkin Building and other vaccination sites will be alleviated as appointments are made at a neighborhood Walmart. Each pharmacy is setting its own appointments.

The following locations are administering COVID-19 vaccines:

Bartlett:

  • 8480 Highway 64
  • 6520 Memphis Arlington Road
  • 8400 U.S. Highway 64

Collierville:

  • 560 West Poplar Ave.

Cordova:

  • 577 North Germantown Parkway

Memphis:

  • 3950 Austin Peay Hwy.
  • 6990 East Shelby Dr.
  • 5255 Elvis Presley Blvd.
  • 2856 Hickory Hill Rd. 
  • 6727 Raleigh Lagrange Rd.
  • 7525 Winchester Rd.