The Shelby County Health Department: When you social distance, wear a face covering and wash your hands -- you are battling the spread of viruses like COVID-19. (Photo: Twitter)

Mass testing for COVID-19 will be conducted at four area sites this weekend as local health officials continue to express concern about the troubling surge in coronavirus cases.

Shelby County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Bruce Randolph. (Courtesy photo)

And at Thursday’s COVID-19 Task Force update, Shelby County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Bruce Randolph said a new Shelby County Health Directive was imminent.

“Our seven-day average is 443 cases a day,” said Randolph. “This is a setback. The numbers are going up, and we’re pleading with everyone to mask up because the pandemic is still here.”

On Friday morning, the Health Department reported 44,474 total cases in Shelby County, with 252 cases over the previous 24 hours. The death total was 626, with two new deaths reported over the last 24-hour period.

The total number of people tested was 628,065.

Each of the four “mass testing” locations will be on Saturday and three will be open on Sunday. The drive-thru testing before the Thanksgiving holiday next week is for the general public to be tested.

The locations and times for the testing:

  • Lamar Emissions Station, 1720 RKS Commerce Cove – Sat., 1 p.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 9 p.m.-4 p.m.
  • Poplar Healthcare, 3495 Hacks Cross Rd. – Sat., 1 p.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 9 p.m.-4 p.m.
  • Appling Emissions Station, 2355 Appling City Cove – Sat., 1 p.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 9 p.m.-4 p.m.
  • Shelby County Schools, 2687 Avery – Sat., 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Those who are asymptomatic are being urged to get tested.

Meanwhile, “We must mask us so we can stay open,” Randolph said. “If not, we will have to close things down. We’re trying to find a place somewhere in between. We are trying to remain as open as possible.”

Randolph warned that more rigorous enforcement efforts may be coming for some establishments. He said reports had come in that some businesses “pretend to close at 10” and then open back up later.

“We can no longer have that,” he said.

Coming up on the Thanksgiving holiday, officials emphasized that masks should be worn, even in the home if there are people who do not reside in the household. Social distancing, frequent and thorough hand-washing, and avoiding crowds are all recommended protocols for gatherings.

Businesses are being asked to limit the number of people inside since “ventilation is important” in preventing spread.

Randolph said health officials observe that those who are being infected most frequently are between the ages of 18-54, 67 percent of all new cases. However, 86 percent of deaths are people 55 to 85.

“Young people, you get infected and you bring the virus back into the home so that your mothers and fathers are infected, and your grandparents get infected,” Randolph warned. “If they have one or more of the risk factors, they may die from the virus.”

COVID-19 continues to be more deadly in the African-American community, he said. “More than 60 percent” of the fatalities are African Americans.

A vaccine is expected to be available in Shelby County in mid- or late-December.

Those who are hospitalized and the highest risk, along with front-line, healthcare workers, will be vaccinated in the first. The second round will include teachers, day care workers and secondary healthcare workers.

The general public and healthier individuals will receive the vaccine last. The vaccine, Randolph said, will be a two-dose vaccine, given 21 days apart.