Memphis health expert predicts ‘very difficult’ next few months as delta variant spreads


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County officials and doctors are sounding the alarm about the community spread of the delta variant.

Across the board, the numbers in Shelby County are rising at rates not seen in months, from cases, to the reproductive rate, to hospitalizations.

In fact, Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen says more than 90 percent of cases right now are the delta variant, and that’s leading down a road similar to the height of the pandemic.

“One hundred and fifteen people to 279 people,” McGowen said. “That’s almost a 250% increase in just two weeks time.”

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Manoj Jain says this current outbreak will probably last until October.

“The next few months are going to be a very difficult time for us,” Jain said.

He still says the majority of vaccinated people are protected from delta, but there are some who still are not.

“It’s really important people who are immune compromised—people on steroids, who’ve had a transplant, pregnant—they need to be very cautious about not getting the infection,” Jain said.

That’s part of why he says the way out of the latest surge will be more people getting vaccinated and wearing masks, whether at work or in schools when students return.

“At the present time with the delta variant as high as it is, we are in a highly transmissible period,” Jain said. “It’s important to continue masking, getting people vaccinated. We really have to be talking about requiring vaccinations at workplaces.”

Experts say pediatric cases are on the rise too, and children under 12 cannot be vaccinated.

We also asked Jain about the lambda and gamma variants. He says he’s more focused on delta right now because that’s most prevalent in Shelby County.

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