MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department is seeing what it calls a steady decline in cases, but there are problems: a vaccination site backlog and racial disparities for who’s getting the vaccine and who isn’t.
When it comes to COVID-19 cases, testing and the availability of the vaccine, Shelby County leaders say there are positive signs and room for improvement.
“So, we’re still going in a positive direction with our data. we are very pleased with that,” said Shelby County Health director Dr. Alisa Haushalter.
They say multiple sites have opened at the Pipkin Building, Germantown and Appling Road for first and second doses of the vaccine.
“We are very pleased to announce the Southwest site will open tomorrow. That’s at Southwest Community College,” Haushalter said.
But back at the Pipkin Building on Wednesday, there was a back log for people hoping to get the vaccine.
“We had some appointments or openings available and that’s what contributed to the increase in lines yesterday after,” Haushalter said.
There were also reports that some volunteers left.
“I don’t have any specific reports from yesterday that people left because of their experience,” Haushalter said. “What I do encourage volunteers to do to give feedback on their experience.”
Vaccine distribution has also shown racial disparities for who’s getting the vaccine and who isn’t. Of the more than 13,000 vaccinations, only a small percentage have been African Americans and Latinos.
“As you can see, there’s some work we have to do in making sure there’s not a disparity in the administration of the vaccination,” said Bruce Randolph, Shelby County health officer.
The health department is working with the Mexican consulate to reach the Latinx community.
“To offer the hand of the Mexican Consulate to work together in order for all Hispanic community living in Shelby County will get the proper information. There is a lot of misinformation,” said Mexican consulate Rodolfo Quilantan.
And with regards to that first case of the UK COVID variant being confirmed in Shelby County this week, health experts say they’re working on containment.
“Actually widening the distribution will help us scale up more quickly so that we can prevent surges whether it’s the UK strain or any other variant strain,” Haushalter said.
The health department says FEMA will be in Shelby County for the next month to help analyze data regarding vaccinations and distribution.
The Shelby County Health Department reported 83,709 total cases and 220 new cases Thursday morning. There have been 1,296 deaths.