MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County reported 623 new COVID cases Thursday as the local numbers continue to soar from the delta variant.
County and Memphis leaders presented an update on the latest in the COVID situation at noon Thursday.
There are currently 4,383 active cases in the county. More than one in four cases are among children, the health department said.
There have been 107,909 cases total, and 101,413 of those are considered recovered; 1,738 people have died in Shelby County.
Those numbers had bottomed out in mid-June — only 27 new cases were reported on June 15.
There have been 800 “breakthrough” cases among vaccinated people, which is 0.24% of the cases. Three people out of those 800 breakthrough cases have died, said Dr. Bruce Randolph, the county’s health officer.
Dr. Michelle Taylor, in her first public address as the new leader of the Shelby County Health Department, asked for everyone to wear masks indoors to protect children, and to get vaccinated.
Taylor said the health department is following the data on whether to establish a new mask mandate in Shelby County, but right now, she said the county is not going in that direction.
There have been two pediatric deaths from COVID in the area lately. While children had been less susceptible to the virus earlier in the pandemic, Taylor said that was no longer the case.
“As a pediatrician I can tell you children can and do get COVID-19,” Taylor said. “A good number of them are becoming gravely ill and some die. We’ve had two pediatric deaths in the community this week. Any one death is devastating.”
Dr. Nick Hysmith of Le Bonheur said the number of children coming to the emergency department with COVID has increased recently. Some have required oxygen and intubation.
“This is a drastic change from what we’ve seen previously in the pandemic,” he said.
Hysmith says having children mask up while at school needs to be a part of the conversation.
“I think if we’re going to keep our kids in school learning in-person and safe, we’re going to have to discuss masking requirements in school settings,” Hysmith said.
Everyone 12 and over is eligible to get the vaccination; 339,169 people in Shelby County are fully vaccinated, which is 36.2% of the population.
County Mayor Lee Harris said Shelby County will begin regular testing of unvaccinated employees. In the long-term, vaccination is the only way to get out of the pandemic, he said.
“We are encouraging every organization to do one of two things to either mandate testing of the unvaccinated or mandate vaccine for their constituencies or employees,” Harris said.
Harris says his administration plans on rolling out that program in the next few days in hopes of improving vaccination rates.