Health officials: Delta variant accounts for 90% of local cases; pediatric cases on the rise across region

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Health officials said the delta variant of Covid-19 is causing case numbers and hospitalization numbers to rise, creating a strain on the local health care system.

During the Memphis/Shelby County Covid-19 Joint Task Force meeting Thursday, health officials reported 408 new cases of Covid. Shelby County is sitting at a 14 percent positivity rate and a 1.46 reproductive rate, with the delta variant accounting for at least 90 percent of all new cases.

Shelby County currently has 279 people in local hospitals, with 81 in Intensive Care Units. The two weeks prior, hospitals reported having 162 and 115 Covid patients, respectively.

To put that into perspective, Shelby County reported 600 people in the hospital during the peak of the pandemic.

Dr. Nick Hysmith said they have seen that the most severe illnesses are in those who are unvaccinated. They’ve also seen an increase in pediatric cases in Arkansas and Mississippi, and younger adults being admitted to the hospital with problems.

“There have been reports from Mississippi and Arkansas, all have shown an increase in pediatric patients who’ve been admitted to their hospitals, and I can say we have seen an increase that we’ve admitted in Memphis at Le Bonheur,” Hysmith said.

Hysmith reiterated that residents and visitors to Shelby County should get the shot, citing its efficacy at preventing severe illness from all the strains we’ve seen up until now.

To slowdown the spread of COVID, The City of Memphis has decided not to close the Pipkin Building mass vaccination site.

“We will keep that vaccination site open at least until the end of August in hopes we can meet what will be rising demand in vaccinations,” McGowen said.

Officials hope more people will get vaccinated as the city also plans to offer a new concierge service essentially bringing the vaccines to a location near you.

“If individuals have not been vaccinated and say they’d like, we will arrange for a vaccine to come to them within two hours time,” McGowen said.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris also announced a new health directive will be released next Wednesday, and will reflect the most recent guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The CDC has recommended masks in indoor settings even for vaccinated individuals when vax status is unknown or when individuals expect they’ll be around others with compromised immune systems,” Lee said.

But Harris says the updated health directive will not mean a return to tougher restrictions. There are no plans at this time to go back to restrictions or mandates, but nothing is off the table, he said.

He encouraged everyone to take responsibility, wear their masks and get vaccinated.

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