‘COVID is not done with us,’ Shelby County health director says a day after cases set record


County's vaccination rate remains low

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County’s Health Department director says COVID-19 is not done with us yet.  

Dr. Michelle Taylor’s warning comes a day after the county saw an all-time high number of single-day new COVID cases, 1,295, were reported. Health leaders say we must do all that we can to protect ourselves, our families and others by getting vaccinated.    

“Even though we are tired and even though it’s been an 18-month marathon, COVID is not done with us,” Taylor said.

A year and half into the pandemic, Shelby County health experts paint a bleak picture about the COVID landscape.

“It’s certainly not dropping precipitously enough for us to be excited at all. We are still in the thick of this fight, city COO Doug McGowen said.

It’s a fight that has them concerned about people being in large crowds such as outdoor concerts, Tiger football games and the Southern Heritage Classic.

“Right now in our community, we still have a high case rate and at the same time we have a relatively low vaccinated rate, and that means we really have to pay attention to what our level of risk is every time we go out,” Taylor said.

Hospitals are very full, McGowen said, and cannot afford more people seeking treatment for COVID.

Still, no new health directives are expected to be put into place.

The county has instituted universal mask mandates in K-12 schools, daycares and pre-K’s and there’s a universal mask mandate for indoor public spaces.
“Right now we’re not putting any other measures in place. It doesn’t matter if it’s a large event or a restaurant, we’re not putting any other measures in place right now, but nothing is off the table,” Taylor said.

Right now nothing is off the table, as the message remains clear about protection and prevention.

“We all have a role to play preventing our exposure to the disease and protecting ourselves and our family members through masking and vaccinations and protecting others by getting a test,” McGowen said.

McGowen said the city is preparing for booster shot approval from the FDA.

It’ll mean the Pipkin Building will be expanding its hours from 9 to 6 Tuesday through Friday and Saturdays from 9 to 1. It won’t be open when the Tigers have a home football game at the Liberty Bowl. It’ll also be closed this Saturday for the Southern Heritage Classic.

More than half of Shelby County residents — 50.3% — have had at least one dose of COVID vaccination, while just over 40% are fully vaccinated.

Local officials at the weekly COVID-19 task force update Thursday acknowledged that total is lower than it needs to be.

“Still lower than we want it to be but we have been making some progress and we are seeing an uptick,” Memphis COO Doug McGowen said.

  • 423 new cases were reported Thursday. 641 hospitalized, 190 in ICU, 160 ventilated
  • 134 new pediatric cases, 2,946 cases or 38.3% of cases.
  • Wednesday the county reported 1,295 new cases, the highest number to date.
  • The county vaccination site at the Pipkin Building has expanded its hours, and is now open Tue-Fri., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-1 p.m., unless there is a football game at the Liberty Bowl.

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