Rising Shelby County coronavirus cases begin strain on local hospitals

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County health officials said COVID-19 cases are on an upward trend, possibly straining the hospital system.

According to the Shelby County Health Department, 93% of all Shelby County hospitals’ ICU beds are being utilized, and about 88% of all acute care beds, which are beds for less serious cases, are being used.

Earlier this week, health officials reported that emergency rooms across the county were getting backed up due to COVID-19 patients.

Reports say so far, 431 of the 463 ICU beds in Shelby, Tipton and Lauderdale counties are in use. The health department said 26% of those beds belong to COVID-19 patients.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Manoj Jain said this creates an issue not only for other COVID-19 patients, but also other types of patients, as well.

“We have to take care of the patients who are COVID-positive, but we have regular patients who have heart attacks, strokes, infection of the skin that require hospitalization,” Dr. Jain said. “We need to be able to manage and care for those individuals, as well.”

Healthcare systems are currently working on a solution.

Methodist Healthcare has started one of the only clinics in the Mid-South exclusively for active COVID-19 cases with less severe or mild symptoms.

“We can see 20 to 30 patients every day,” Dr. Shawn Hayden said. “We can take a huge burden on the emergency room, where these patients would otherwise have to go.”

Health officials said ultimately what happens with hospital capacity is up to the community.

“We’re asking folks to understand in the general public, the more they are not masking and they’re not distancing, that number of cases will increase, and hospitalizations will increase,” Dr. Jain said.

The overflow hospital in the former Commercial Appeal building is also still ready for use.

Dr. Jain is on the Shelby County COVID-19 task force and said they are preparing the specific guidelines for when they will utilize that overflow building.

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