COVID-related hospitalizations hit record-breaking levels in Shelby County

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For the first time, more than 700 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, but health leaders say help is on the way.

COVID-19 and the Delta variants are breaking records in Memphis hospitals.

“We have surpassed the highest number of COVID patients in the hospital and the ICU this week. We have more than 700 people hospitalized with COVID 19,” said City of Memphis COO Doug McGowen.

More than 99% percent of those who have died were unvaccinated.

McGowen says national guard members are being deployed here to help with hospital staffing.

“Thirty medics and 30 administrative personnel that will allow our hospitals to maintain and keep open some additional rooms,” McGowen said. “It will help with their capacity to administer and infuse monoclonal antibodies.”

COVID isn’t just a problem for adults. There are now more than 2,700 active COVID cases in children.

Dr. Michelle Taylor, the Shelby County health department director, says pediatric cases are putting a strain on Le Bonheur.

“In addition to seeing positive COVID 19 pediatric patients, they’re also seeing an uptick in other pediatric conditions right now, which is giving them more strain,” Taylor said. “They are seeing more cases of RSV and we’re going into flu season, too.”

The city’s door-to-door on demand vaccination program will be ending this month so crews can be dispatched elsewhere.

“Frankly, we are preparing ourselves for that uptick in boosters and in uptick in demand for vaccines now that the FDA approval has been received,” McGowen said.

Wednesday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland pleaded with the public to get vaccinated, as data showed cases increasing. Shots are free at the Pipkin Building at the Fairgrounds.

Officials also say the current mask mandate will likely be renewed without any drastic changes for businesses and restaurants.

“Yes, it will be renewed, and for right now it will not be stricter,” Taylor said. “So, we’ve put in language saying yes there is a countywide mask mandate for indoor public spaces, but also highly encouraging people to wear their mask even outdoors if they can’t social distance.”

McGowen also says the Pipkin Building mass vaccination site will now stay open until winter and to meet the demand for more testing. Capacity will be increased at Poplar Healthcare on Hack Cross road, the old vehicle inspection station on Lamar and Christ Community Health Services on South Third street.

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