MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis city leaders and county health experts say COVID-19 numbers appear to be on a downward trajectory, but they say there’s still reason for concern, especially before the holidays.
After 19 months in the pandemic, the words “cautiously optimistic” are now being used by city and county health experts. Gina Sweat, the Memphis Fire Department Chief, says vaccination rates are improving.
“I know our numbers are looking better than they have in the past, but we’re still not all the way through this pandemic,” Sweat said. “A little over 500,000 Shelby Countians have received at least one dose of the vaccine. We have 421,988 who are fully vaccinated in our county.”
There have been more than 143,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 122 reported Thursday. That’s down from 294 last week and 350 cases two weeks ago.
Shelby Health Department Director, Dr. Michelle Taylor, says one troubling area involves children.
“The pediatric vaccination rate continues to lag,” Taylor said. “We are happy that the active cases are going down but are continuing to encourage that population 12 to 17 to continue to get vaccinated.”
She says what will drive up vaccination rates will be FDA approval of vaccines for children 5 to 11 years old.
“I will tell you the state and us at the Shelby County health Department are gearing up to be prepared to roll out that vaccine to that age group as soon as it becomes available,” Taylor said.
Still, there’s concern about possible new variants and another surge and the need for more people get vaccinated and wear masks indoors and places, such as schools and daycares.
“Right now, the picture is looking pretty good,” Taylor said. “We also have to remember we cannot take those mitigation efforts off just yet because we don’t to be tipped into another surge.”
It’s why Taylor recommends everyone stay the course, especially as we approach the holiday season.
“With the holiday season approaching, that families and friends will want to gather, and what we’re asking people and we’re highly encouraging people to remember we still have COVID with us and it’s going to be with us for a while,” Taylor said.
Sweat says the city’s door-to-door vaccine campaign has led to knocking on 28,000 doors and 1,000 during this past week.
The fire department’s navigator team is also providing shots to the homebound and homeless. To get a shot under that program, you can call 901-222-SHOT.