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As Shelby County COVID-19 cases inch closer to 1,000, health experts ask more with mild symptoms be tested

African-Americans have been diagnosed at much higher percentage in recorded racial data to date.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local 24 News learned Thursday the Shelby County Health Department is investigating a possible COVID-19 outbreak at another assisted living facility. Additional data also confirmed, as it did Wednesday, that more than two-thirds of diagnosed cases recorded locally by race, to date, are African-Americans.

But there is some good news.

Those with the Shelby County Health Department said social distancing is proving to be a positive factor, as lately, the daily increase in new cases is now lower - in the single digits.

As more testing becomes available, health experts also urge anyone feeling even the mildest of COVID-19 symptoms to be tested.

"We don't want to lessen or reduce the social distancing too early," Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said.

That means staying apart longer and more COVID-19 testing sooner. That's the message Thursday from the Shelby County Health Department, as total cases inch closer to 1,000.

"Now that we have sufficient testing, those individuals should be tested, again, because we want to get them isolated and contained so that they no longer spread COVID-19 within our community," Dr. Haushalter said.

The director of the Shelby County Health Department said Thursday a team is looking into a potential second outbreak an assisted living facility, following the first confirmed outbreak in recent days at Carriage Court in east Memphis.

"Heath care workers need stay at home if they are exhibiting any signs and symptoms of illness - that's mild fever, a mild cough, something that they may put off to allergies," Dr. Haushalter said.

Doug McGowen, the city of Memphis' chief operating officer, said local hospitals are ready and stocked for an expected COVID-19 peak sometime in the weeks ahead.

"That work is complete, and we know what their capability is to absorb the surge inside all of our health care systems," McGowen said.

With the upcoming Easter and Passover, those with the health department reminded faith leaders to go virtual, or limit their gatherings to less than 10 people, and spread out.

"We know this is a holy week for many religious faiths and it's important that as much as we can, that live streaming be the way to worship," Dr. Haushalter said.

Those with the COVID-19 Joint Task Force said expanded testing - as many as 1,000 more samples a day - should be ready late next week at existing testing sites such as Tiger Lane.

A plan is also being finalized to house and quarantine more people in Memphis' homeless community.

RELATED: Mid-South coronavirus live updates: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee gives update on COVID-19 response in the state

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Coronavirus in Context: 

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80-percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

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