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Doctors optimistic Shelby County through worst of COVID-19 surge around holiday season

Numbers stabilizing, slowing in recent days; Arkansas pharmacists prepare for more demand as eligible groups expand starting Monday.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — "I'm hopeful that we may have gotten beyond the worst of this," Dr. Steve Threlkeld with Baptist Memorial Hospital said.

That's the optimism Monday from Memphis area doctors as local COVID-19 trends either stabilized or slowed in recent days.

In Shelby County the past two weeks, the seven-day new case average fell 21% and active cases dropped 6%.

Area COVID-19 hospitalizations also fell 13% this month.

"There's no question I felt better than I did three weeks ago in preparing for a really kind of vicious surge," Dr. Threlkeld said.

Dr. Threlkeld said Monday he's hopeful a new presidential administration and a revamped federal vaccine coordination with the states will accelerate the amount of available doses in Shelby County, Tennessee's most populated.

"There are some holes in this system that go pretty deep in terms of the supply line," Dr. Threlkleld said.

He also reiterated his belief that the priority locally and nationally should be making sure everyone gets their full vaccine amount and on schedule.

Research showed effectiveness from the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines improved from 50% after the first dose to 95% after the second dose.

"It definitely gives me pause to sort of say, let's just give everyone one vaccine and not worry about the second one," Dr. Threlkeld said. "I think we should very much worry about the second one."

Shelby County's current health directive expires Friday night.

The county health officer could extend it as is or tweak it and scale back certain restrictions.

In Arkansas, starting Monday, more groups became eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We are getting hundreds of phone calls a day inquiring about it," Bethany Proffit, pharmacist at Hickory Hill Pharmacy in Helena, AR said.

The Natural State expanded vaccine eligibility to those 70 and older, teacher and school staff and child care and higher education workers. 

Arkansas health care workers, long-term care residents and staff and first responders were already eligible.

"We are just going to have to work through a list, you know, slowly but surely based on the vaccines that we receive in our shipment," Proffit said. "We are having to ask people just to be patient with us."

Even with vaccine supply and demand challenges, Proffit said she's honored about her role in getting Arkansans vaccinated and protected.

"When we decided to do this we knew this was going to be a part of making history and this is taking the first step to maybe finding a solution to the COVID," Proffit said.

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