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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Shelby County could be at a crisis tipping point with hospital capacity

The warning from a member of the Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force comes as the total number of COVID-19 cases nearly doubled the last four weeks

MEMPHIS, Tenn — "I'm very concerned, OK," Dr. Jeff Warren said. "We blew phase two, we didn't do it correctly."

That's the new local warning from Dr. Warren, a Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force member.

"If we don't do phase two right, in four weeks to six weeks we are going to be shutting back down and sheltering in place because we will be overwhelming our hospitals," Dr. Warren said.

The numbers solidify those concerns.

In the last four weeks, Shelby County's total cases went up 96%, from a little more than 6,100 to more than 12,000 and a 130% spike in current COVID-19 cases who haven't recovered, from nearly 1,900 to more than 4,300.

"The more people with COVID in the hospital, the higher the rates of COVID in the environment, the more easy it is to infect you and the more easy it is to be infected," Dr. Warren said.

If local hospital COVID-19 capacity continues to grow, Dr. Warren believes the task force will have no choice but use overflow beds and/or open a COVID-19 field hospital at the former Commercial Appeal Building in downtown Memphis.

"They are obviously going up, we are getting close to the red zone, we are in the upper yellow, as far as the numbers are concerned," Dr. Warren said.

Dr. Warren added the need remains for doctors to treat other patients effectively. 

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"People are still having heart attacks, people are still having strokes, they still need surgery," Dr. Warren said.

This week - in a new Shelby County Health Directive - health experts are expected to lay out new restrictions at restaurants, bars and other types of higher capacity businesses to combat and slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Those with the state are expected to assist in adding new COVID-19 testing locations in under served communities.