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Health leaders don't expect to ease restrictions as Shelby County crosses grim milestone of COVID-related deaths

The Shelby County Health Department reported the 2,000th COVID-19 related death overnight.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this March 11, 2021, file photo, a health worker loads syringes with the vaccine on the first day of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being made available to residents at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Thursday, Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said she's encouraged with recent COVID-19 trends locally, but also troubled as the area reached a grim milestone of COVID related deaths.

Dr. Taylor said she doesn't anticipate easing any restrictions in the next health directive, which takes effect next weekend.

"Yes, we are cautiously optimistic that the numbers are decreasing. But we also understand from our institutional knowledge of this virus and the fact that the virus can still mutate, we have to remain vigilant," Dr. Taylor said.

In the past two weeks, Dr. Taylor said the 7-day new case average, weekly positivity rate and reproductive rate all fell. Area COVID hospitalizations also decreased to 455 Thursday, compared to 552 last week and 701 four weeks ago.

Dr. Taylor also reflected as COVID related deaths in Shelby County crossed 2,000 overnight.

"We mourn for all of the families and we do mourn for this milestone. It is frustrating to say the least that we have reached this milestone knowing that a percentage of those have passed away may have been able to be vaccinated, and it could have saved their life," Dr. Taylor added

Vaccine hesitancy also remains a challenge in Shelby County.

City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said on Tuesday, 3,000 expired Johnson & Johnson doses were returned to the state because they weren't used in time. McGowen said those doses make up 1% of the total given to date in Shelby County public vaccine sites to date. 

"We have known this day was coming for quite some time. We have done everything we can to get people to take the vaccination, and unfortunately because of that lack of demand, those 3,000 doses had to be returned to the state and are expired," McGowen said.

Watch Thursday's joint task force briefing HERE.

September 23- City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

September 23- City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

Posted by The Library Channel & WYPL FM 89.3 on Thursday, September 23, 2021