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.