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

Memphis area hospital systems urge public to take COVID-19 seriously & mask up

The warnings come as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been surging since October 1st.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — "Just imagine there's a bear behind every corner and it will sneak up and get you," Dr. Martin Croce with Regional One Health said.

That's how Memphis doctors describe the growing spread of COVID-19 and its worsening impact on local hospitals.

"We are at a critical point right now with this pandemic," Dr. Cassandra Howard with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare said.

In the past two weeks, the 14-day case average in Shelby County jumped 68%, with a 45% rise in hospitalizations the past two weeks and a 74% patient surge since the start of the month.

"While we all may be suffering from pandemic fatigue, we can't lose focus," Dr. Howard said.

If things continue to worsen at this rate, all four area hospital systems are prepared with surge COVID-19 plans. But that would present new challenges.

"Manpower is a big concern because a lot of the nurses in our community are traveling, helping out different parts of the country, that have been horribly impacted by COVID," Jennifer Chiusano with Saint Francis Hospital said.

If local hospital systems are forced to begin their surge plans and are still overwhelmed, there's a worst case scenario - a plan C. That's a 400-bed alternate care hospital that's on standby at the former Commercial Appeal building in downtown Memphis.

"It is our hope that we never have to use that facility, are prepared to use if we do," City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said.

Thursday, the Shelby County Health Director told the public that if everyone does their part to protect themselves and each other, things can move forward without a return to certain business shutdowns.