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'If you are unvaccinated, you are at risk' | Shelby County health experts urge people to get the shot with Delta variant cases surging

New reported COVID cases Thursday are the highest one-day total since February 13. We caught up with Memphians newly vaccinated - and thankful.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — After months of being on the fence about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, 62-year-old James Hicks of Memphis Thursday changed his tune and rolled up his sleeve for the first dose.

"I was just kind of skeptical about taking it, you know. And then I looked at how stuff was picking back up, so I'm like let me get down here and get it done," Hicks said.

He wasn't alone, as others also became fully vaccinated Thursday with their second dose, ending their own waiting game.

"I like to travel, and then some of the places you've got to have it," Brenda Robinson said. "So, when you are traveling, I just wanted to be safe."

"I tell people, do it. Do it man. Let's stay away from this because that's a pain I've got. I've got friends who lost their life, coworkers," Willie Vidal added.

Thursday, those with the Shelby County Health Department are hopeful more people will end their vaccine hesitancy and get protected. This, as the more contagious COVID-19 Delta variant now makes up for 80% of recent cases sequenced at area labs.

Thursday's one-day total of 259 new COVID cases reported in Shelby County also marked the highest amount since February 13. And the positivity rate surged from 2.7% to 11.1% in just four weeks.

There's also 458 breakthrough cases out of 407,000 who have received at least one dose in Shelby County. 30 of those were Delta variant, and there's are two deaths reported from breakthrough cases.

Still, that's a very low rate compared to the more than 88% percent of people unvaccinated who are currently hospitalized and very ill.

"With the rise of the Delta variant, some of the breakthrough cases we are seeing - and the possibility of spreading it to someone you are close to - I just recommend wearing a mask. And if you are in a large place with lots of people and you unsure of someone's status," City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said.

With the trends continuing to go in the wrong direction, Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said there are no plans to bring back any COVID related restrictions - for now.

"We are not there yet. It's not really an issue of restrictions, the fundamental issue is vaccination!" Dr. Randolph said. "People have to get vaccinated."

McGowen said vaccinations did show an uptick in recent days, proof he believes that the ongoing door to door and phone bank vaccination drives are beginning to make an impact.

To date, the phone bank campaign connected with 27,000 households and the door knocking campaign connected with 13,000 others.

"We are targeting very specific neighborhoods where we are seeing the lowest uptake vaccine and where the positivity rate is the highest," McGowen said.

Starting August 1st, if someone commits to getting vaccinated during the door to door campaign, a staff member will return hours later to provide the shot at that person's home.

Watch the noon news conference HERE.

July 22 - City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

July 22 - City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

Posted by City of Memphis on Thursday, July 22, 2021

Find the full breakdown from the health department HERE.