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'Reality is this virus is persistent' | Shelby County health leaders concerned as Delta variant spreads fast

A new health directive next week is not expected to bring back restrictions or mandate masks in large indoor settings, but will highly encourage them.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thursday, those with the Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force warned the public of troubling trends in recent weeks as the more contagious Delta variant continues to cause challenges.

Those with the task force said the test positivity rate is now at 14%, with 279 people currently hospitalized w/COVID, including 81 in the ICU, half of those people on ventilators.

Those hospital numbers are up from 162 and 115 COVID patients in past two weeks, nearly a 250% increase.

"For reference, at the peak of the pandemic, we had 600 people in the hospital and we had 150 people in the ICU. So we are about halfway to the maximum capacity and we are about on the same glide slope as we were when we got there before. Doesn't mean we are going to get there, but that's where we are for reference."

Meanwhile, the Pipkin Building vaccination site will not close at the end of the month and instead stay open through at least the end of August.

Shelby County doctors are also concerned about more young people between 12 and 18-years-old being hospitalized for COVID, a situation also playing out in other children's hospitals across the South.

"The reality is this virus is persistent and we are going to have to stay as tenacious as the virus is. And we are going to have to keep at this until we defeat COVID once and for all," Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said.

Next Wednesday, those with the Shelby County Health Department will release the next health directive to follow this week's new CDC guidance about masking in large indoor settings, even if you're vaccinated.

"This next directive will align with the CDC recommendation, but there no plans at this time to go back to COVID-19 restrictions or mandates - and that would include mask mandates," Mayor Harris said. "However, nothing is completely off the table."

Mayor Harris said Thursday the directive will also spell out specifically what would be a 'high risk indoor setting' that masking will be strongly encouraged.

Shelby County doctors also said based on research and current CDC guidance, there’s not enough data at this time to support a third vaccine booster dose for wide ranging, healthy populations, but that those immunocompromised could benefit from a third dose. 

July 29 - City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

July 29 - City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

Posted by City of Memphis on Thursday, July 29, 2021