MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surging in Shelby County and the region, health experts weighed in on new recommendations for Tennessee from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
The weekly report - which Local 24 News obtained from ABC news - also updated area counties in the 'red zone' for per-capita cases.
"Clearly the numbers are going up and that's cause for concern," Dr. Manoj Jain with the Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force said.
Those COVID-19 concerns for Shelby County and Tennessee are being shared by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
In its latest weekly report released Sunday, it recommends Tennesseans 'stop gatherings beyond immediate household until cases and test positivity decrease significantly'.
"Personally that's not much different than what we've been saying for weeks here. It's that we have to reduce our interactions with others and limit it as much as possible to our own households," Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said.
Dr. Haushalter offered a different reaction to another White House recommendation for Tennessee, which suggested 'limiting restaurant indoor capacity to less than 50% and restricting hours until cases and test positivity decrease'.
"I won't say we are going to change what we have in our health directive to limit capacity to 50%. We are going to reinforce the need for social distancing and masking within restaurants," Dr. Haushalter said.
The latest White House report also identifies 64 of Tennessee's 95 counties as 'red zone', meaning high levels of per capita community transmission.
"We have some rural counties - their cases are growing exponentially," Dr. Haushalter said.
Nine West Tennessee counties outside of Shelby County are in that 'red zone'. That's impacting a recent spike of COVID-19 patients in Memphis hospitals.
"We could do everything possible in Shelby County, but if surrounding counties are not doing likewise, it's going to continue to burden our health care systems," Dr. Haushalter said.
To that point, Dr. Cassandra Howard with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare said Thursday the system set a new record Wednesday with COVID-19 hospitalizations - 155 - surpassing the previous high of 148 set July 31st.
"The trends we are seeing in the community are extremely concerning," Dr. Howard said. "We must hold ourselves and our family and friends accountable and we all know what to do to stop the virus and we need to do it. This is not a competition that we want to be the first or highest in."