Case count rises locally as testing continues to expand

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 04, 2020 1:01 PM CT | Published: May 04, 2020 11:47 AM CT

The slight uptick in new coronavirus cases Monday, May 4 coincides with the longest stretch of at least 1,000 tests a day, according to Shelby County Health Department data.

While the county reported more than 100 new COVID-19 cases for the first time in six days Monday, it only rose slightly to 101. The 101 cases are also the sixth-highest daily total since the county began tracing the pandemic in early March.

Coronavirus live blog, May 4: Free testing set for Hickory Hill

On testing, Shelby County confirmed Monday an additional 1,636 tests were administered. That’s the fifth consecutive day the county has reported at least 1,200 new tests, and is in keeping with the target of testing at least 1,000 people a day.

“That’s a real significant increase in the number of tests, when the average number of tests since we’ve been doing this is still under 800,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said.

The rate of positive tests from the 1,636 tests administered was 6.2%. The importance of that number is that it’s lower than the total overall 8.4%, another potential sign the pandemic is slowing locally relative to a few weeks ago.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter previously said the county’s goal is to maintain the positive rate below 10%.

As of Monday, Shelby County has reported 2,850 coronavirus cases and administered 33,896 tests, according to the Health Department.

Leaders weigh ‘Back to Business’ risks of reopening badly

The current numbers will serve as the benchmark for how the area reacts to the Back to Business plan implemented on Monday. Local governments lifted some restrictions on non-essential businesses in the plan’s first phase with restaurants, retail, places of worship, libraries and more reopening at reduced capacity. Officials still suggested the percentage of customers in a business and protective measures customers need to follow.

“We’re reopening, but the virus is still there,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, the department health officer. “It’s very important that we still adhere (to the practices) that have brought us to this point where we can reopen”

The looming question is how will the phased-in reopening affect the county’s progress in slowing the spread of the virus in recent weeks. 

The big announcement from Monday’s press briefing was hair care businesses are now included in Phase 1, Harris confirmed. The changes are part of the health department’s modified directive issued this week in alignment with the Phase 1 reopening plan.

This came as several suburban municipalities planned to reopen “close contact” businesses to match Gov. Bill Lee’s statewide plan on reopening non-essential businesses. Restrictions need to be set before barber shops and hair salons reopen, however, Harris said.

”We need some way to regulate this and move it out into the open,” Harris said. “We will move forward. We will not move forward as fast as the rest of the state.”

For Phase 2 of the local reopening plan to go into effect, public health and elected officials want to see another 14-day downward trend or leveling in new cases, stable hospitalization numbers and increased testing capacity.

Other factors the health department will evaluate are the replication and transmission rates. The replication rate is how long it takes for the case count to double locally, while the transmission rate is the infection rate from one person to another.

An increase in either of those metrics could also result in remaining in Phase 1 or ramping up social distancing guidelines again, Haushalter said.

Recoveries (1,457) in Shelby County continue to outpace the number of active cases (1,340). That’s been the case for about the past week. Health officials believe that is another positive sign regarding the pandemic.

For the second consecutive day, Shelby County reported no new deaths from the virus. The deaths associated with the virus remain at 53.

Of the 2,147 cases where race is known, African American compile 67.9% of cases, whites 22.7% and “other races” 9.4%. There are 703 cases classified as “missing/unknown.” As noted frequently, that’s disproportionate to the African American population in the county, which is about 54%.

Statewide, Tennessee has reported 13,177 coronavirus cases with 210 deaths and 5,814 recoveries out of 204,607 tests administered as of Sunday, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.


COVID-19 testing Shelby County Health Department Tennessee Department of Health coronavirus
Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf covers Bartlett and North Memphis neighborhoods for The Daily Memphian. He also analyzes COVID-19 data each week. Omer is a former Jackson Sun reporter and University of Memphis graduate.

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