Health Department: Transmission happening in households, workplaces

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 26, 2020 12:44 PM CT | Published: May 26, 2020 12:12 PM CT

Memphis and Shelby County Joint COVID-19 Task Force briefings go down to twice a week starting this week -- on Tuesday and Thursday.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said they are “not overly concerned” about averaging around 100 new cases per day over the weekend.

The bump in cases is a number of things: Some due to a lapse in social distancing as the weather has gotten warmer. But in general, more people are out.

She said people may have to try several masks to find what is most comfortable.

”People want to get connected to one another,” she said of the current times. With beautiful weather Haushalter said there are “high expectations.”

The positivity rate is up a bit also because of targeted testing including surge testing in nursing homes.

Nursing homes are not under control, Haushalter said citing staff shortages showing up as a national trend. Thus more transmission is likely.

Symptoms for seniors also may not be as overt. They may just be tired or have a loss of appetite or increased confusion. Haushalter said people need to be “hyper sensitive” to this among seniors.

Coming out of Memorial Day weekend, she said it is critical to not go to work if you have any flu-like symptoms, get tested, stick with social distancing, wash hands frequently, and wear a mask or face coverings.

On isolation, she stressed remaining in that until test results come back. If you have been in contact with anyone who is positive it’s a 14-day quarantine. That’s a full 14 days even if you test negative.

Haushalter said there is still transmission within close family contacts and in workplaces. She said people should practice social distancing in those settings, as well as washing hands, not sharing utensils and to separate if ill, as much as possible in family settings.

Haushalter said a cluster is two or more cases in any given space and you can have them in households. If an individual tests positive, the whole family may come the next day for testing and thus clusters and increases. The same goes for workplaces. She said no one business stands out.

In the workplace, it’s critical to screen and exclude those with fever or flu symptoms.

Haushalter said Shelby County could conduct 2,400 tests a day, but many sites lack people who want the tests -- some are at only 40% of capacity.

No word on moving into Phase 3 of the Back to Business plan until at least June 8.

Health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said we’ll know how successful social distancing was over the holiday weekend in 14 days. 

Randolph said it seems to have been very successful. He got no calls of people not abiding by safety measures.

”The virus is still present even as we prepare to move forward,” Randolph said. “We must still practice safe measures.”

Randolph said his phone “did not ring off the hook” this weekend leading him to think the Memorial Day weekend went well.

Also the amount of people who were out seemed to be making an effort to maintain safe distancing when walking. He was walking at Shelby Farms and said people would cross to the other side of the walkway. At Kroger he said most had on masks or coverings. 

”I’m optimistic and hopeful that 14 days from this weekend I will be proven correct -- that our number have not upticked or spiked, but remain still level,” he said.

He said the health department worked very closely with organizers of the baseball tournament at Game Day in Cordova.

If planning outdoor events, he said the health department will work with you on safety measures. Some organizers of events have already asked the health department to help review their measures.

Calls requesting technical assistance range from graduation ceremonies to film crews wanting to work in the city.

Haushalter says they have made site visits. She went to Graceland. Randolph went to Game Day.

Haushalter said the reproduction rate usually shows up around 8-10th day, symptoms sooner than that. And they watch closely. They are watching for recent travel especially to hot spots. She said you should quarantine yourself if you have been to a COVID hot spot.

She said they are looking for a rise in cases in the winter months and it will be difficult to tell who has the flu and who has COVID. Preparation is underway now. Expanding testing is part of that so that in the fall testing is there if needed.


coronavirus Memphis/Shelby County COVID -19 Task Force Shelby County Health Department Alisa Haushalter

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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