Shelby County coronavirus cases continue to rise as testing levels off

By , Daily Memphian Updated: June 10, 2020 11:53 AM CT | Published: June 10, 2020 11:53 AM CT

New COVID-19 cases increased at significant rates locally over the past two weeks, while testing numbers stabilized, according to Shelby County Health Department data.

From May 27 to Wednesday, Shelby County averaged 117 new cases a day with 1,636 reported tests – a 7.1% positivity rate. In the preceding two-week period, the county’s health department confirmed about 80 new cases a day with 1,619 tests results, with a positive rate of 4.9%.

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The recent jump in positivity rate is a result of testing numbers not increasing at the same rate as new cases. There have been nine occasions in the past 14 days when Shelby County recorded 100-plus cases, including its two highest-single day totals (190 on June 2 and 192 on Monday).

While Shelby County reported 2,916 new tests Tuesday, it was a day after 674 tests results were confirmed – another sign of testing data fluctuating over the past two weeks. While the average of 1,636 new tests reported a day is the highest yet, it’s still short of the 2,400-goal set by Shelby County. Health and elected officials say testing capacity is available and encourage more citizens, specifically symptomatic patients, to get tested for the virus.

Following an increase in new cases over the past two weeks, the county Health Department announced Monday plans to delay a move into Phase 3 until at least June 15. Health and government leaders anticipated new coronavirus cases to increase as social distancing requirements were relaxed in recent weeks.

“Unless there are extraordinary changes in the metrics between now and June 15, we expect to be able advance to Phase III on that date, but in the meantime, the Health Department will continue to monitor new cases, positivity rate, reproduction rate, testing capacity, hospital capacity and public health capacity,” the statement concludes.

Specifics are unclear on what “extraordinary changes” could lead to another delay in moving to Phase 3. The county’s COVID-19 task force is expected to address the media at a Thursday, June 11 press briefing.

Shelby County confirmed 6,220 coronavirus cases, 136 deaths and 4,238 recoveries, as of Wednesday, according to the health department. The number of active cases is 1,846.

Shelby County coronavirus cases increase by 101, deaths by 3

A total of 90,868 tests were administered in the county with a positive rate of 6.8%. The overall positive rate has remained at 6.8% or 6.9% each day since May 22, and remains below the 10% benchmark set by health officials.

Memphis and Shelby County, now in week four of Phase 2, moved into its current phase of its Back to Business plan May 18.

Phase 2 allows groups of 50 to congregate with social distancing in place – an increase from the maximum of 10 people allowed under Phase 1. Retail, grocery stores, attractions/museums, gyms, recreational facilities and restaurants all currently operate at 50% capacity in Phase 2.

To move into Phase 3, public health and elected officials want at least a 21-day downward trend or leveling in new cases, stable hospitalization numbers, increased testing capacity and contact tracing. 

Phase 3 allows for groups of 50 or more if the space allows and social distancing measures are adhered. Retail, grocery stores, gyms and restaurants expand from 50% to 75% capacity in phase 3.

On current local hospital capacity, acute care staffed bed utilization is at 79%, while intensive care unit beds are at 75%, as of Monday, according to the state’s Health Resource Tracking System. A total of 141 COVID-19 patients are in local hospitals and 122 more are under investigation for having the virus, according to the same data.

Of the 136 deaths, 57 are attributed to outbreaks at nursing homes, according to health department data.

The reproduction rate of coronavirus locally is currently 1.2, meaning one infected person is infecting about one other person with the virus. Health officials wants that reproduction rate below 1 to lessen community transmission of coronavirus.

In an attempt to reduce community transmission, the Memphis City Council is considering passage of a mask or face covering requirement for public places within the city.

City Council concerned about rise in COVID cases, could call early vote on mask requirement

The ordinance proposed by council member Jeff Warren has passed two of the three required readings. And this week, Warren said he is prepared to call for a special council meeting Friday to take the third reading vote if the number of confirmed cases countywide continues to climb.

Council attorney Allan Wade has said the city charter gives the council the ability to take the measure even if the Shelby County Health Department sticks with a recommendation short of a requirement to wear face masks countywide.

Warren’s latest version of the requirement would not impose fines for violations of the ordinance. And it would make exceptions for those with asthma and other breathing problems that could be worsened by wearing a mask.

Citizens are encouraged to social distance, wear facial coverings and wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer to slow the virus’s spread.

Tennessee Health Department data shows 27,575 confirmed coronavirus cases, 435 deaths and 18,013 recoveries as of Tuesday. A total of 521,197 tests were administered with a 5.3% positive rate.

Tide of COVID-19 testing continues in Memphis

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Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do

Reporter Bill Dries contributed to this story. 


Shelby County Health Department COVID-19 testing coronavirus Dr. Jeff Warren Memphis City Council
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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