Haushalter says 700 new COVID-19 cases not reflection of a 24-hour period

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 14, 2020 6:45 PM CT | Published: July 14, 2020 12:14 PM CT
<strong>National Guard medics collect nasal swabs as hundreds of Memphians line up for COVID-19 testing at the Christ Community testing site in Frayser on April 25, 2020</strong>. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian file)

National Guard medics collect nasal swabs as hundreds of Memphians line up for COVID-19 testing at the Christ Community testing site in Frayser on April 25, 2020. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian file)

A record day of COVID-19 testing and positive cases included reporting from multiple days, Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said at the Tuesday, July 14, Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing.

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The Health Department reported 700 new cases from more than 5,200 tests.

It’s not a reflection of a 24-hour period, Haushalter said, and labs have delayed reporting. While the average delay is seven days, she said, some specimens may be three weeks old.


Alisa Haushalter

The Health Department continues to look at the positivity rate, Haushalter said, and it is imperative to get it below 10%. In recent days, it has been above 14%.

The county has a 65% recovery rate, Haushalter said. Additionally, the death rate in Shelby County is low compared to the rest of the U.S. because most of the infections are among younger people. 

“It reminds us of the need to continue to protect our most vulnerable and our senior population,” she said.

Hospitals are already seeing the impact of the record numbers of cases, Haushalter said.

Hospitalizations are increasing, with about 89% of acute care beds and 85% of ICU beds in use, according to the Health Department.

“We continue to monitor that number, and it’s a critical number,” Haushalter said.

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61% of contact tracing cases are closed, and they are open a minimum of 21 days, she said. Haushalter noted as cases rise, an increasing burden is placed on staff. Some Memphis and Health Department employees have been reassigned to help with contact tracing. About 65 staff members will be onboarded this week.

Haushalter said adding contact tracers is critical since cases are increasing. The closure percentage is lower with the increased number of cases, she said. National models show Shelby County could need as many as 1,500-1,700 contact tracers, Haushalter said.

The state is contracting with out-of-state labs, and Haushalter hopes Shelby County may be able to contract with them. She said they are looking at how to supplement community partners who provide testing. 

Haushalter encouraged employers to do what they can to limit the possibility of transmission in the workplace. If people can work from home, she encouraged them to do so. Additionally, they should socially distance. She also asked employers to encourage those who test positive to isolate and their contacts to quarantine.

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Haushalter reminded people of the mask mandate and bar closures. Both are efforts to limit transmission. Further actions could be taken, but she asked people to mask so additional measures wouldn’t be needed, Haushalter said.

She also said Memphis is looking at how restaurants might be able to use parking lots or sidewalk space for tables. The Health Department does not have an objection, Haushalter said, but it does want to make sure there is access to hand washing.

Haushalter addressed critics of bar closures and said the Health Department followed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She reminded people that 10 CDC teams were sent across the U.S.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, an infection specialist from the CDC, advised that alcohol consumption and socializing in close proximity should be limited.

<strong>Lee Harris</strong>

Lee Harris

“We need to continue to be vigilant and work really, really hard to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said. 

Harris warned that restaurants could face additional restrictions if the spread increases. He said specific instances of Beale Street restaurants not adhering to social distancing have been reported.

“If the numbers continue to go in the wrong direction and do not stabilize, we will remain ready to consider additional interventions,” Harris said.

Haushalter said this week more information about “trip wires” will be released to the public. The information should decrease the risk of exponential spread, Harris said.

“That will be sort of a framework,” Haushalter said. 

The Health Department will look at how to move forward and address how to appropriately move backward if needed, she said. Also, the Health Department will guide how to enforce adherence to the health directives among the business community.

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She encouraged people to mask, social distance, practice hand hygiene and make sound decisions. 

This will allow people to return to normal activities, including school, she said.

Many schools are rolling out plans for reopening. The Health Department is providing “technical assistance” to schools and answering specific questions that may come up. Haushalter said the Health Department is working with public schools, private schools and colleges.

Transportation on school buses is a challenge, Haushalter said, and she asked the CDC for guidance. School districts will make their own decisions about when to reopen, but the Health Department will review their final plans, she said.

Harris said pediatricians warn of harm and potential trauma if in-person instruction is not available.

“All of us realize there is not a playbook and no easy choice,” he said.

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Shelby County Health Department Alisa Haushalter coronavirus COVID-19 Joint Task Force
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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