Health officer: Testing labs improve capacity and availability of reagents

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 29, 2020 6:15 AM CT | Published: July 28, 2020 12:34 PM CT
<strong>Poplar Healthcare technician Lakshmi Nellore logs tested COVID-19 samples on Monday, July 6, 2020.</strong> (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

Poplar Healthcare technician Lakshmi Nellore logs tested COVID-19 samples on Monday, July 6, 2020. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Department health officer said testing labs are improving their capacity and availability of reagents. He said that’s leading to results getting out quicker, so the length of time for turnaround test results will be lessened.

He said test results are coming back in three days or less in some cases. The goal still remains to get them back between 24 to 48 hours.

Randolph began Tuesday’s Memphis and Shelby County Joint COVID-19 Task Force briefing by saying that the 528 new cases reported today are from test results over several days.

Shelby County adds 500 coronavirus cases in one of highest days yet

He said the daily positivity rates have leveled off and decreased in recent days.

The 10% positivity rate benchmark is set nationally, Randolph said.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said the positivity rate is used to think about the reproduction rate. He mentioned the reproduction has moved down slightly over the past several days.

Harris said we are not in range of numbers in the “tripwire” document that has not been released.

”It does not come into play at all in this current period,” Harris said.

Randolph said the health directive will provide the latest guidance and not focus as much on the upcoming “tripwire” document.

Randolph said the “tripwire” document will be completed sometime this week.

On contact tracing, principles apply whether you are at school or any other entity, Randolph said.

For contact tracing to be effective, those who were infected need to be identified and isolated, Randolph said. Those who were in contact with the infected need to be quarantined and monitored, he continued.

The quicker you do that, the sooner you can reduce transmission, he said. ”We are asking the schools, the employers to be able to identify those who may have contact with someone who is positive.”

Randolph brought up the University of Memphis School of Public Health study on mask-wearing locally. Gabby Dowdy, a U of M master of public health student who helped with the study presented the results.

Dowdy said they measured mask use compliance in Shelby County.

She said they counted those wearing masks correctly by going to 10 stores in low and high transmission areas and they lso reviewed video tapes in popular outdoor areas such as Beale Street.

They collected data before and after the mask mandate; overall mask usage before the mandate was 51%, Dowdy said. Sixty-one percent of 61% of those 41 and older wore masks correctly, said Dowdy. Lowest mask usage was in the Hispanic community. The Asian community had the highest mask usage, she said.

On recommendations, Dowdy said they need to ensure correct mask usage. They suggest commercial and internet ads to properly wear masks.

Shelby County should focus on those who did not wear masks correctly, ages 2 to 18, through such means as Tik Tok videos, YouTube videos, she said.

Mayor Harris said you can tell from the report that masks are one of the best strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19.

”Masking does work, we just need everybody to embrace this new normal,” Harris said.

Harris said statewide intervention is not likely, pointing to comments from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee saying he won’t shut down the economy again. Although Harris said that would be helpful and that he hopes the state will revisit that decision on adding restrictions.

Randolph said he’s hoping the progress will help more people wear the facial covering. “We see the results,” he said.

”This virus isn’t going anywhere,” he added.

Even if you wear a mask, you still need to keep social distance, Randolph said. “Masks and 6-feet separation, if not greater.”

Harris said there are no “easy” answers to any of these decisions involving school reopenings. He said they are trusting and deferring to leadership of school districts on school reopening plans.

”There are no right answers,” Harris said.



Memphis/Shelby County Joint COVID Task Force
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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