New COVID-19 cases remain stable in Shelby County

By , Daily Memphian Updated: September 19, 2020 4:48 PM CT | Published: September 19, 2020 12:41 PM CT

Nearly two weeks after Labor Day weekend, new COVID-19 cases remain stable in Shelby County and the Memphis-area hospital capacity is similar to what it was two week ago, according to the latest data available.

From Sept. 5 to Saturday, Sept. 19, the Shelby County Health Department reported an average of 148 new coronavirus cases each day. That’s similar to the 146 new-case average from the preceding 14-day period.

An announcement on potential changes to the health directive was delayed until Monday after 293 cases were reported Thursday. That was the highest single-day total in more than a month, and local health officials attributed that to Labor Day weekend. The seven-day average of new cases in Shelby County is 178, slightly higher than the 14-day average of 148.

“It’s going to be critical we contain increased transmission at this point,”Shelby County Health Department director Alisa Haushalter said.

Coronavirus task force: Containing spread critical now as cases rise

Another cause for concern is that the infection rate in Shelby County is now above 1, currently at 1.04, according to COVID Act Now. This time last week, the infection rate was 0.87.

That means each coronavirus patient is infecting more than one person compared to fewer than one in previous weeks —an indication the disease is spreading at a higher rate than it was one week ago.

Overall, the Health Department reports 30,135 coronavirus cases, 442 deaths and 28,111 cases classified as inactive/recovered.

The number of active cases in Shelby County is 1,582, nearly 800 fewer than the 2,374 reported on Sept. 5.

Symptoms for coronavirus include, but are not limited to, fever or chills, cough, fatigue and shortness of breath, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Wearing a mask or facial covering, remaining 6 feet apart from other people and washing your hands for at least 20 seconds are several key strategies for slowing the virus’ spread.

This week, the Health Department changed how it reports testing totals, with the overall number now calculating total testing volume. That number includes those tested multiple times.

The total of number of tests performed in Shelby County is 421,087, returning 37,217 positive tests results with an 8.8% positivity rate.

That means comparing the two-week period testing totals and the positivity rate between the two-week periods is not an accurate reflection of where Shelby County is in the pandemic.

Shelby County surpasses 30,000 coronavirus cases; 3 new deaths

The Health Department also reports a separate data point each day for the number of people tested in Shelby County.

A total of 30,135 cases were found from the test results of 264,854 people in Shelby County, an 11.4% positivity rate. That represents about 28.5% of the county’s population that has received at least one coronavirus test since March.

“We have widespread availability of testing; in fact, we have 10,000 community-supported test slots available for people to come and get tested,” Shelby County Health Department deputy director David Sweat said.

There were 186 COVID-19 patients in Memphis-area hospitals as of 5 p.m. Thursday. Two weeks ago, the number of coronavirus hospital patients was 228.

Also as of Thursday afternoon, 90% of acute care beds and 89% of ICU were occupied, according to the latest hospital data. On Sept. 5, 86% of ICU beds and 90% of acute care beds were in use.

Haushalter said Thursday that the Health Department might not know the impact of Labor Day weekend on hospital capacity until five days after the initial 14-day incubation period.

In the past two weeks, Shelby County reported 48 more COVID-19 deaths, an increase from the 35 fatalities recorded over the preceding two-week period.

Of the 442 coronavirus-related deaths, 26% are attributed to outbreaks or clusters in nursing homes. African Americans represent 61% of those fatalities — an over-representation, since they make up 52% of the county’s population.

That over-representation also applies to total COVID-19 cases: African Americans and Latinos represent about 80% of cases while making up 60% of the population.

The age range of coronavirus deaths in Shelby County is 13 to 100 with a median age of 74. The three most common comorbidities in COVID-19 patients are cardiac conditions (78.4%), diabetes (40.3%) and/or respiratory conditions (31.6%).

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

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coronavirus David Sweat Alisa Haushalter Shelby County Health Department COVID-19 testing hospital capacity
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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