COVID-19 hospitalizations approach peak July numbers

By , Daily Memphian Updated: November 14, 2020 3:06 PM CT | Published: November 14, 2020 3:06 PM CT

As COVID-19 transmission rises again in Shelby County during the fall wave, current hospitalizations are approaching peak numbers not seen since late July.

New coronavirus cases remained stable over the past two weeks, but testing numbers declined leading to higher positivity rates countywide.

There are currently 376 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Memphis-area hospitals, as of 5 p.m. Thursday, according to Tennessee’s Healthcare Resource Tracking System.

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That’s nearly 100 more than the 278 patients, two weeks ago. On the current trajectory, it may be a matter of days before the peak number of coronavirus hospitalizations of 384 on July 31 is matched or surpassed.

At a Thursday, Nov. 12 press briefing, Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said ongoing conversations are occurring with the Tennessee Health Department about when the former Commercial Appeal building site, now an alternate hospital, might need to be utilized.

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The alternate site has about 400 additional hospital beds for COVID-19 patients if they’re needed. Though potentially finding the staff for those beds remains a challenge, according to local public health experts.

From Oct. 31 to Saturday, the Shelby County Health Department recorded an average of 285 new cases and 3,228 tests performed each day with an 8.8% positivity rate.

That included two of the three highest daily increases to date with 566 new cases on Monday and 691 cases the following day. That’s contributed to the current seven-day average of 386 new cases a day.

In the previous two-week period from Oct. 17 to Oct. 31, the Health Department reported an average of 268 new coronavirus cases and 3,715 test results each day. That yielded a 7.2% positivity rate, 1.6% percentage points lower than this current two-week span.

Shelby County reports 354 new COVID-19 cases, 4 deaths

In total, the Health Department has reported 41,747 total coronavirus cases and 610 deaths, classifying 37,988 cases as inactive/recovered. Active cases in Shelby County stand at 3,149, an increase from the 2,918 reported Oct. 31.

Since March, a total of 596,893 coronavirus tests have been performed in Shelby County, with 8% of those returning positive. The number of people tested for coronavirus countywide is 338,471, and 12% of those test results came back positive.

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 hands for at least 20 seconds are several key strategies for slowing the virus’ spread.

We’re finding that a lot of our cases are occurring from people who are having symptoms but still feel the need to go to work, to attend school or to go a restaurant, to socialize. These are the major activities that seem to be contributing to the spread of the virus here in Shelby County.

Dr. Bruce Randolph
Shelby County Health Department health officer

Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Department health officer, again encouraged those showing potential COVID symptoms or sick to remain at home until they are symptom-free.

“We’re finding that a lot of our cases are occurring from people who are having symptoms but still feel the need to go to work, to attend school or to go a restaurant, to socialize,” Randolph said. “These are the major activities that seem to be contributing to the spread of the virus here in Shelby County.”

Health Dept.: COVID cases stemming from symptomatic people not staying home

The local transmission rose back above one this week. It’s currently 1.09 compared to 0.96 last week, according to COVID Act Now.

Of the 376 COVID-19 hospital patients, 287 are in acute care beds, with the remaining 89 in the intensive care unit. Those who are COVID-positive or suspected of having the virus represent 14% of acute care patients and 25% of ICU patients.

Local hospital capacity for acute care beds is at 89% use, and ICU beds are at 90% occupancy. That remains consistent with capacity from two weeks ago, even as the number of coronavirus patients increases.

Hospital data is reflective of facilities in Shelby, Lauderdale and Tipton counties in Tennessee, Crittenden County in Arkansas, and DeSoto County in Mississippi.

Thirty-seven COVID-related deaths have been reported in the past two weeks by the Health Department compared to 25 from the preceding two-week period. Of the 610-total coronavirus-related deaths, 21% are attributed to outbreaks or clusters at nursing home facilities.

The average of death from coronavirus in Shelby County is 73, according to the Health Department. The age range of COVID-related deaths is 13 to 100.

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


Shelby County Health Department Dr. Bruce Randolph hospital capacity coronavirus COVID-19
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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