COVID-19 metrics trending downward in Shelby County

By , Daily Memphian Published: January 23, 2021 1:41 PM CT

Shelby County continues to trend downward in several key COVID-19 metrics – including cases and hospitalizations – following the post-holiday surge, according to Health Department data.

From Jan. 9 to Saturday, the Health Department reported an average of 482 new cases and 4,054 test results a day yielding an 11.9% positivity rate. While the positivity rate is above the 10% threshold set by local public health experts, that’s still a decline of 3.6 percentage points from the previous two-week span. 

“We are making progress,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Department health officer. “There is a downward trend in a lot of our metrics. I really want to encourage everyone to continue what you are doing in terms of adherence to the safety measures, so that we continue to make progress.”

The reproductive rate remains below one, currently 0.89, according to COVID Act Now. A number below one is a sign of decreasing community transmission. When the virus was at its peak locally during the holiday season, the reproductive rate was well above one.

Reproduction rate at epidemic low; other stats encouraging

In the previous 14-day period, the Health Department reported an average of 601 cases and 3,870 tests results each day with a 15.5% positivity rate.

Following improvement in several metrics, the Health Department issued Health Directive No. 17 that went into effect Saturday, Jan. 23. The new directive eases several coronavirus restrictions including increasing restaurant capacity from 25% to 50% and allowing businesses such as museums and movie theaters to reopen.

Health Directive No. 17 loosening restrictions issued

Overall, the Health Department reported 79,925 total coronavirus cases and 1,182 deaths, classifying 73,667 cases as inactive/recovered. Active cases in Shelby County stand at 5,076, a decline from the 7,091 reported Jan. 9.

Since March, a total of 919,992 coronavirus tests have been performed in Shelby County, yielding an 10% positivity rate.

Coronavirus: Shelby County adds more than 530 new cases, 13 deaths

There are 490 coronavirus patients in Memphis- area hospitals as of 5 p.m. Thursday, the latest data available, according to Tennessee’s Healthcare Resource Tracking System. A 20.1% decrease from the 614 patients reported two weeks ago as hospitalizations declined from the peak earlier this month.

ICU staffed beds remains in the “red”, above 90% utilization, while acute care staffed bed capacity loosened in recent days. ICU bed occupancy is at 94% with acute care bed usage at 88%.

Those who are COVID-positive or suspected of having the virus represent 38% of ICU patients and 19% of acute care patients.

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

Even with the promising metrics, David Sweat, deputy director of the Shelby County Health Department, ended Thursday’s press briefing reminding the public the current COVID-19 case average remains high and transmission of the virus is still occurring.

“We still need everybody to wear masks, still need everybody to wash your hands, practice social distancing,” Sweat said. “As soon as you’re able to get vaccinated, please do that.”

The Health Department has also reported 279 COVID-19-related deaths in Shelby County since Jan. 1, already the deadliest month in the pandemic.

Deaths from COVID-19 in Shelby County range from ages 13 to 101 with average age of death 74.

The three most common comorbidities associated with coronavirus deaths in Shelby County are cardiac condition (54.3%), respiratory condition (43.9%) and diabetes (29.7%), according to Health Department data.


coronavirus Shelby County Health Department Tennessee Healthcare Resource Tracking System Bruce Randolph David Sweat
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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