No COVID deaths in Shelby County since June 22

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 04, 2021 11:14 AM CT | Published: June 29, 2021 4:00 AM CT
<strong>Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto ICU head nurse Haley Griffiths gives a thumbs-up after receiving a coronavirus vaccination on Dec. 16, 2020. Shelby County has not reported a COVID-19 death since Tuesday, June 22.&nbsp;&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a relief for people who take care of folks with COVID,&rdquo; said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, infectious disease expert at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis.</strong>&nbsp; (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian file)

Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto ICU head nurse Haley Griffiths gives a thumbs-up after receiving a coronavirus vaccination on Dec. 16, 2020. Shelby County has not reported a COVID-19 death since Tuesday, June 22. “It’s a relief for people who take care of folks with COVID,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, infectious disease expert at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian file)

Need some good news?

This falls into the break-out-in-song category. Shelby County has not reported a COVID-19 death since June 22, Tuesday of last week.

That means for days the number of confirmed and probable COVID deaths here has remained 1,685, itself a somber reflection.

In two weeks, the rate of cases has fallen 30% in the county.

Seeing the daily goose egg of a count has buoyed spirits across the city and county, including in hospital rooms where COVID patients are still being treated.

“It’s a relief for people who take care of folks with COVID. It’s so much better than what we faced before,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, infectious disease expert treating patients at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis.

Neither Threlkeld nor other infectious disease doctors are ringing any chimes yet, although they do not expect to see the numbers of dead and dying seen shortly after Christmas.

The Delta variant, much more contagious, muffles the joy.


Summer ‘could be rough’ for unvaccinated, those without prior infections


It has not arrived in full fury in Shelby County. But other states, including neighboring Missouri, are in the teeth of it.

“We are in an area that is relatively unprotected with respect to vaccine, and we are also surrounded by other such states,” Threlkeld said.

Statewide, 37% of Tennessee’s population has been fully vaccinated. In Shelby County, 33.7% have achieved the mark.

On Saturday, June 26, Poplar Healthcare finished sequencing the 35 positive tests that came through its drive-up testing station or from customers the week of June 17-24.

Thirteen, almost a third, were the Delta variant.

“It means this strain of the virus is clearly in community transmission and is well-entrenched,” said Dr. Manoj Jain.

For weeks, experts have warned Delta would be dominant here by late July or earlier.

“It’s concerning for a lot of people because we know it is highly transmissible, and we know that the vaccine is effective against it, but not quite as much as the variants we have seen previously,” said Dr. Nick Hysmith, infectious disease specialist at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

“That comes into play largely with people who have only gotten one dose.”

With one shot of the two-dose regimen, the effectiveness is 30%. At two doses, protection ramps up to 88%.

“In order to get higher protection, you need both shots,” Threlkeld said. “That was not the case with the previous variants.”


Coronavirus: Shelby County averaging 40 new cases per day


People who have not received the vaccine would be wise to remember the built-in waiting time between doses and get themselves in, he says.

But with a vaccination rate that has been in the low 30% range for weeks, it’s a hard sell.

“The people left are either much harder to convince or they just simply haven’t gone to the trouble to go get one,” he said. “Either case, I think the best strategy is to get the vaccine in doctors’ offices to get as close to patients as you can and with a trusted voice standing there, advising you.”

Some doctors here have been vaccinating in their offices for weeks.

Dr. Cary Finn reports he is vaccinating close to 70% of patients who come in reluctant about the vaccine.

“He will be more effective than Anthony Fauci (head of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) or Rochelle Walensky (director of Centers for Disease Control) at getting people to get the vaccine,” Threlkeld said.

Topics

June 22 zero Dr. Nick Hysmith Dr. Manoj Jain Dr. Stephen Threlkeld
Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers business news and features for The Daily Memphian.


Comments

Want to comment on our stories? Or read the comments of others? Join the conversation by subscribing now. Only subscribers can view or add comments. Our commenting policy can be viewed here