Positivity rate declines with small increase in positive cases; Randolph stresses holiday safety

By Updated: May 21, 2020 3:22 PM CT | Published: May 21, 2020 12:03 PM CT

The positivity rate of coronavirus cases continues to decline, although Shelby County performed fewer tests than the prior two days, according to figures released by the Shelby County Health Department on Thursday, May 21.

Shelby County sees largest single day increase since early April

The Health Department reported 29 new cases after administering 1,424 tests, 277 fewer than the previous day. That put Wednesday’s rate of positive cases at slightly more than 2% and dropping the overall rate just below 7%.

The small increase comes after two consecutive days of more than 100 new coronavirus cases. Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Department health officer, said the higher numbers may be attributed to targeted testing.

“We’re doing a lot of testing within the nursing homes and also within congregant populations,” he said. “We expect to see  increased numbers with increased testing.”

The increase may also be attributed to Mother’s Day gatherings, with the potential for people relaxing social distancing guidelines. However, the data is still being analyzed, Randolph said.

“It’s possible that the uptick was due to things occurring during Mother’s Day weekend,” Randolph said. “If so, if people continue that type of behavior, then it is very likely we may see an uptick in the numbers as a result of (Memorial Day) weekend.”

The 29 new cases contribute to the smallest increase since May 9, when 27 new cases were reported.

The 1,424 tests is well below the county’s goal of administering 2,400 tests per day. In recent days, Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department director, has stressed the importance of testing and stated there is sufficient capacity. About 37% of tests available were used last week.

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The death toll continues to rise in Shelby County, although the percentage of deaths remains the same. The county Health Department reported a total of 91 deaths in the county. In the last week, 13 people have died from viral complications. Locally, 2.2% of people who have contracted the virus have died. The number is much lower than the national death rate.

“I want to believe it’s because the citizens of Shelby County have heard the plea, and for the most part have been responsible and stayed home when asked to stay home, have separated when asked to be separated and worn the (facial) covering,” Randolph said of the death rate. “I think it’s because we are doing the things that’s necessary to prevent infections, which then would decrease the deaths. That’s why I want us to continue. We’ve made too much progress to turn back now.”

Health Department outlines steps toward Phase 3

In the daily briefing, Randolph stressed the importance of celebrating Memorial Day in a “healthy and safe manner.”

“What we do this weekend will have an effect on what we do later,” he said, addressing the Health Department’s decision to move to Phase 3 of the Back-to-Business plan in early June.

“The data from this weekend will play,” he said. “We will look at those numbers and see if indeed this contributes to increased number of cases and subsequently would have to respond accordingly.”

He doesn’t want to “go backwards,” so he hopes residents continue to act responsibly by following safety guidelines.

“Let’s have a good Memorial (Day) weekend without having to add to (folks) that we end up remembering and memorialize.” 

Social distancing efforts look ahead to Memorial Day

He stressed the importance of face coverings.

“Some people may make the argument ‘Why should I wear a face covering? I have a right not to,’—” he said. “Well, you don’t have a right to put other folks at risk. It’s really a matter of respect.”

He says the virus is still present, but the Health Department is trying to help minimize the spread.


coronavirus Shelby County Health Department Alisa Haushalter
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren  is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis.  She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.

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