COVID-19 Task Force: ‘Being older than 55 is a risk factor in itself’

By  and , Daily Memphian Updated: June 04, 2020 4:53 PM CT | Published: June 04, 2020 11:12 AM CT

Epidemiology chief David Sweat said in the Shelby County Health Department COVID-19 Task Force press briefing that deaths by age from virus show a “clear demarcation” beginning at age 55.

He said the “vast majority” of deaths are among those age 55 and older. “Being older than 55 is a risk factor in itself,” Sweat said.

Shelby County sees case spike, positive rate rise over past two weeks

Shelby County has 1,664 active cases at this time out of 5,544 positive cases. The positivity rate is 6.8%.

In Shelby County more than 8% of the population has been tested. The number of contacts identified through tracing is 9,113. The number under quarantine or isolation is 3,228.

According to information from the Shelby County Health Department, the area’s coronavirus figures increased by 132 on Thursday, June 4. 

Sweat said 100 new cases per day or more is the “new normal.” In the past 14 days, only two days that had fewer than 90 new cases. “The trend seems to be that we are headed to around 100 cases a day.” He said health department officials are concerned about uptick in cases but not alarmed.

But he added that mass testing at prisons and other facilities are a factor in the numbers and the health department continues to find household clusters.

Sweat says modeling currently indicates a crest or peak in cases between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

In regard to vacations, camping alone or with family is “relatively safe.” But Sweat said crowded airports are less safe.

He was not in favor of permitting live music yet because singing is a “good way to expel a lot of virus in a room.” 

Congregations gather again, and it’s a little different

He said the health department is now testing those involved in recent protests who show coronavirus symptoms and also first responders. There are no specific guideline for testing those who participate in events such as public demonstrations, but those who show symptoms should be tested. 

”We’ve always known that when you increase the density of the encounter that that increases the opportunity for the virus to find hosts,” Sweat said.

He said the daily capacity of health care system is below 80% most days.

Sweat said Shelby County Health Department believes remaining in Phase 2 is the right move for now, and emphasized the importance of continued social distancing and wearing masks.

In all, 120 people locally have died from the virus. 

The day’s increase is not the highest the area has seen this week nor is it the lowest. 

As of yesterday, the area’s positivity rate was sitting at 6.8%, with more than 80,000 COVID-19 tests performed since the beginning of the epidemic. So far, 3,760 people have recovered from the virus. Another 3,000+ are currently in quarantine. 

 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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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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