Coronavirus cases continue to rise locally as transmission spreads

By , Daily Memphian Updated: June 17, 2020 7:51 PM CT | Published: June 17, 2020 12:00 PM CT

Community transmission of COVID-19 is spreading as Shelby County recorded at least 100 new cases in 10 of the past 14 days, according to data from the Shelby County Health Department.

Area adds 150+ new coronavirus cases

This includes the largest day of new cases 256 on Monday, which in part led to officials pausing a move to Phase 3 of Memphis and Shelby County’s Back to Business Plan intiially set for that same day.

Shelby County records highest coronavirus case total

The highest number of COVID-19 patients in local hospitals to this point was the other key factor in delaying a move to Phase 3.

“These are signs there is significant transmission within the community, and that moving forward would put more people at risk,” Dr. Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department director, said on Monday.

Testing numbers over the past two weeks also declined by nearly 100 a day from the preceding two-week period, playing a role in an increasing overall positive rate that had stabilized in recent weeks.

From June 3 to Wednesday, Shelby County averaged 131 new cases and 1,558 tests results a day with an 8.4% positive rate. Five of the six highest single-day totals of new coronavirus cases in Shelby County occurred in the past two weeks.

In the previous two weeks, the county reported a daily average of 101 new cases and 1,655 tests a day with a 6.1% positive rate. The positivity rate in that period is 1% lower than the current rate of 7.1%.

With testing numbers declining, public health and government officials have urged citizens at recent press briefings to take advantage of testing as capacity and the pool for who can be tested widens.

Before reconsidering a move to Phase 3, public health experts and county mayors want a 14-day downward trend or leveling in new cases, stable hospitalization numbers, increased testing capacity and contact tracing. Memphis and Shelby County moved into Phase 2 of its Back to Business plan May 18.

Phase 3 would allow groups of 50 or more if space allows and social distancing measures are adhered. Retail, grocery stores, gyms and restaurants expand from 50% to 75% capacity in Phase 3.

Shelby County confirmed 7,244 COVID-19 cases, 146 deaths and 4,943 recoveries, as of Wednesday. The number of active cases rose to 2,155.

Area adds 150+ new coronavirus cases

The total of coronavirus tests administered locally is 101,532 with a 7.1% positive rate. As mentioned earlier, the positive rate was 6.8% on June 10 before slightly increasing over the past week.

Of the 146 deaths, 62 are from outbreaks or clusters at nursing home facilities. There are also 136 deaths where race is known, African Americans make up 65.7% of deaths despite representing 54% of Shelby County’s population.

Citizens are continually encouraged by health experts to social distance, wear facial coverings and wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer to slow the virus’s spread.

On Tuesday, the Memphis City Council approved a mask ordinance, making it mandatory to wear one in larger public spaces within city limits. Though there will not be rigorous enforcement of the ordinance or dollar fines for not complying.

City mask requirement clears final hurdle

Council member Dr. Jeff Warren, who sponsored the ordinance, described it as another step up in urgency for the overall effort to encourage Memphians to wear the mask.

Warren said he decided to push for a city ordinance despite only a countywide recommendation from the Shelby County Health Department because he believes the virus is most prevalent within the city. The goal, by his standards, isn’t 100% compliance but what he believes is a more realistic 60% compliance.

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The Strickland administration says police likely won’t have time to enforce it, leaving it to city code enforcement officers during their checks to see how businesses are complying with the back to business standards.

The Health Department is also seeking legal advice on whether it can make wearing masks or facial coverings a mandate.

The next countywide COVID-19 task force briefing is scheduled for Thursday, June 18.

Reporter Bill Dries contributed to this story. 


COVID-19 testing positivity rate coronavirus Shelby County Health Department Dr. Jeff Warren
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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