Health Dept.: COVID cases stemming from symptomatic people not staying home

By , Daily Memphian Updated: November 12, 2020 2:35 PM CT | Published: November 12, 2020 12:38 PM CT
<strong>Shelby County Health Department health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph (right) gives an update about the coronavirus on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020 during a COVID-19 task force briefing.</strong> (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

Shelby County Health Department health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph (right) gives an update about the coronavirus on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020 during a COVID-19 task force briefing. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

Shelby County Health Department director Alisa Haushalter on Thursday said Shelby County is averaging about 340 new coronavirus cases per day. 

“Our trendline upward is not as steep as some communities,” she said. “Our case rate for 100,000 is 36.3 and that’s also trending upward.”

Health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said given its population of more than 900,000, Shelby County could have 33,000 people who may be infected with coronavirus. That would be 3.5% of the population.

“If you are in crowd of 100, 3-4 could be infected,” he said. “So that’s why you don’t want to be crowded. That’s why you want to be in a well-ventilated area and you want to wear your mask.”

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There are 3,162 active cases in Shelby County and more than 11,000 people under official public health order to either remain isolated or quarantined.

“We’re continuing to feel some strain in hospital systems,” Haushalter said. “Also, our testing capacity is very robust. ... We’re urging people to get tested if they have been exposed to others, or if they feel a need to be tested before travel or after travel.”

She said that the Health Department has about 70 part-time openings.

“We are seeing strain in the public health department as well and that’s just because of the number of (coronavirus) cases, the demand for technical assistance and the need for enforcement, in addition to contact tracing.”

Something Haushalter said that has continued to come up in the data is that 1 in 5 infected people has no symptoms. 

For those who do have symptoms, they could be very mild, like a fever, runny nose or allergy-like symptoms, all the way up to muscle aches and gastrointestinal symptoms, like upset stomach or diarrhea.

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Of symptomatic people, she said about 53% continue to go to work while ill and may work 1-3 days before feeling sick enough to go for testing. 

“Stay home, even with minor symptoms,” she said. “Get tested and remain isolated until results come back. If positive, you have to remain isolated for a minimum of 10 days.”

She mentioned other points that she wanted to reinforce because of additional research.

“We know across the U.S., outbreaks are associated with places where people cannot wear masks, particularly indoors,” she said. “We encourage you to make good decisions about going to restaurants, bars or gyms. Go during off-hours. Leave your mask on at the table, taking it off only to eat.”

She said it’s important to wear masks when around people outside your household.

Randolph said business plans must include plans for social distancing and use of masks. They can be closed for two weeks if found to be not in compliance.

“On holidays, we know traditionally, we tend to gather at grandma’s and then go to aunt’s,” Randolph said. “We encourage you not to do that. If you gather, try to gather outside if weather permits.”

Randolph said that if you are sick or have symptoms, stay home. 

“We are finding a lot of our cases are occurring with people feeling sick, but still going to work, going to a restaurant or socializing,” he said.

There were 334 area COVID hospitalizations as of 5 p.m. yesterday; the record in Shelby County is 384, which occurred on July 31.

Haushalter said decisions when to limit elective procedures will be made by hospitals. She also said the county Health Department is having ongoing conversations with the Tennessee Health Department about the former Commercial Appeal building site and when that alternate hospital might need to be utilized.

“Hospitals may have the beds but may not have staff to tend to the beds, due to a shortage of health care providers,” Randolph said.

He said that’s an issue not just in Shelby County but around the state and country.

To close the briefing, Haushalter invited people (who are not ill) to join Saturday’s walk against gun violence. Assembly begins at 9:3o a.m., with the walk beginning at 10 a.m. in the Medical District.

Unity walk a start to end gun violence, community leaders say

She instructed participants to wear masks and practice social distancing.


coronavirus Shelby County Health Department
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 healthcare and higher education for The Daily Memphian.

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