8/27 COVID-19 task force press conference recap

David Sweat, Shelby County Health Department Chief of Epidemiology & Infectious Diseases, kicked things off. He said there had been questions about the various indicators the department would need to see to allow more businesses to open back up. Sweat said that only 2 of the 8 indicators had been met: We are averaging less than 180 new cases per day, and there is an improving trend line for the past two weeks for the number of new cases. He said that the other six indicators are still failing.

WTF is he talking about here? The indicators that would allow food/drink establishments that are currently closed, including limited-service restaurants, to reopen are listed at the top of page 4 of Health Directive No.11 and there are only five of them. In addition, SCHD director Dr. Haushalter reported a reproductive rate of 0.89 in Tuesday’s press conference, indicating that a third indicator (reproductive rate at or below 1) is being met. Where is he getting his information on these indicators?

County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph took the podium and reiterated that we are headed in the direction of reopening more businesses, but we are not there yet. He said that the next couple of weeks are critical, with schools opening up, sports being played, Labor Day weekend approaching. If we see continued improvement even as those things go on, we will be in a position to open up more.

In a follow-up question, Dr. Randolph elaborated on why we are in a crucial time: Children have been sheltered at home for months, and we don’t know how their return to school will affect the transmission rate.

Dr. Randolph was asked about guidance the CDC recently issued in light of Trump’s desire for less testing. Dr. Randolph says that the CDC’s guidance is just that – GUIDANCE – and that you should listen to local health officials.

The health department’s guidance, he continued, is that if you have symptoms or have been exposed to a known COVID case, you should be tested. However, a negative test only means you are negative AT THAT TIME. If exposed, you still need to quarantine for a full 14 days, even if you receive a negative test result, because of the incubation period of the virus.

Sweat was asked about positive COVID-19 tests among football players, and how the health department would handle that. He said that the team itself – teammates, coaches, and trainers – would be considered the first circle of exposure. Members of opposing teams would be considered less at risk due to the frequency and duration of the exposure. However, the health department would still inform the opposing school, and work with them on the necessary steps.

Those were the high points from today. Back in the morning with more news.