10/27 COVID-19 task force press conference: “We are at a critical time”

MOST IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY: If you display ANY symptoms of COVID-19, go get tested immediately and otherwise stay home until you get your results. Do not keep going out. Do not keep going to work.

Health Department Director Dr. Haushalter stressed that we are at a critical time with the pandemic here in Shelby County. We are averaging over 300 new cases a day. R, the reproduction rate, is at 1.24, and we need to get that back below 1 in order to starve the virus of new hosts.

The positivity rate is increasing (over 15% for those being tested for the first time ever this week), and the duplication period is shortening. We’re at about 36K total cases, and that could double to 72K by the end of November if things don’t change.

The reason we’re at a pivotal time as compared to March (when the Safer At Home house arrest was issued) or in July (when the bars were closed and restaurants were put under restrictions) is that back then, transmission in the surrounding counties was low. Now, transmission in those counties is high, and they are sending Shelby County their patients, affecting hospital capacity.

Dr. H outlined decisions we can make individually to help reduce transmission:

  • Masking. Mask up not only when you’re out in public, but when you’re indoors and around vulnerable members of the population. When you go over to someone else’s household to see friends or family, mask up there too.
  • Social distancing and hand washing are still important
  • Get your flu shots
  • As mentioned above, if you have any symptoms that could mean you have COVID, get tested immediately. Also get tested if you’ve been around someone who tested positive, or if you work in a high-risk industry. Testing is underutilized right now.
  • If you host a gathering, keep attendance extremely small, and practice social distancing and masking at those gatherings. If invited to attend a gathering, think about whether you really need to be there.

County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph emphasized that if you are ordered to isolate and you don’t, you are in violation of the health directive and could face misdemeanor charges. The same applies if you don’t quarantine when ordered.

  • Isolation – for those who have COVID – need to stay isolated for 10 days after onset including 1 day with no fever or symptoms.
  • Quarantine – for those exposed to someone with COVID – need to quarantine for 14 days.

Dr. Randolph said there is no set plan for reversals of reopenings, but they are discussing things that may have to be included in the next health directive if the numbers continue to trend bad.

Dr. Randolph said the health department is working with the criminal courts to come up with a system for safe trials.

David Sweat, assistant director of the health department, said the situation is rapidly evolving with all counties in the region except Tate County, MS now in the “red zone” for new cases per day. Sweat urges all to wear masks, even if your community doesn’t have a mandate.

Brad Broders (Local 24) asked how close we are to reinstating restrictions, and which ones. Dr. H said they are exploring all options, but the surrounding counties make this situation quite different from past ones.

Sweat said that in urban areas, transmission initially is usually the heaviest in the urban core, then spreads out to the suburbs. We are seeing that now, with transmission strongest in East Memphis, Hickory Hill, and the part of the county between Hickory Hill and Collierville.

Sweat emphasized to mindful of the vulnerable as you plan Halloween, Thanksgiving, and holiday gatherings: those over 55 or with heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes.

Sweat said that the decision to open the overflow COVID hospital (the old Commercial Appeal building on Union) will be a state one, not one by the county health department.

The health department has been working with RedRover on a website, shelby.community, with information about testing, masking, and ways to prevent the spread of COVID during the holidays.

That’s it. I typed this pretty quickly and while sipping a PBR. Back tomorrow with more news.