COVID-19 update

Vaccines. The COVID vaccination process has begun. Information about eligibility categories and scheduling is available at the Tennessee Department of Health and the Shelby County Health Department.

In Shelby County, 24,000 people have been vaccinated, but few are very happy about the pace so far. All appointments for January have been filled and some await second doses. Older constituents and their family members are frustrated that no waitlist has been prepared, and it has been difficult to follow the process.

Variants. Multiple COVID-19 variants are circulating around the globe and are said to be more contagious. Officials worry the UK variant could fuel case spikes.

New strains originating in the U.S. were discovered by researchers a week after White House officials warned of them and such warnings were dismissed by the CDC and the New York Times as “false reports.”

Strategy. An international study of lockdown measures and business closures reveals no clear benefit over other voluntary measures. But where lockdowns and mask mandates have failed, rapid at-home testing could make a difference.

Below we check in on the local numbers, state rankings, and take a final look at U.S. fatalities in 2020. All local data used comes from the Shelby County Health Department.


COVID-19 update

National lockdown. A member of the Biden coronavirus task force says a 4-to-6 week lockdown “could get the pandemic under control in time for a vaccine.” During the campaign, Biden said he would “shut down the virus, not the country.” The AP says Biden faces a “tough choice.”

Vaccine inadequacy. Dr. Fauci says social distancing and masks will be needed even after a vaccine is available.

Mask protection. Updated guidance released by the CDC on Tuesday says masks also protect mask wearers, not just those around them, by providing “filtration for personal protection.” The new guidance cites studies showing that masks reduce the risk of transmitting or catching the virus by more than 70%.

Vanderbilt study. A study by The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine shows Tennessee counties without mask mandates have higher COVID-19 death rates. The report stresses that this is a correlation and “the observed relationships between hospitalizations, deaths, and mask requirements is about a set of behaviors, including but not limited to masking.”

Also in the news this week:

  • The City of Germantown voted 3-2 to ask Gov. Lee for a statewide mandate.
  • The $51 million field hospital in Memphis is “ready,” except for the medical staff who would be needed to run it; there aren’t enough nurses.
  • Study: Temperature checks, symptom screenings not very effective in detecting COVID-19 infections
  • The Shelby County Health Department had to close facilities after positive COVID-19 cases among employees.

This week. Below we check in on the local numbers.


COVID-19 update

Pandemic continues. While the nation shifted its attention to the federal election this week, COVID-19 metrics sharply increased both in the United States and around the world.

No gatherings. The White House is asking Tennesseans and citizens in other “red zone” states to avoid gatherings with others outside of their immediate household.

Vascular disease. Scientists continue to research the effects of COVID on blood vessels.

Blame game. This week the Daily Memphian‘s Jane Roberts finds a new local source of spread: nurses, “who may be passing the disease to each other when they let their guard down outside patient rooms.”

Pool testing. Memphis restaurants and businesses will participate in an asymptomatic mass testing program.

Rapid testing. Action News 5 did a scan of Memphis locations looking for sites offering rapid tests.

G-town Grinch. The City of Germantown cancelled Christmas and joined the calls for a statewide mask mandate.

Better masks. Harvard Business Review says essential workers need better masks. Ask yourself why.

This week: Below, we check in on the local numbers.


COVID-19 update

New scare. The local numbers are rising again. Hospitalizations are going up substantially. Area hospitals are discussing surge plans. There is new concern the field hospital may be needed.

Governor Lee has extended the state of emergency.

Placing blame. Local health officials point to these contributing factors: rural counties with no mask mandates, youth sports and weekend soccer events in the suburbs.

Mask mandates. Memphis area hospital systems urge masking but political figures want them (double or triple) mandated:

Wearing masks. The Shelby County Health Department says there is already widespread masking.

As reported by News Channel 3, “mask usage went from around 50 percent to more than 90 percent in Shelby County after a mask mandate was introduced this summer.”

As reported by the Daily Memphian, “in Shelby County, more than 90% are wearing masks.” This information has been removed from an updated version of the story.

Stubborn facts. In addition to the already widespread usage of masks, here’s what else seems to be lost in the calls for increasing government powers:

In the news. Some additional headlines:

  • LocalMemphis: Where are Shelby County’s COVID-19 clusters?
  • LocalMemphis: Shelby County keeps most COVID-19 cluster information from public
  • Fox13Memphis: How and where you can vote safely if you have COVID-19 symptoms on Election Day
  • WMCActionNews5: Tiger at Tennessee zoo tests positive for COVID-19

This week: Below, we check in on the local, state and national numbers.


COVID-19 update

It’s alive. The SCHD has “not cancelled Halloween.”

Close encounters. The CDC has redefined what counts as close contact with someone infected with COVID-19 to now include “shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.”

The definition change was triggered by a report on that case of a 20-year-old Vermont correctional officer, who was diagnosed with a coronavirus infection in August. The guard, who wore a mask and goggles, had multiple brief encounters with six transferred prisoners before test results showed they were positive. At times, the prisoners wore masks, but there were encounters in cell doorways or in a recreational room where prisoners did not have them on, the report said. An investigation that reviewed video footage concluded the guard’s brief interactions totaled 17 minutes during an 8-hour shift.

Everything right. Italy is once again getting hammered despite aggressive mask mandates, social distancing and lockdowns.

What’s particularly troubling about the return of COVID in Italy is that the country has done everything experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have been advising. Face masks in public places have been compulsory for months, social distancing is strongly enforced, nightclubs have never reopened, and sporting arenas are at less than a third of capacity. Children who are back at school are regularly tested and strictly social-distanced, and yet, the second wave seems completely unstoppable.

Social censoring. Social media companies are censoring speech by experts who question the level of protection offered by masks.

Back to school. Shelby County Schools “could reopen in January.”

Winter wave. Some local health professionals fear “what could be a tsunami of new cases” in the colder months ahead.

Approved treatment. The FDA gave approval to the first treatment for COVID-19: the antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir).

Mouthwash study. “A new study conducted by researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine has found that a common dental item can inactivate human coronaviruses: mouthwash and oral rinses.”

New website. The Tennessee Department of health has launched a new website for COVID-19 information:

This week: Below, we check in on the local numbers.