COVID-19 weekly update

Shelby County

Shelby County entered Phase 1 on May 4 and Phase 2 on May 18. The trend in new cases has edged up from about 70 per day to about 90 per day. Last week, the 30-day trend showed a slight decrease in new cases.
As of today, there are 5,003 cases in Shelby County. That number includes 95 new cases reported today, 1,357 ongoing cases, 3,442 recoveries and 109 fatalities.
“Current cases” have remained steady in the 1,200-1,400 range. Today there were zero new recoveries reported, which results in a spike to finish out the month.
There has been no previous day with zero recoveries reported since those daily totals began to be released in April.
Daily new cases tracks pretty consistently with the rise and fall of daily new tests.
The overall positivity rate in Shelby County is 7% as of 5/31, falling from 9% at the beginning of the month.
Almost 70% of the reported COVID-19 cases in Shelby County have recovered.
Shelby County lost an average of 2 people a day to COVID-19 this month.
Nursing home residents and staff account for 407 of 5,003 cases.
Fifty of Shelby County’s 109 fatalities have been nursing home residents.


The trend of daily new cases in Tennessee has increased slightly in May. This is a change from the 30-day trend we saw last week, which was slightly decreasing.
As of today, there are 23,006 cases of COVID-19 reported in Tennessee. This number includes 440 new cases reported today, 6,902 previously active cases, 15,300 recoveries and 364 fatalities.
The number of current cases in Tennessee has fluctuated within the 6500-8,000 range throughout the month of May.
About 20 Tennesseans are hospitalized each day with COVID-19.
Recoveries are defined as “(1) people who are living and have been confirmed to be asympomatic by the health department and have completed their required isolation period or (2) are at least 21 days beyond the first test confirming their illness.”
Tennessee’s overall testing positivity rate is 5% as of today, falling one percent from the beginning of the month.
Of the 23,006 cases in Tennessee, 1,147 are nursing home residents.
Of Tennessee’s 364 COVID-19 fatalities, 137 of them have been nursing home residents.
Sixty-six percent of reported COVID-19 cases in Tennessee have recovered.
Tennessee has lost an average of about 5 people a day to COVID-19.

United States of America

The trend of new cases nationwide has continued downward over the past 30 days.
As of this morning, the United States had reported 1.7 million COVID-19 cases, with 416 thousand recoveries and 103 thousand fatalities.
Nationwide, reported recoveries have not kept pace with new cases.
The average number of Americans dying each day from COVID-19 has decreased by about a third over the past 30 days.

Shelby County: Shelby County Health Department
Tennessee: Tennessee Department of Health
U.S.A.: Johns Hopkins University


Weekly COVID-19 update

Shelby County


United States


The viral formula

I have seen the COVID-19 viral formula explained this way:

infection = exposure + time

The closer you come to someone who is carrying the virus, and the more time you spend near them, the more likely your chances are of contracting it.

It’s a simple (and simplified) formula, but it explains many things.

1. First, it explains why medical professionals wear additional protective equipment, why they place coronavirus patients in negative-pressure rooms, and why they have always (until recent shortages) disposed of PPE after every encounter.

2. It helps clarify why health officials promote social distancing, hand washing and mask usage, while cautioning against gatherings and rooms being filled to full occupancy.

3. It reveals why it’s completely unnecessary to wear a mask while driving alone in your car, when you’re outdoors and not in close proximity to others, or anytime you are in public or private spaces by yourself or with your immediate family.

4. It helps explain why the use of facial coverings falls short as a preventative measure, as cloth masks are not sufficient protection against prolonged exposure and close contact.

5. Last, it helps explain why we’ve had so many cases in congregate settings like prisons, jails, residential facilities and nursing homes. When a virus enters indoor spaces filled with many people, it can spread.

That spread turns deadly when such spaces are filled with more vulnerable populations such as the elderly and infirm.

In Shelby County, 329 cases are attributed to clusters from nursing homes, which is 8% of the 4,005 total cases confirmed as of today.

We’ve also seen 35 fatalities in these facilities, which is 40% of the 88 total deaths locally.

Statewide, 986 nursing home residents are 5% of Tennessee’s total of 18,532 cases. Of these, 108 have lost their lives, making up 35% of the state’s 309 fatalities.

What’s abundantly clear is we need to stop trying to force Sally and Johnny on the sidewalk to wear a mask and instead devote our attention to how we can better safeguard our most vulnerable loved ones.


Memphis mask mandate

Should residents and visitors in Shelby County be required to wear facial masks or facial coverings while out in public areas?

Should businesses be required to enforce mask usage inside their place of business?

Such a policy is being considered by the Shelby County Commission with a proposed ordinance appearing on the meeting agenda for a first reading on Monday, May 18.

Supporters point to the latest, revised recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the opinion of local experts.

While some opponents of the proposed ordinance cite earlier advice from experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci offered prior to the CDC’s latest guidance, other medical professionals still maintain that cloth face coverings do not provide protection against COVID-19 and may increase other risks.

Calls have poured into the County Commission office, almost universally opposed to the proposal.

The ordinance was considered in committee on Wednesday and was sent to the full commission with a favorable 5-4 vote.

Because the ordinance would institute a $50 fine, it requires a 2/3 majority on third reading, which is 9 yes votes.

I decided to put the question to a medical professional who has been a rare, steady and unbiased voice on all COVID-19 controversies. Jeffrey Galvin is a medical doctor from Charlotte, North Carolina, with board certification in emergency medicine.

Dr. Galvin posts daily videos on his YouTube channel, giving updates on COVID-19, sharing his advice and experience, answering questions and dismissing conspiracies.

My question: Should local governments require all residents to wear face coverings anytime they are outside their home? This is being debated now and there are experts on both sides. Would appreciate your opinion.

I had no idea if or how Dr. Galvin would respond, but he offered this quick reply in a comment on his latest video:

I don’t agree with that. Masks protect others from you if you happen to be asymptomatic but contagious. My feeling (and what I am doing) is to wear a mask inside stores and if I’m in close proximity to someone outside my family. I put the mask on when I go in, take it off when I leave. I look at it as being a good citizen. I don’t want to inadvertently infect someone vulnerable. Wearing one all the time makes no sense to me.

Dr. Jeffrey Galvin

That has been my practice as well. I wear a face covering when I am in close proximity to other people in indoor spaces, which I have kept to an absolute minimum for the past two months.

I do so not because a facial covering is likely to protect me, but out of respect and concern for others, and to set an example for the public – that we should all keep in mind our elderly and medically fragile friends, family members and neighbors.

But wearing a mask outside, in the heat, walking down the sidewalk or whatever, just makes absolutely no sense. There’s no way I would vote to force anyone to do that.

I believe it’s an equally bad idea to punish businesses for failing to control their customers and force them to become the mask police.

I’m just as adamant, however, that we need to respect the viewpoints of others. This is a very difficult time for everyone, and we’re all trying to do our best as the situation and our understanding of it continues to evolve.

Toward that end, I thought I would conclude by sharing the thoughts of two constituents representing both sides of the debate. Both are medical professionals and contacted me about the proposed ordinance. I am withholding their names and have removed some identifying information.

Dear Commissioner Wright:

I am a Lakeland resident and one of your constituents. I write to you in full support of the Shelby County mask ordinance. I am aware that it requires more readings before it would pass, and I urge you to support this. As a healthcare professional, I believe strongly in following scientific evidence and CDC guidance in making our decisions. I have been impressed with Shelby County’s approach to being thoughtful in gradually opening the economy. This will not be successful if citizens do not adhere to the recommendations to wear masks. In my (very non-scientific) observation of seeing people in my community, I will tell you that very few are doing this. I think without an ordinance, the majority will not wear them, we will see a spike in cases, and the economy as well as the health of our citizens will suffer.

I want to offer a brief anecdote to illustrate my opinion. This past weekend I went to Kroger to pick up groceries (I’m a ClickList fan even before COVID-19). As I was driving away, I saw a very elderly woman walking into the store with a mask on. I glanced around and noticed that literally not a single other shopper walking in or out was wearing a mask. It occurred to me that it communicated a clear message to her that everyone knows she is in the highest risk category and no one cares. I think having Shelby County residents wear masks in businesses is not only safer but also shows our most vulnerable that we care and that their lives and health matter to us.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you will support this effort to protect our citizens.

Dear Commissioner Wright,  

I am a constituent of yours and have lived in District 3 my entire life. My wife and I have lived in Lakeland for the past six years. I know this district well and love living in it.

I am concerned with the recent vote taken on a mask ordinance for the county. I am a nurse and I am pursuing a doctorate degree in anesthesia at the start of next month. I work in healthcare and am well aware of the risks associated with COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. I understand how transmission occurs and I understand how PPE functions. 

As one of your constituents, I feel obligated to email you and let you know that I do NOT support an ordinance that can force business owners to require masks in their establishments. I believe business owners have the right to decide mask requirements for themselves, just as customers reserve the right to visit or not visit businesses based on owners’ decisions.

I strongly urge you to vote NO on this issue and firmly oppose any future attempts to pass this, and any other ordinance, that will infringe upon the individual rights of business owners and citizens. Thank you so much for your time.