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COVID-19 update

Vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccination process continues and the county will be moving into Phase 1b, including teachers and residents 65 and older. Information about eligibility categories and scheduling is available at the Tennessee Department of Health and the Shelby County Health Department.

In Shelby County, more than 100,000 doses have been administered. While a variety of process problems continue, the Health Department has made a few changes since our last update.

First, it launched the VaxQueue waitlist to allow citizens to register in advance and receive alerts when appointments are available.

Second, it is turning over management of the Pipkin building site to the City of Memphis, which has maintained a more efficient experience at the Appling location by requiring proof of an appointment and limiting how early people can arrive. As recently as last week, seniors arriving for appointments at the Pipkin site were waiting five hours or more and still being turned away.

A number of other frustrations also remain, including the absence of a unified scheduling system, too few second dose appointments available, and an unreliable supply of vaccine that cannot meet demand.

In addition, a severe winter storm may have contributed to the waste of 1,300 doses.

Commissioners will vote Monday on a resolution asking the state to intervene and call in the National Guard, as other states have done.

Variants. Health officials have identified a presumptive local case of the Brazilian variant, against which existing vaccines are less effective.

Back to business. Restaurants welcomed the Health Department’s latest directive, number 18, which relaxes restrictions and goes into effect at midnight. They did not as much appreciate the Health Department’s orders on Friday, initially closing all restaurants under the water boil order in Memphis, before being reversed later in the day.

Below we check in on the numbers. All local data used comes from the Shelby County Health Department.

Categories
Issues

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.

Categories
Issues

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.

Categories
Issues

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.

Categories
Issues

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.