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.


COVID-19 update

Haunted advice. The Shelby County Health Department released Halloween guidance to warn against the dangers of giving treats to children wearing masks.

Back to school. The Health Department also released health directive 14 in part “to clarify ongoing questions about whether schools may reopen.” Spoiler alert: they can.

But while the talking heads are starting to think it’s time for SCS to open up, the school board remains unmoved. Meanwhile, the district confirmed 28 staff members have tested positive.

Prominent cases. A member of Bill Lee’s security detail tested positive, causing the Tennessee Governor to quarantine.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie surfaced after a hospital stay to say he regrets not wearing a mask on the White House grounds.

Three staffers connected to the Biden campaign tested positive, causing Kamala Harris to suspend travel. The three employees were part of campaign flights and contracted the virus even though “everyone on the Biden campaign plane is required to wear a mask.”

Federal warning. White House officials reportedly told state leaders that “a statewide mask mandate must be implemented.”

In the news:

  • Pfizer said it would apply for emergency use approval for a vaccine in late November.
  • People with blood type O may have lower risk of Covid-19 infection and severe illness.
  • A CDC study showed 70% of symptomatic adults “always” wore a mask in the 14 days prior to illness onset.
  • Europe has overtaken the U.S. in new cases following lockdowns.
  • A Japanese study shows humidity limits aerosol spread of coronavirus.
  • A Nevada man became the first to be infected twice.

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


COVID-19 update

Relaxing restrictions. The Shelby County Health Department released a new health directive loosening restrictions for sporting events and restaurants. They adjusted the allowable distance between fans at sporting events to 6 feet and allowed restaurants to stay open until midnight.

Cracking down. The Health Department will crack down on restaurants found in violation. This comes after earlier news that no COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to restaurants in Shelby County.

Back to school.

Contact tracing. The SCHD’s contact tracers cannot reach 15-20% of those testing positive.

Economic impact. The University of Memphis announces job cuts and $50 million in losses due to COVID-19.

Death toll. Shelby County passed 500 deaths related to COVID-19. And COVID-19 deaths far outpace Tennessee’s average traffic fatalities.

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


COVID-19 update

Prominent cases. U.S. President Donald Trump and the First Lady, two U.S. Senators and other White House figures tested positive this week, and the President has been hospitalized.

Experimental treatment. The President was given a drug cocktail that is going through a clinical trial in Memphis. The antibody treatment by Regeneron is designed to reduce viral levels and improve symptoms.

My case. On Friday, I announced that I have completed a doctor-prescribed isolation period following a test that returned positive. My symptoms were mild.

Masks help. The Daily Memphian vouched for my personal practice of wearing masks, which some people find difficult to understand given my opposition to mandates. I encourage everyone to follow Health Department guidance, and I attribute the minimal severity of my case to having taken protective measures, as this article explains.

Learning more.

  • COVID-19 is airborne and particles can travel more than a mile.
  • Infected people may be contagious for about two days prior to experiencing symptoms.
  • Nine in ten recovered patients continue to experience side-effects.

Relaxing orders. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee lifted restrictions in most counties but left in place local authority of health departments in counties like Shelby. Some Tennessee counties are ending their mask mandate, as has the State of Mississippi.

This week. Below, we check in on the state and national numbers in addition to Shelby County’s.


COVID-19 update

Learning loss. Tennessee students will suffer severe and long-lasting damage from school closings.

Staying closed. SCS Superintendent Joris Ray says the countywide school system’s return to in-person instruction will be gradual. Earlier this month, Superintendent Ray said school buildings would remain closed until new cases are in the single digits for 14 days — something that has not happened since the first case was reported on March 8. Meanwhile, the Health Department says school re-openings have not resulted in increased pediatric cases.

Athletes denied. SCS students seeking to speak with Supt. Ray in a last ditch effort to save their fall sports season were refused a face-to-face meeting.

Bars reopen. The Shelby County Health Department was unable to prove bars were spreading the virus and allowed them to reopen. This led to criticism that SCHD is being too responsive to economic concerns.

More contagious. A new strain of the virus is reportedly faster spreading and “might be mutating in response to current preventative measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.” In other words, masks don’t prevent the spread. A study of the mutant strain, which is now the dominant one in Houston, was performed by Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Indiscriminate virus. Two governors contracted the virus this week: one supported a mask mandate, and the other did not.

This week. Below are this week’s graphs charting local tests, cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19. All data is via the Shelby County Health Department.