Coronavirus: Mayor Harris Declares State of Emergency, County Sees Early Indications of Community Spread



Shelby County officials said Thursday that there are early indications of COVID-19 community transmission in the county.

Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department, said based on the department’s investigations thus far, “we believe we are starting to see the very beginnings of community transmission.”

“This is a pivotal moment in the epidemic and we really need everybody to lean in and do what they can to reduce transmission,” Haushalter. “That goes for employers who need to look at alternate ways to allow people to work from home or potentially changing their operations to reduce contact.

“Also to individuals who can make decisions about not going to a restaurant or a place where there are more than 10 people. I believe fundamentally and collectively we can reduce the impact in our community.”

There are now 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County. The last six cases were reported to health officials from commercial labs Wednesday evening.

Haushalter said these cases are not connected to the first four cases in the county and that the majority of the new cases are associated with travel. The department has not been able to determine the travel or possible exposure for one of the new cases. This is an early indication of community spread, Haushalter said.

As more cases are confirmed, Haushalter said the health department will begin posting the ages of the patients so that the public can “have a better sense of what age categories are being impacted.”

“Ideally, this will serve as a reminder to the public that this is impacting our community, it’s continuing to spread, and that we all have a part to pay to reduce the impact in the community,” Haushalter said.

Because of this, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris declared a local state of emergency Thursday. This move will allow the county to apply for federal funding to address the COVID-19 pandemic locally. This will put the county in a position to receive vital aid and streamline the process to obtain equipment and supplies to address the pandemic, Harris said.

“It is even more critical that we begin the process of long term planning for how we will care for patients that develop severe cases and need intensive treatment,” Harris said. “There is reason to believe that the number of patients with severe reactions could be relatively large.”

Early Wednesday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued a declaration of emergency to better facilitate the city’s response to the virus.

The total number of confirmed cases in Tennessee is up to 154 as of Thursday afternoon. The majority of those are still concentrated in Middle Tennessee’s Davidson and Williamson Counties.

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