Health officials predict 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in Shelby County by mid-February

WATCH: If the situation is so dire, why wait until after Christmas to begin the new “Safer at Home” order?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department shared the horrific prediction of 1000 more COVID deaths by Valentine’s Day if Memphians don’t take action now to blunt the virus’s spread.

It’s a major reason the health department issued a “Safer at Home” Order that starts Saturday.

Have questions about the spread of coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

Content Continues Below

But if things are so bad, why was it not effective immediately?

Currently, retail stores do not have a capacity limit, but beginning Saturday capacity may not exceed 50 percent. This is in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“The number of deaths per day would be 16 per day if we continue the present course and not take aggressive action,” said Dr. Manoj Jain, Infectious Disease Advisor to the Mayor of Memphis.

WATCH: Health experts fear families will gather on Christmas not knowing they have COVID-19

“We want to make sure they have sufficient time to plan for inventory and make adjustments within their practices in those specific businesses,” said Shelby County Health Director Alisa Haushalter.

The surge is also weighing heavily on area hospitals. Monday, night there were just 24 ICU beds available in the Memphis area.

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said if the state sees another surge after Christmas like the one after Thanksgiving it will break state hospitals.

“When you compound what we’re currently going through on top of another in two-three weeks, we potentially could place the regional health system in that type of scenario,” said Reginald Coopwood, President and CEO of Regional One Health.

It’s a scenario Coopwood says we saw at the beginning of the pandemic in places like New York.

For the latest on coronavirus, stream FOX13 News on FOX13 Memphis Now – it’s free on your Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV as well as your FOX13 News App. You can also follow FOX13 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.