Local health leaders warn of fourth COVID-19 surge with UK variant strain

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Push pause on planning that big party.

Local health leaders warn the fourth surge of COVID-19 could happen this summer, with the dominant strain begin the UK variant.

The warning comes as Memphis gets ready to open a mass vaccine site Wednesday at the Pipkin Building.

FAQ: Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine in the Mid-South

Health leaders say hope is not a plan to protect against the new strains of COVID-19 variants if people choose not to get vaccinated.

Dr. Jeff Warren with the COVID-19 Joint Task Force said, “We are going to see this. The question is, is it a sharp peak or a little mound that goes away because we are able to blunt it (with) vaccines.”

Dr. Scott Strome, executive dean at UT College of Medicine said the impact on hospitals should be limited because so many seniors have been vaccinated.

RELATED: Tennessee teens age 16 and older are now getting COVID-19 shots

He said there is a risk, however, to the younger generation.

“For kids, I think most but not all will be asymptomatic,” Strome said. “We will have a rise (in cases) in 20- to 40-year-olds.”

Strome said the number of cases will depend on the willingness of people to get vaccinated.

All three Mid-South states (Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi) have lowered the eligible age to get vaccinated to 16.

At the beginning of April, the Shelby County Health Department reported more than 126,000 people in the community have been fully vaccinated.

Health leaders told FOX13 they hope that number will continue to grow with the opening of a mass vaccine site.

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