New variant strain of COVID-19 found in Shelby County, officials say

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A new COVID variant from India has been detected in Shelby County.

Deputy Shelby County Health Director David Sweat said so far, they’ve only detected one case of the strain from India.

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The person who tested positive recently traveled to India and returned with COVID symptoms.

The World Health Organization has declared the B1617 strain from India a variant of interest.

Sweat said the person who tested positive in Shelby County is in isolation.

He said 10 percent or more of people who get COVID in Memphis are getting their samples sequenced.

That allows health officials to detect new variants like these.

Sweat said the detection of the Indian variant is a reminder that the pandemic is not over, and letting up on safety measures like masking would be premature.

“We need to recognize the virus knows no boundaries and knows no boarders,” Sweat said. “Variants and emerging threats can come to us from anywhere in the world at any point in time. It’s important for all of us here to remain vigilant and follow the best protocols we can to protect ourselves.”

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Because there’s only been one reported case so far, health officials said it’s possible to keep the variant from spreading in our community. But to do that, more people must get vaccinated.

Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said they’ve seen an increase at all the fixed sites this week, including here at Pipkin.

While that’s good news, he said we’re still not where we should be.

Due to low demand on weekends, McGowen said vaccinations at the Pipkin site will not take place this Sunday.

He said they will likely adjust hours at a few of the sites soon to make the vaccine more accessible to those working early or late shifts.

McGowen said a new walk-in clinic site opens next week at 3230 Jackson Avenue in the Northgate Shopping Center.

It will distribute the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot only.

The site will have 500 doses a day. That number will go up or down based on demand.

At this point, the health department said they are 44 percent to the vaccine target goal of 700,000 people vaccinated in Shelby County.