SCS leans on data that may not give true snapshot of COVID in county

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Schools backed up its decision Friday to again delay in-person learning with some statistics that may not tell the true story of the COVID-19 situation in Shelby County.

In a news release, SCS Superintendent Joris Ray said, “Just this week, the number of diagnosed coronavirus cases in Shelby County doubled in the course of one 24-hour period.”

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Wednesday’s health department update indeed reported 220 new cases compared to 446 new cases in Thursday’s update, but there were also more than twice as many tests reported Thursday as Wednesday.

The truth is the seven-day average of new cases has steadily decreased in Shelby County over the past several weeks. In fact, it’s down 33% since the end of last year. The number of COVID-positive patients in Memphis area hospitals is also down significantly in the past few weeks.

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The release also said, “[I]n two days this week, 39 of our neighbors died from Covid.”

The health department’s report of 39 new deaths Wednesday and Thursday is actually the number of new death certificates the health department gets. They may reflect deaths that happened several days or even weeks earlier and are not a reflection of who died on a given day.

“The number of deaths reported daily usually are for a range of days as we mention on our report especially when we have an unusually high number,” a health department spokesman explained to FOX13 via email.

We asked SCS spokeswoman Jerica Phillips about those stats today.

“We understand that the numbers have not been consistently going down here in Shelby County,” she said. “In January we had more than 1,000 cases in one day. Although numbers are fluctuating, and as you said, more tests are being taken, we want to see the numbers go down here in Shelby County.”

But the numbers have been consistently going down. That led health leaders to loosen restrictions last week and end the Safer at Home order that had been in place since Dec. 26.

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And that day with one-thousand cases Phillips mentioned? That was Jan. 2, when the county was in the midst of a post-holiday surge. In the four weeks since, the number of active cases in the county is down 39% as of Friday.

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