Shelby County continues vaccination efforts as public sites scheduled to close

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — For more than a year, the Pipkin building in Memphis has been at the center of Shelby County’s fight against COVID-19.

On Thursday, health officials said the testing site turned vaccine site could close by the end of next month.

The news comes amid big signs of progress in our community.

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

Health officials reported 462 active COVID cases in Shelby County. That’s the fewest reported in the county since the pandemic began in March of 2020.

Deputy Shelby County Health Department Director David Sweat called it a milestone.

He said all the metrics are trending in the right direction, and we have the vaccine to thank for that.

The health department is nearly 53 percent to its vaccination goal, which is equal to around 40 percent of the county’s population vaccinated.

Sweat said an ongoing study shows about 70 percent of adults in Shelby County are immune to COVID either through infection or vaccine.

COVID-19: Local college charging $1,500 fee for non-vaccinated students to return to campus

At one point, this would have been enough to reach herd immunity. Because more transmissible strains are now circulating in our community, Sweat said 85 percent of the county’s population must be immune to reach the level of herd immunity.

“These variants complicate the answer to this question. What we can say though is in our community, the Alpha variant is a variant the vaccine protects you against,” Sweat said. “It is the dominant virus we have. The more people who get vaccinate, the better we are going to be and it’s the reason our numbers are dropping to where they are right now.”

In May, the health department said a cluster of the Delta variant associated with travel was confirmed in the county.

Sweat said another case was confirmed on Wednesday and is under investigation.

A new health directive removing most restrictions for businesses is set to go into effect on Saturday. However, a business can still require their customers and employees to wear masks as long as they have a sign posted outside.

RELATED: Local organization steps in to help elderly people get vaccinated

Sweat said even if you’re unvaccinated, the new directive says you don’t have to wear a mask in most cases. But he said the risk of encountering COVID and getting infected for those people is much greater.

Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said the vaccine has allowed loosening of restrictions.

He said in July, the Pipkin building will be the only mass drive-through vaccination site in Shelby County.

McGowen said the Pipkin site will likely shut down at the end of July depending on demand.

A public vaccine option will open up at the Office of Emergency Management after that.

McGowen said they will continue to host community pods at churches, schools and businesses throughout the summer.

”Our teams are in the street, I think that’s part of the reason we have seen an uptick as we are going door to door to share the message of the vaccine and break down barriers we have,” he said. “We also have our phone bank trying to overcome hesitancy.”

McGowen said the majority of people are getting vaccines at private sites like pharmacies and doctor’s offices.

A winner has been chosen in the ‘Shot or a Shot’ car sweepstakes. The health department is identifying her as Sandra Morgan of Memphis.

24,000 people entered the contest.

MORE: New health directive lifts almost all COVID-19 restrictions on businesses in Shelby County

Dr. David Sweat said over 99,000 cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic.

Thirty-three new cases were reported Wednesday in Shelby County.

Over the last week, the county has averaged 44 new cases each day.

The county is averaging 1,591 new vaccinations each day, an increase of about 500 people per day.

Shelby County has reached over 52 percent of its vaccine campaign goal, Sweat said.

Around 290,000 residents are fully vaccinated at this time.

13.7 percent of kids aged 12-17 have been vaccinated, around 6,900 kids.

Some zip codes in South Memphis are seeing some of the lowest vaccination rates in the county, while areas in Germantown are seeing the highest.

The Pipkin Building, Germantown Baptist Church and SWTCC-Whitehaven are still open for vaccines.

To make an appointment call 901-222-SHOT.