Shelby County sees the largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A new single-day record of coronavirus cases in Shelby County but health leaders said it may not be exactly what it seems.

Shelby County reported 700 new cases of coronavirus Tuesday.

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That's by far the most in one day but it actually came from a record of more than 5,200 tests.

The overall positivity rate is now above 9 percent for the first time since April 29.

In all, there have been more than 14,000 cases and 223 deaths in the county.

About 65 percent of patients have recovered, but that means nearly 4,900 active cases, another new high.

700 sounds far from progress to anyone who hears it but you may remember last week, FOX13 told you about a major delay in reporting cases to the health department and Shelby County Health Director Alisa Haushaulter said that’s exactly what’s happening here.

So that’s the largest number of reported we’ve had in a 24-hour period which can be really disconcerting to everyone who hears that number,” she said.

Just last week, we told you about a delay in reporting cases happening here in the Mid-South and all around the country.

Shelby County Health Director Alisa Haushalter said that’s exactly what we’re looking at Tuesday and while all those 700 cases were reported in the last 24 hours, not all of them happened in the last 24 hours.

“We know these 700 occurred over multiple days and were not just a period of 24 hours,” Haushaulter said.

While that may be reassuring, this brings a new struggle. Haushalter said delayed lab reporting puts a burden on the public health system.

To put it into perspective, Tuesday’s new COVID-19 cases translate to 700 new case investigations that have to be initiated before tomorrow.

Also noted Tuesday, the daily positivity rate remains above 14 percent in Shelby County.

The goal is 10 percent or below, which will be critical to moving forward.

Haushalter said the death rate in Shelby County is low compared to the rest of the country, but that there is one notable reason for that.

“We continue to have cases amongst the younger population, which is healthier,” she said.

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Officials said the cases happening among younger people are often pinpointed back to one place, bars.

Tuesday, they talked about more potential restrictions coming down the pike.

We know some restaurant and bar owners are up in arms about the closures we’ve already seen and there could be more.

Last night, we reported that several Memphis-area restaurants have filed lawsuits, claiming they were singled out because of a categorization.

MORE: 17 Memphis restaurants sue health department, county government to reopen during COVID-19 closure

But Tuesday, county leaders said if the upward trends continue, they could put more restrictions in place.

“Socializing or drinking in a bar facility or a limited-service restaurant, it’s very difficult if not impossible to wear a mask,” Haushaulter said. “So, we had to reduce this behavior.”

In Tennessee, there is no licensure for bars specifically, they’re licensed as “limited-service restaurants.”

“The limited-service classification and bar are interchangeable,” she said. “Limited-service restaurants are bars. Bars are limited-service restaurants.”

That’s what health officials closed recently.

They kept full-service restaurants open but said some bars, or “limited-service restaurants,” were a place for social gathering without masks and in close quarters and made them carryout only.

MORE: 86% of ICU beds are taken in Shelby County

Some owners of those limited-service restaurants are upset, which includes the owner of Alchemy in Cooper Young who told FOX13 this will be one of the biggest hurdles they’ve ever had to deal with.

17 businesses have filed a lawsuit but Haushalter said the decisions were not personal, they were scientific.

‘We have used what we believe to be a science-informed approach to take actions to reduce transmissions in our community,” Haushaulter said.

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Officials said if the numbers continue to go in the wrong direction and don’t stabilize, they’ll be ready to make further adjustments.

“The restaurants on Beale Street,” she said. “We’ve received reports recently that there’s a lot of social activity in that district and have observed a lot of activity without masks. If that can’t be reined in, we’ll consider additional interventions.”

Another thing they’re considering is setting up tripwires, so when cases increase, they’ll automatically have approved measures that go into place, which will be ready Thursday.