UTHSC releases new data about spread of COVID-19 in Memphis

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — New data shows a steady increase in new COVID-19 cases in Shelby County compared to neighboring counties in the Mid-South. The same data shows more cases per capita in more rural counties like Tipton County. Researchers at the UT Health Science Center say we have to look at these numbers with context.

Doctors say there was a big spike in Tipton County after increased testing at a private prison and in other counties the rise may reflect clusters at nursing homes. But they say the numbers in Shelby County could have been a lot worse.

“The reason we made these maps available to the public, we wanted people to understand the impact of social hygiene on their communities,” Dr. Scott Strome, Executive Dean at UTHSA College Of Medicine told FOX13.

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One of the latest maps of the spread of COVID-19 in the Mid-South shows there are a few clusters. Some of the bigger counties like Shelby and Davidson have higher numbers while smaller ones like Fayette County and Desoto County, Miss. have lower rates.

“This can quickly change especially for the smaller counties when a few cases catch up so to speak,” said Dr. Fridtjof Thomas, a Biostatistician with UTHSC’s Department Of Preventive Medicine.

Taking a closer look at Shelby County, the community has almost 22% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tennesse but Shelby County only makes up around 13% of the state’s total population.

Dr. Karen Johnson is the Chair of UTHSC Department Of Preventive Medicine.

“The majority of cases are clustered around big metropolitan areas and Memphis is one of the big metropolitan areas in the state so we have a bigger density of higher density and population so more chances of exposures,” she said.

While testing continues to increase, doctors say the best way to slow the spread and combat the virus is through social hygiene. That means washing your hands, wearing a mask and keeping your distance in public.

“The reason why this we’re doing relatively well in a relatively high-density population is because folks have taken that incredibly seriously. The minute people let up, we are going to have a problem, “ Strome said.

Researchers at the UT Health Science will continue to update this information daily if possible so everyone can see how their individual decision to protect themselves can impact the overall spread.

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