UTHSC tracking new COVID-19 cases during reopening phases

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With more businesses back open, more people are venturing back out across Shelby County. FOX13 talked with doctors tracking the number of new COVID-19 cases that occur during the reopening phases.

Wednesday, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center doctors said the number of new cases is where they predicted it would be. But they said if we let up on social distancing and wearing masks in public then we could be in trouble.

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“We’re in a good place as long as everybody follows the rules,” UTHSC College of Medicine Executive Dean Dr. Scott Strome told FOX13.

Phase One of the Back to Business plan started on May 4. Since then, there’s been an average of about 115 new COVID-19 cases a day. Some days there have been reports of only 26 new cases in one day but other days the count has been as many as 128 new cases.

“The Phase Two of the reopening which started on May 18, it’s a little too early to know the impact of that. But so far it looks like we have succeeded in going back to mobility, back to doing more things without translating that into higher numbers of identified cases,” UTHSC Department of Preventive Medicine Biostatistician Dr. Fridtjof Thomas said.

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Additionally, doctors said they’re watching the number of hospitalizations increase too. They said this isn’t necessarily a direct impact from reopenings, but it’s a number they’re following closely as more hospitals restart more elective services

UTHSC Department of Preventive Medicine Chair Dr. Karen Johnson said, “Despite a slight upward trend in hospitalizations, it’s good to put out that the hospital capacity is still keeping up with the slight increase trend and that’s very important – they’ve got the PPE, they’ve got the staffing, they’ve got the beds and we’re able to care for the increased case that we’re seeing.”

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

But if people relax social distancing too much, doctors said those numbers can change very quickly.

“There is no reopening plan that is going to work if people don’t continue to follow their social contract with one another and if we don’t do that, it’s going to be a problem,” Strome said.

As more and more people start to attend the area’s larger houses of worship, doctors told FOX13 the number of new COVID-19 cases is likely to increase.

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