© 2023 KUAF
NPR Affiliate since 1985
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The Delta Variant and the Unvaccinated Are a Bad Mix in Shelby County

 Less than half the population in Shelby County have been fully vaccinated.
City of Memphis (Facebook Page)
Less than half the population in Shelby County have been fully vaccinated.

Transmission of COVID-19 is on the rise in Shelby County as a more contagious strain of the virus, known as the Delta variant, spreads across the country.

The weekly average of new cases locally is now more than 170, according to the health department, compared to just 22 a month ago.

Health officials say hospitalizations have also significantly increased, with unvaccinated individuals driving new admissions. Nearly 90 percent of all COVID positive patients haven’t been immunized.

“This problem can easily be resolved by more people rolling up their sleeves and receiving the shot—simple as that,” Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said at a press conference Thursday.

Randolph dismissed bringing back business restrictions to tamp down transmission rates, but instead stressed the urgency of convincing portions of the public still reluctant to get vaccinated. Less than half of the local population has so far opted to do so.

Still, Doug McGowen, the head of the county’s public vaccination effort, urges even the inoculated not to ditch their masks yet because of the ongoing threat of COVID. There have been 458 so-called breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals in Shelby County, although the health department points out that’s less than one percent of those who have been vaccinated.

“With the rise of the Delta variant, some of the breakthrough cases we are seeing and the possibility of spread amongst people who you’re close to, I just recommend that people wear a mask if you are in a place where there’s lots of people and you’re unsure of everybody’s status,” McGowen said.

The county continues a door-to-door information campaign to encourage vaccinations in neighborhoods with low rates. Officials hope to soon begin offering these residents an opportunity to receive the shot at home.

Copyright 2021 WKNO

Katie joined the WKNO team in 2019. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org