Older groups threatened as COVID-19 infections surge among young people

Concern with young people and COVID-19 in Shelby Co.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department reported 100 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.

That’s down from the 365 new cases it reported on Saturday, which was one of the highest numbers since the start of the pandemic.

But officials admit the trend has been headed in the wrong direction as more young people become infected. Coronavirus infection rates are surging across the country, including in the Mid-South.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson says reopenings in his state are on hold.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves says his state’s hospital system is “still at risk” of becoming overwhelmed if trends continue.

In Shelby County, the weekly positivity rate is the highest its been since mid-April.

COVID-19 testing positivity rate in Shelby Co.
COVID-19 testing positivity rate in Shelby Co. (Source: WMC)

"We're seeing more cases. We've more than doubled our cases in the hospital in the last two or three weeks," said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis. "We're seeing more sick people. I'm seeing more young people."

Threlkeld said large gatherings, like graduation parties, might be the reason more young people are becoming infected.

"Unfortunately, they've had parties with 30 people or more at the house of one of the parents, and those kinds of things can be just a bonanza for a virus," said Threlkeld.

Numbers from the Shelby County Health Department show more cases of COVID-19 among people between ages 25 and 34 than any other group.

But its mostly those ages 55 and older who are dying.

The health department reported 9,310 confirmed cases and 181 deaths on Sunday. More than 6,300 people have recovered.

Threlkeld says the upcoming fourth of July holiday presents more challenges.

"It's a chance for people to get together more, and that's something we need to be very careful of right now," said Threlkeld. "If you do it you really need to do it with the social distancing in mind."

But getting Mid-Southerners to social distance has been challenging.

The City of Memphis passed an ordinance, requiring people to wear masks when around others in public.

On Sunday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the city would be enforcing it.

“Our new case numbers, our positivity rate, and our hospitalizations are all on the rise. With those things in mind, I believe we are at a critical point in our fight against this virus,” Strickland wrote in an update.” I’m fully aware that there are those in our community and around the country who, for whatever their reasons may be, are not taking this seriously. I’m here to tell you today—they should. It’s fine if you don’t want to take my advice, but you cannot argue with the numbers.”

Threlkeld said the capacity at Baptist seems to be okay, but he said that should not be taken for granted.

“For heaven’s sake, it’s not the time to take it for granted and to go infecting people unnecessarily,” he said.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.