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Memphis doctor seeing more vaccinated people admitted into hospitals

Health department officials encourage anyone who has not been vaccinated, to do so.
Health department officials encourage anyone who has not been vaccinated, to do so.(Jeremy J. Ford)
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 5:37 PM EDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Delta variant in Shelby County has affected just about all demographics, including vaccinated people.

Doctors say they are seeing more vaccinated people admitted into the hospitals with COVID-19, but they still urge people to get the vaccine.

In Shelby County, more than 140 cases were reported between Thursday and Friday. A week ago, we were averaging 26 cases a day.

Some vaccinated people have been sick enough to be admitted into the hospital, but doctors say about 90 percent of the people in the hospital with COVID-19 remain unvaccinated.

“Clearly the numbers in the hospitals have roughly tripled over the last two to three weeks,” said Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld.

Shelby County has reported 58 Delta cases with the expectation that number will quickly grow. The local case reproduction rate is now at 1.22 and we’re averaging 80 COVID-19 cases a day.

About 90 people are being hospitalized in Shelby County for the virus.

“There are just a lot more cases again because of that contagion,” Threlkeld said. “When that happens, you’re going to see a few people at higher risk that get sick and even some people you didn’t calculate were high risk. We had quite a few young people admitted to the hospital.”

Threlkeld has also seen more vaccinated people being admitted with COVID-19.

“We’ve probably seen more vaccinated people admitted into the hospital over the last week or two than we ever have cumulatively before,” he said. “There have even been a couple of deaths. Some of those folks are immuno-suppressed, so arguably they aren’t vaccinated or protected in the same way those with a normal immune system would be protected.”

The Shelby County Health Department said there have been 246 breakthrough cases, or cases within fully vaccinated people. Eight have involved the Delta variant. Nearly 400,000 people in Shelby County have been vaccinated.

Threlkeld said the Delta variant has shown some resistance toward available vaccine, but with a 90 to 95 percent protection against serious illness, he still sees it as the best protection.

“That is not to make the leap and say the vaccine just didn’t do any good,” Threlkeld said. “We’re still having cases and we’re still spreading the virus. They’re still at much lower rates. You’re still protected to be vaccinated and you’re much less likely to transmit it to others.”

The Delta variant is impacting all of the Mid-South.

There are now 150 Delta variant cases in Mississippi. Mississippi health officials are calling the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations alarming.

They’re taking an unlikely step for states since the vaccine was introduced, and releasing a new recommendation, urging those 65 and older and those immune compromised to avoid mass indoor gatherings until July 26.

“Because we’re seeing this confluence of risk and because our collective under-vaccination in the state has put us all at risk, especially the most vulnerable,” said Mississippi Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

Arkansas is seeing the most hospitalizations since a vaccine was introduced.

“I still think we have a lot of people in the area that are unvaccinated and will get COVID,” said Dr. Aaron Mitchell with Mitchell Family Medicine in Marion.

Mitchell said he’s expecting cases to rise in Crittenden County. He’s seeing outbreaks in popular summer activities.

“We know it’s going to spread rapidly, especially when people get back to normal, as they’re going to family gatherings, July Fourth events, summer camps,” Mitchell said. “We’ve seen a lot of kids come home from summer camps with COVID.”

Mitchell also encourages the vaccine.

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