Shelby reports biggest virus spike since pandemic began

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's largest county reported Saturday its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases, though officials were trying to figure out if the jump represented a surge in people getting sick or delayed results from testing laboratories.

The Shelby County Health Department in Memphis reported an increase of 385 cases of the new coronavirus, eclipsing the previous single-day spike by more than 100 cases.

Health officials have been closely monitoring a recent increase in cases and hospitalizations in Memphis after the county began reopening nonessential businesses that had been closed as part of the virus response.

In its Saturday report, the health department said it is investigating the "marked increase in reported cases to discern whether it indicates an actual increase in positive COVID-19 test results or is a product of delayed laboratory reporting."

Shelby County, the state's largest by population, has reported more than 7,800 cases and 153 deaths. More than 60 deaths have been reported in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Tennessee on Friday reported its biggest single-day increase in positive COVID-19 cases since the new coronavirus pandemic began in March.

Memphis and Nashville, the state's two largest cities, have delayed moving forward with opening more businesses and increasing capacities at restaurants and retail stores due to rises in new cases and hospitalizations.

Memphis remains in "phase two" of its reopening plan, which allows restaurants, retail stores and other nonessential businesses to operate at 50% capacity. The county had planned to move on to phase three this week — which would allow businesses to increase capacity to 75% — but decided against that after more than 250 cases and more than 200 hospitalizations were reported Monday.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter told The Associated Press on Friday that officials were focused on telling people to wear masks in public, wash their hands and stay 6 feet away from others.

"Our goal is to continue to recover economically and socially, but we also have to balance that with reducing transmission," she said.

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