Health officials look to future as pandemic continues
JACKSON, Tenn. — We’re five months into the pandemic, and we are now seeing a 16 percent positivity rate of testing in Madison County.
But where do we go from here?
As we have seen since March, these officials have faced the tough decisions of balancing health and the economy.
“When we get to business closings, and the only thing we’re doing is driving that commerce out of Madison County,” said Jackson Mayor Scott Conger.
But Madison County and West Tennessee’s coronavirus cases are still rising at an alarming rate, especially when you compare them to the rest of the country.
“Twenty-nine of the 95 counties across the state are considered in the red zone. Madison County is showing at number two, then we have some surrounding counties like Gibson, Hardeman, Carroll, Dyer, Haywood, Lauderdale, McNairy, Chester and Crockett that fall in those red zone areas also,” said Kim Tedford, Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department Director.
There is already a mask mandate in Madison County, but officials believe that without the whole area joining, their efforts are futile.
“The only real true test of whether this mask mandate has an impact is if all 19 counties in rural West Tennessee had a mask mandate. Then I think we could have some gauge on how effective it is,” said Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris.
With flu season coming around the corner, hospitals are preparing for it to get even worse.
“I wish we were not in a situation where we were having to prepare 200 COVID patients,” said Amy Garner, Chief Compliance Officer for West Tennessee Healthcare. “But without a vaccine and with the community spread, I just am not that hopeful.”
They say they are expecting to care for every patient who comes through their doors.
“So we’re going to do everything we can to buy additional ventilators, beds, monitors, bring in agency staff. And we’re going to continue to work hard just to make sure we’re taking care of everybody that we can,” Garner said.
City and county leaders say they are still urging Gov. Bill Lee to issue a statewide mask mandate.