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VOL. 45 | NO. 32 | Friday, August 6, 2021

Quarter of active virus cases in Shelby County in children

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MEMPHIS (AP) — Tennessee's most populous county reported more than 4,380 active cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, officials said, with a quarter of those being seen in children as schools prepare to resume classes next week.

Shelby County, which includes Memphis, has seen a significant increase in coronavirus cases in July and August. On Wednesday, the county health department reported a seven-day rolling average of 447 newly-reported cases per day, in all age groups.

Of 4,383 active cases, 1,051 are among county residents under 18, the health department said. Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis reported two deaths among child patients in recent days.

County Mayor Lee Harris said Tuesday that masks are again required in all county-owned facilities open to the public, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. The county, which has more than 920,000 residents, had lifted most mask requirements earlier this year.

The Shelby County public school system starts classes next Monday. Students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks inside school buildings.

In Nashville, the head of the public school system said she would recommend that the school board adopt an universal mask policy for indoors and on buses when school begins next Tuesday.

Board members meet this Thursday to discuss masks and other COVID-19 policies. The district currently is encouraging mask use but has held off making it a requirement.

Tennessee Republican leaders have largely opposed mask mandates in schools, while others argue the issue is a local decision.

"I wish that more Americans had taken advantage of the life-saving vaccine that has been available to them, so that the pandemic would be less of a factor in the lives of our students and a universal mask mandate would not be necessary," Adrienne Battle, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, said in a statement

Meanwhile, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said masks will be required in metro buildings for all city employees and visitors. The order does not apply to private businesses.

And, in the Memphis suburb of Germantown, officials said city employees will be required to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 6 or face being fired, news outlets reported.

Tennessee's Health Department has reported more than 903,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 12,770 deaths in the state.

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Kruesi reported from Nashville, Tennessee.

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