MEMPHIS, Tenn.– As millions across the country prepare to ring in the New Year, concerns about the coronavirus are looming large over New Year’s Eve celebrations along Beale Street.
Organizers are expecting tens of thousands to fill the streets of downtown Memphis for New Year’s Eve.
Health leaders want you to consider the risk before doing so.
Soon, Beale Street will transform into a sight that’s has not been seen since before the pandemic.
Thousands will be shoulder-to-shoulder for New Year’s Eve and that has health officials worried.
Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor’s concerns come after looking at Coronavirus statistics for Shelby County. COVID cases are up 200% since last week.
“No business is safe, no household is safe, no individual is safe until everyone has some modicum of safety in this community and communities around the country,” she said.
Right now, there are at least 11,000 confirmed cases – prompting Dr. Taylor to request approval for a mask mandate for the county.
“We have been in touch with the state of Tennessee and will continue to reach out to let them know what is going on down here as it relates to our exploding cases. And we will make the request to be able to do that. But at this time, we do not have the authority to do that.”
Ahead of New Year’s festivities, many spent the day getting tested for COVID-19. At Compass Laboratory Services, one of the newest testing sites in Shelby County, people like Steven Sheegog began lining up early Thursday morning.
“Everyone in our house is fully vaccinated and booster but with the breakthrough coming through breakthrough cases with the omicron, it just gives us heighten concern,” Sheegog said.
The health department estimates as many as 600 people a day will get tested here.
“We just want to help the city out as much as we can. We love being here. We’re thankful for everything that this community provides for us. We’re just trying to give her some back,” said Mike Bruce, CEO of Compass Laboratory Services.
Back on Beale Street, masks will be optional for New Year’s Eve and social distancing is encouraged.
The health department hopes to have two more testing sites open by next week. Sites will be open over the holiday weekend if you want to be tested.