Nashville scaled back a reopening plan. Could Memphis follow?


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nashville announced the city is scaling back its reopening schedule, returning to Phase 2 after the city saw sharp increases in COVID-19 cases.

Could the Memphis area also have to scale back its reopening?

The Shelby County Health Department has already delayed moving into Phase 3, and local officials say they’re monitoring the situation.

“What happened I think happened is everyone felt, ‘Woo we made it through the lockdown, we’re done,” said Dr. Jeff Warren, a member of Memphis City Council and the COVID task force.

In fact, health care experts warn, we are far from done.

New data from the state of Tennessee shows Shelby County is up by 421 COVID-19 cases since Wednesday. 

Warren said the area may have to resort to specific restrictions on certain industries. A big problem, he said, has been the younger population packing into bars.

“It’s the restaurant industry and the bar industry that really need to step up to this right now,” Warren said. “If they don’t want to step up to it because they think it’s going to kill their business, well it will kill their business, because no one will be able to go there. They won’t have a business license.”

Thursday, the city of Memphis’ chief operating officer defended the reopening phases in Shelby County, saying the process has been well thought out.

“We did expect that we would see an uptick,” Doug McGowen said. “We had been averaging about 100 cases a day during Phase 1. We knew that when we eased some restrictions and went to Phase 2, on average we anticipated about 200 cases per day.”

But McGowen acknowledged there is some concern in certain groups and areas, something epidemiologists are looking into. 

“We will continue to look at what our other options are and that could mean potential closures,” he said.

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