MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Jim Strickland said the hard decision to issue a civil emergency order was made as the city came to a pivotal point in deciding how it wants to the respond to the ongoing coroanvirus outbreak.
“These are certainly unprecedented and serious times. We have to take serious and decisive action,” Strickland said. “We have a choice, we either take the role that Italy has chosen, which has overwhelmed their medical system. Or the role that South Korea has chosen, which is camp down the virus. We have to, as a community, slow down the virus.
“The scene in Italy, there is a huge spike in serious cases requiring hospitalization. It can overwhelm your medical system. In Italy right now, the doctors are having to ration hospital rooms and ventilators. There are people who need ventilators in Italy who cannot get them. But we have power in our hands to camp down and slow the virus. Ironically we have to come together as a community, to be a part. Make the conscious decision not to spend long periods of time with each other and to separate and isolate.”
From the beginning Strickland said he’s sought expert medical opinion. Earlier this week, he was told that if Memphis confirms a community transmission, the best course of action would be to shut down restaurants, gyms and bars to mitigate the spread.
Community transmission means the virus is no longer only being transmitted from someone who has traveled outside the city.
On Thursday, Shelby County health officials confirmed the community’s first case of community spread, prompting local leaders to take action.
The order, announced Thursday afternoon, orders all bars and gyms to close, and all local restaurants to perform take-out or delivery orders only amid the rise of confirmed coronavirus cases in the county.
Strickland said the city will be providing on-street parking relief exclusively for food delivery vehicles at various Downtown and Midtown restaurants.
Strickland is also asking churches to either postpone their worship services or stream them online.
Strickland said he’s seriously concerned about people losing their jobs or having their business closed, but said the health and well being of all Memphians overcomes those concerns.
“This situation is going to get worse before it gets better. We’ll have to make more difficult decisions, but the days will get better,” he said.
He said there will be a day, hopefully sooner rather than later, where we will all go back to normal.
During the news conference, Strickland also confirmed that an employee at the Memphis Police Department had tested positive for the virus.