MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Locals are feeling the effects of the novel coronavirus, even if it’s not that they’re catching the actual virus.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland declared a state of civil emergency Thursday. This adds to what’s being done to slow COVID-19, as many in the Mid-South were well-aware of the steps needed to protect themselves.
In downtown Memphis, Tom Lee Park was filled with runners, bikers and children who would otherwise be in school during the day.
“Just wanted to get some fresh air, opposed to being in the house all day,” said Rodney Ayers, who used the time to bike at Tom Lee Park. “Wanted to get some fresh air and a little exercise.”
Ayers said he is aware of the fears about coronavirus, and while he’s taking all the necessary precautions, he wasn’t too shaken by the virus outbreak.
“We’re just trusting and believing in God; he knows everything,” Ayers said. “We’re not gonna let it stop us from doing whatever we want to do, though.”
Many people are needed to change what they do, as restaurants are closing, and grocery stores are booming, nearly running out of some items.
Kroger at Poplar and Cleveland was completely out of toilet paper and paper towels on Thursday. The grocery chain changed store hours during the coronavirus outbreak so employees could properly sanitize the store and restock items.
Silky O’Sullivan’s was prepared for St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, but the day ended up being unlike any other in years past.
“We certainly have fewer people out and about,” owner Joelynn Sullivan said.
Sullivan canceled some scheduled activities on St. Patrick’s Day. The restaurant, which has the capacity for hundreds of people, limited customers inside to only about 50 at a time.
Many restaurants were already limiting the number of people inside, but Strickland’s declaration forces all bars and gyms to close and all restaurants to only offer takeout and delivery.
Huey’s Restaurant in Midtown was allowing customers before the state of civil emergency declaration. Now, many in the service industry are worried when they’ll get paid next.
“A little bit stressful this time of year because we normally depend on it being busy season right now,” Huey’s bartender Mari-Anne Caldwell said. “I know a lot of people in this industry who were not financially prepared to not have that extra income right now, so that’s a little bit scary for us.”
Caldwell said she’s seen a large increase in to-go orders at her restaurant, meaning many locals are heeding recommendations to not eat out, but rather order take-out.
Bartender Mike at Max’s Sports Bar on South Main said though they’ll have to close starting Friday, the community of South Main will come together to support each other during the tough time.
He said the period of being closed will be tough for many people, but they’ll support each other and do what they need to do both to get by and to protect customers.