MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris addressed the media about his recent trip to the Republic of Ghana amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously, if I knew what I know now—that we were going to have the largest public health event this community had seen in 150 years—I wouldn’t have gone,” Harris said.
Mayor Harris and several others were part of a delegation visiting Ghana, this year’s honored country for Memphis in May. The trip to the honored country is done each year.
Some question should he and other leaders have traveled there, as the county had its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 last week.
“At the time we departed, there were no reported cases of coronavirus in Ghana,” Harris said. “There was no worldwide epidemic, no school closures. We obviously checked with health department officials and CDC guidelines.”
Harris says he immediately tried to return to Memphis after COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic.
“As soon as I heard of the school closures, which was the second day I was there, we immediately contacted the airlines,” Harris said.
Mark Billingsley, chairman of the Shelby County Commission, says he thinks every elected official has to make their own decision.
“It was Mayor Harris’ decision to continue his trip to Ghana. I’m not going to criticize,” Billingsley said.
Other members of the delegation in Ghana included county commissioner Mickell Lowery, Memphis in May board chairman Charles Ewing and Memphis Police director Mike Rallings.
Ghana is considered a low-risk country for COVID-19; there are only 16 confirmed cases.
Harris says he’s in good health.
“We talked to the health department and CDC about whether or not there any concerns about my health,” Harris said. “As it turns out, there is no concern.”