Memphis mayor wants neighboring counties to order more severe restrictions to slow spread of COVID-19

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland had some harsh words for neighboring counties Monday as he addressed the spread of the coronavirus.

He wants those counties to use Shelby County as an example and adopt the same restrictions. That includes areas like DeSoto County, Mississippi, which leads the state in confirmed COVID-19 cases at 77.

“It does concern me that our neighboring counties are not implementing the kind of social distancing orders that we are in Shelby County, and they’re going to be using our hospitals,” Strickland said. “They need to step up and do the right thing.”

To him, that means shutting down all non-essential businesses, which is something cities like Southaven, Olive Branch, Horn Lake, and Hernando haven’t done. In those cities, the businesses can stay open as long as they follow CDC guidelines and only allow ten people inside at a time. Like Memphis, restaurants have to stick to delivery and take-out.

Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite defended his city’s restrictions, which include shutting down recreational businesses like gyms. He also said Southaven’s definition of a nonessential business is much broader than Memphis.

“Now is the time where we all need to come together, you know; it’s not a time for finger pointing,” Musselwhite said. “We understand that a virus does not know boundaries. We are in this together. We take it very seriously. We have the same concerns.”

In Hernando, the policies are similar, but gyms can also stay open as long as they follow those same CDC guidelines.

“We’re watching the statistics,” Mayor Tom Ferguson said. “If we were to spike above others or differently than others, we would look at changing things.”

But some DeSoto County residents like John Tippitt want more severe restrictions now.

“I understand the hesitation,” Tippitt said. “It’s bad for business and the city and the economy. On the other hand, if this doesn’t get past us, it’s going to be worse for everybody. The sooner it gets past us, the better.”

In West Memphis, Arkansas, the restrictions are almost the same as Memphis. On Monday, Mayor Marco McClendon asked all churches to suspend in-person services.

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