Memphis Restaurant Association pens open letter to health dept. director, county mayor

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County’s Health Department director acknowledges concerns from the Memphis Restaurant Association after they penned an open letter to her and the county mayor. 

The Association is made up 169 restaurants and 94 supporting businesses.

The group sent the letter shortly after the latest, more stringent health directive for restaurants was issued which included limiting capacity and requiring patrons to wear masks in between eating and drinking.

The lengthy letter covers everything from communication, enforcement, to messaging. But one of the big things they are concerned about is data. They say they want to fully understand the metrics being used.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country and here in the Mid-South. Families are hurting from losing loved ones, and millions of people are without jobs, and many are hurting from the impact of the virus.

“It’s our livelihood. I mean a lot of business owners such as myself live through our businesses and the business is not there,” Ernie Mellor, outgoing Memphis Restaurant Association President, said.

On Tuesday, the Memphis Restaurant Association President, set to leave his post in the next month, acknowledge some concerns the group has. 

“We have not seen any data. We’ve been given verbal data,” Mellor said. “Just because you go in a restaurant does not mean you contract COVID. That you contracted the virus in the restaurant.”

Mellor and other restaurant owners want to know where the cases are coming from. They also want more communication and more notice when changes are coming. On Tuesday, the health department released their findings, saying looking at data from 303 COVID-19 case interviews in November, 49 percent of people said they continued to engage in activities of daily living.

Additionally, 40 percent of people said they continued to engage in social and public activities like shopping and going to restaurants.

Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter was questioned about the letter today. 

“I will respond to that letter formally so I have opted not to make specific comments on the details of it other than to say I will respond to that,” Haushalter said.

Haushalter said she had phone and text conversations with the restaurant association before issuing the next health department directive.

“We do want to have ongoing communication with the Restaurant Association and be able to provide information that helps them better understand decisions that are made locally to reduce transmission,” Haushalter said.

There is a meeting is set between the two groups Thursday, where the incoming president of the restaurant association will be introduced.

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