New bar, restaurant restrictions announced by Shelby County Health Department as COVID cases rise

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department announced new restrictions on bars and restaurants Tuesday as coronavirus cases continue to increase in the county.

The department is ordering the closing of bars again effective Wednesday night at midnight. Restaurants will have to close at 10 p.m. beginning Wednesday.

The directive includes bars that do not serve food and adult entertainment venues. Read the full health order here.

According to Dr. Alisa Haushalter with the Shelby County Health Department, the COVID-19 numbers for Shelby County have trended upwards since Memorial Day and continues to go up. She told the public at a news conference on Tuesday that the county is at a pivotal point. We can either take action to flatten the curve or allow it to continue to move upwards.

With that in mind, the health department issued a new directive re-enforcing mandatory masking for anyone over the age of 12 while in public and in instances where social distancing is limited.

Nursing homes and corrections staff will be subjected to regular testing.

If transmissions continue they will look at additional restrictions like restaurant and gym capacity, and reconsider in-person dining.

COVID CASE COUNT UPDATE

Memphis Restaurant Association President Ernie Mellor released a statement Tuesday:

“While the MRA does not agree with any business closings we understand the reasoning behind the directive.  Same goes w/ a curfew for all other businesses/restaurants and 10:00pm closings.  We will continue to follow and encourage safety protocols.

“We want to continue to remind all restaurants and businesses to continue to follow safety protocols.  We also want the public to know it is their responsibility to wear their mask in any place of business including restaurants and adhere to social distancing recommendations.”

The Shelby County Health Department not moving back to Phase One, instead adding new restrictions in Phase Two as COVID cases continue to rise.

This decision is part of a phased approach to slow the spread. The first step was last week with the mask mandate; next is targeting places with high transmission.

“What we know is you really can’t drink at a bar if you have a mask on,” said Dr. Alisa Haushalter, director of the health department. “You have to take it off. When you take it off you tend to be talking with other people and that’s high risk for transmission.”

Health officials are closely watching the positivity and transmission rate. Haushalter said the number of people hospitalized due to COVID also impacted this decision.

“As of this morning we have our highest number of people hospitalized with COVID. That’s very concerning to us,” she said. “It lets us know we have an uptick in hospitalizations and are moving towards a surge.”

The idea is that these additional restrictions along with the county-wide mask mandate will get those numbers down.

It’s a big blow to an industry already working to bounce back during this pandemic, but Kevin Kane, president of Memphis Tourism, says it’s necessary if it keeps the public safe.

“A lot of people’s jobs are depending on us getting this right. I trust 100 percent the direction of our health department,” Kane said.

He believes this is a small setback that will ultimately help Memphis come through this stronger than ever, if we all do our part.

Also Tuesday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland extended the city’s state of emergency by another seven days.

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