MEMPHIS, Tenn. – – Shelby County commissioners made a controversial move Monday as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The commission gave health department officials the power to fine businesses that don’t comply with health rules.
The ordinance, which allows for a $50 fine per violation, passed in a nine to four vote Monday night.
“I’m in support of penalizing the few bad actors in business with the aim of keeping our hospitals from being overfilled, protecting our life so that we don’t have useless deaths that we can prevent,” commissione Brandon Morrison said.
But many businesses are against the fines as are some commissioners who feel the policy is unfair to businesses already struggling because of the pandemic.
“People are very, very upset,” commissioner Mark Billingsley said, “They’re at their wits end. Personally, they’re being affected. They’ve lost lives. They lost, some are losing their businesses.”
The enforcement initiative comes several days before stricter health rules take effect. Starting Saturday, everyone is urged to stay home as much as possible. Additionally, indoor seating at restaurants is capped at 25% capacity, retail, grocery stores and gyms have to operate at 50% capacity and personal care businesses like hair salons have to operate by appointment only.
Businesses can appeal fines in court. In the coming weeks commissioners may grant the health department power to fine everyday citizens who violate health rules.
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