Shelby County Commissioner requests return to Phase 1 or modification of Phase 2

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A Shelby County Commissioner requested county leadership to go back to Phase 1 of the Back-to-Business plan or make adjustments to Phase 2 as the number of COVID19 cases continues to increase.

In a letter addressed to Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and county health officials, Tami Sawyer said moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2 was prompted by the back-to-business model, “not the overall capacity of our county to be safe from COVID-19.”

“The numbers we saw this weekend, from record new cases to hospitalizations, say to me that we have moved too fast,” she said and urged county leaders to put the people first.

Sawyer went on to clarify on social media returning to Phase 1 or modifying Phase 2 doesn’t necessarily mean the closure of all businesses.

“Businesses should be able to operate but we need to stop the spread of COVID19 in Shelby County.”

Sawyer’s request comes after the Shelby County Health Department reported nearly a 400 case increase in COVID-19 cases.

“I was out and about this weekend,” Sawyer said. “Looking at the anecdotal evidence, people aren’t wearing masks. There’s real fatigue around COVID-19 and wearing masks.”

On Saturday, local health officials told WREG they were investigating to figure out if the spike was an actual increase in positive cases or a product of delayed reporting.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris responded to the request on Twitter, saying the county has followed the data in its recommendations so far, and would be willing to move back to Phase 1 if necessary.

“In fact, we have extended Phase 2 twice because of data-driven recommendations,” the mayor wrote. “There is probably no county in Tennessee (or perhaps our entire region) that has moved as slowly and carefully as Memphis and Shelby County, and we are prepared to do even more.”

However, Harris said, if everyone will do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, that move won’t be needed.

Experts said moving back a phase may be what’s necessary.

“There’s no doubt the numbers today are in many cases as bad or worse than when we undertook some of the steps in the first place,” Baptist Hospital infectious disease expert Dr. Steve Threlkeld said. “I don’t have any doubt our local officials are looking at that and will have to look at that.”

Last week, Memphis City Council passed an ordinance requiring Memphians to wear masks while in public.

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