Shelby County mayors push back on possibility of closing gyms, ending indoor dining

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Three suburban Shelby County mayors are pushing back against a new Shelby County Health Department directive before it’s even been issued.

The mayors say health officials discussed closing gyms and ending indoor dining at restaurants during a Thursday morning conference call with the health department.

“There was some discussion about, well, ‘we’ll just go to take out again. Well, the wait staff doesn’t get to come back to work’,” said Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald.

Like McDonald, Arlington mayor Mike Wissman said he’s worried about the financial hit businesses and their employees could take should they be forced to close or further reduce capacity.

“If there’s issues with certain businesses, enforce and penalize and target those certain businesses. Don’t penalize the entire industry,” said Wissman.

When announcing the directive, the health department cited a 9.6% weekly testing positivity rate and a weekly average of 443 new COVID cases each day.

“Four hundred and fifty cases per day is a setback. It’s a criteria for a setback,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph with the health department.

Joseph Douglas, who works out almost daily at the Crosstown Crossfit, questions the rationale for closing gyms, which were closed for two months at the outset of the pandemic.

“If lockdowns didn’t work the first time, why would we do it again? And if it did work the first time, then why do we have to continue this process?” said Douglas.

In a statement, Lakeland Mayor Mike Cunningham writes:

“Lakeland’s business community is made up of a majority of small businesses that will be drastically affected with those orders should they be put in place. Our businesses are doing a stellar job of following the SCHD guidelines as a means to stay open safely. I truly hope the SCHD takes my opposition to any new closures into consideration.”

The health department declined to respond to the mayors’ concerns and also declined to confirm what the new directive might include before it’s officially announced.

They said that announcement would happen Monday at the latest, but several mayors and members of the business community tell WREG they expect it to happen Friday.

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