MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New requirements at Shelby County restaurants are stirring controversy. Health officials have ordered them to take down every customer’s full name and phone number.
Critics call it an invasion of privacy, but officials say it’s in the interest of public health.
Dr. Manoj Jain is an infectious disease expert and member of Shelby County’s COVID-19 Task Force. He says this change will improve contact tracing and help slow the spread.
“This is the new normal. We’re going to have to do things which are different,” Jain said, “I think it’s really important to have peoples’ names and phone numbers. If there was someone who was positive in that restaurant at the same time then the owners can tell everyone else.”
Restaurants also have to take down the date and time each customer comes in. They are also required to keep each customer’s information for 30 days and keep seating charts for 21 days.
Chef Michael Patrick owns Rizzo’s on Main Street. He was already getting the names and numbers of everyone who comes in.
“To me, it was a lot like making a reservation and us asking for your phone number. So, it’s kind of second hand,” Patrick said, “I would hate for, God forbid, someone to get sick here but I feel like it was a public obligation to let people know who ate here.”
“Just think of this, if you were in a restaurant and you were in contact with someone wouldn’t you want to know that hey, I have been in contact? I will take precautions. I will be in isolation,” Jain said.