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TN Politics: As COVID Makes a Comeback, Politicians Eye Next Steps

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The Delta variant has an easy time spreading through Shelby County's large number of unvaccinated citizens. 23 people have died from COVID in the past week, and hospitalizations are rising. Thanks to vaccine hesitancy, local health officials may now have to consider more restrictions.

New CDC research shows that even vaccinated people can spread the virus, which makes a case for masking indoors and maintaining social distancing.

But politicians are loath to revive mandates, even in Shelby County, where the health department has been more aggressive toward stopping the virus than state officials, who are heavily influenced (and occasionally sanctioned) by Republican lawmakers touting personal freedom over social responsibility.

Political analyst Otis Sanford says while we may not see more draconian directives soon, Mayor Lee Harris' forthcoming health strategies will likely be scrutinized in the next election cycle.

Consolidation

Also this week, local lawmakers have revived the idea of merging city and county governments, which Sanford says has failed in the past primarily due to school system concerns from suburban residents.

But ten years have passed since the last effort to consolidate and in that decade the county's municipal governments have created their own school districts.

While that could work in favor of consolidation, Sanford says many suburbanites in unincorporated areas aren't enthusiastic about being absorbed by a City of Memphis government.