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Phase 3 of Shelby County Recovery Plan to Start Monday

Courtesy of Bella Golightly


After a one-week postponement of the third phase of Shelby County’s ‘Back to Business’ plan, officials will move ahead with the reopening framework on Monday. Restaurants and retailers can get closer to full capacity at 75 percent and some entertainment venues can open with approved social distancing schemes.

Even as COVID-19 infections have been increasing since non-essential businesses began reopening in early May, health experts say the local hospitals can keep up with the influx of new patients. New cases have been largely concentrated in family units and some workplace clusters.

“We’re not seeing outbreaks from people going to grocery stores, or going to a business or restaurant,” says Dr. Jon McCullers with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, who also advises leaders on the local pandemic.  

He says policymakers are now pivoting to long-term virus control strategies. 

“This is a chronic thing we’re going to be dealing with for six to 12 months. We need to work on management of it and particularly look at protecting the at-risk,” he says.  

Outbreaks at homes that care for the vulnerable such as the elderly have been especially devastating. About 40 percent of the 136 coronavirus-related deaths in Shelby County have been at these care facilities. 

The Memphis City Council is still debating whether to mandate face masks in public, one of the most effective ways, officials say, to prevent the spread of COVID. 

At Thursday’s public briefing, Doug McGowen, chief operating officer for the City of Memphis, encouraged residents to continue wearing masks.

“Yes, masks can be uncomfortable. Yes, it is different. Yes, it is a change from the way that we do things,” he said. “But the other adverse fact we have is: the only other option we have is to clamp down on activities.” 

The Shelby County Health Department has resumed distribution of free face masks at its health clinics after pausing the program due to concerns over a chemical used to treat the facial coverings. The Environmental Protection Agency said the low concentration of chemical Silvadur 930 used in the fabric did not pose a risk.    

Certain businesses will need to submit specific safety plans to the Health Department in order to resume operations under this next phase of reopening. For more information visit the health department’s website