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Restaurant Times Getting Back Closer to Normal, But Masking Still on the Menu

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Katie Riordan
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As Shelby County approaches the one-year anniversary of shutting down restaurants' dining rooms due to the pandemic, health officials continue to soften restrictions on them.

Establishments have new and later curfews of 1 a.m., starting Saturday. They also no longer have to cap service at two hours or document patrons' telephone numbers for contact tracing purposes through the Shelby County Health Department. Tables can include up to eight people, all from the same family or “close contact group.”

Diners are still expected to wear masks at all times unless actively eating or drinking. The health department’s latest directive recommends double masking or face shields for bartenders.

While the number of new cases of the virus and hospitalizations have trended downwards as vaccination rates accelerate locally, health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph says the threat of another surge is still real, due to more transmissible variants of the virus. 

“If we continue to practice the preventative measures that are incorporated in the health directive, we can prevent the transmission of this virus,” he said at a press briefing Tuesday. “We encourage you: remain steadfast, hold the course and let’s continue to get back to some sense of normalcy.”  

In updated recommendations on masking, officials endorse the use of medical-grade face coverings.

“Coverings which are made of suitable layered fabrics are acceptable, but scarves, ski masks, and balaclavas are not substitutes for masks,” the health department says.