New health directive lifts more restrictions on businesses in Shelby County

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department issued Health Directive No. 19, lifting restrictions on businesses beginning at midnight March 20.

Face Mask Directive No. 5 went into effect immediately and clarified guidance about mask usage in certain public settings.

If you have a medical condition that makes it hard to wear face coverings, you won’t have to wear one in public in Shelby County.

“People who are not able to medically tolerate a face mask are exempt from wearing one,” Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said. “They will not be required to show medical documentation.”

Everyone else will still be required to wear a mask in public, gyms, and other establishments.

Key changes in Face Mask Directive No. 5:

  • Medical or procedure grade masks are recommended but not required; coverings which are made of suitable layered fabrics are acceptable but scarves, ski masks, and balaclavas are not substitutes for masks.
  • Persons who cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering are not required to wear a face shield, and no person declining to wear a face covering because of a medical condition is required to produce verifying medical documentation.

The health directive impacting businesses will especially help restaurants.

RELATED: Doctor reflects on COVID-19 and how it’s changed healthcare in Shelby County

Dr. Brucce Randolph said restaurants can now stay open until 1 a.m., and diners can finish their meals until 1:30 a.m.

“We’re also allowing up to eight people of the same family unit and close contacts to be seated together,” he said.

Customers must be spaced out at bars by at least six feet, and you must wear a mask unless you are eating or drinking.

Key changes in Health Directive No. 19:

  • Increase in number of people at tables to 8 instead of 6.
  • Persons seated together must be of the same family unit or close contact group.
  • Bartenders are encouraged to wear a face shield or double mask while serving multiple groups at the bar but are not required to do so.
  • Operating hours for dine-in service ends at 1 am (customers may stay until 1:30 to complete meal/payment arrangements).
  • Two hour limit for food service is removed.
  • Any location that serves beer or alcohol must serve food as required by state law (and have a permit to do so).
  • Removes the requirement of maintaining contact tracing records.

Randolph said Shelby County is making good progress lowering the number of COVID-19 cases, but residents must continue taking precautions to keep it that way.

“The possibility of a variant outbreak is very real,” he said. “But if we continue to practice preventive measures that are incorporated in the health directive, we can beat the transmission of this virus.”

Health officials said they’ve received a shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

They said as early as Wednesday, EMTs with the fire department and other partners could begin using it to vaccinate the homeless and homebound.

Have questions about the spread of coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

Vaccine appointments were canceled for Wednesday, March 17, due to expected severe weather.

Anyone who has an appointment at the public vaccination sites will receive an email from the health department and will be given the opportunity to reschedule for later this week or next.

So far, more than 225,000 vaccines have been given in Shelby County.

Last week between the fixed site pods and hospitals, more than 37,000 shots went into to arms.

The Task Force expects to finish vaccinating all teachers in Shelby County who want the COVID-19 vaccine this week and next week.

SCHD looks at ZIP Codes where the uptick is the lowest in the county and responds with pop-up vaccination pods in those communities.

There will be pop-up pods in Hickory Hill and Frayser this weekend. The department is working on plans to open pop-up sites in South Memphis and Orange Mound next.

Have questions about the coronavirus vaccine? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the vaccine information and distribution. CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

1, 539 people have died from COVID-19 in Shelby County. The death rate currently stands at 1.7 percent.

Over 1 million tests have been performed in Shelby County. 10 percent have tested positive

The seven-day positivity rate is down to 3.3 percent.

62 percent of cases have occurred in people ages 18 to 54.

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