SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Another health directive in Shelby County will add a twist to dining out as health leaders try to get a handle on COVID-19.
The overall positivity rate in Shelby County is now at its highest level since May first. The county has reported nearly 13,000 cases and more than 200 deaths in all. While 64 percent of patients have recovered, the more than 4,300 active cases is another new high for Shelby County.
Bars are closed in Shelby County, but restaurants are still open. The next time you walk into a restaurant, don’t be surprised when they ask you for your name and phone number. Contact tracing will be a new requirement for dining in.
While you can’t wear a mask while you eat or drink, the health department encourages people to wear a mask while ordering your meal to protect the server from your germs. If you’re not wearing a mask, the health department has asked restaurants not to serve you.
“We want to ask people to treat masking like they do no shoes no shirt no service. It’s very similar,” said Shelby County Health Director Alisa Haushalter.
Masking remains the number one request of the health department. But next up, is contact tracing.
When you eat in the dining room of a restaurant, the health department asks employees to get your information.
“What we’re trying to achieve is the ability to contact people if they’ve been exposed,” said Haushalter. “So, this will not apply for fast food restaurants. It will not apply for takeout or delivery. It’s only applicable to restaurants that have dining in where people are seated.”
Haushalter says restaurants can decide how they want to keep the data and it doesn’t have to be a ton of information. They’re not encouraging restaurants to ask for diners’ IDs by any means – they say they just want names, and phone numbers – in case they’ve been exposed.
Ernie Mellor, the president of the Memphis restaurant association, said while these are tough times the restaurant association wants to work with the health department.
“These decisions that they’re making are for the safety of everyone. Not just for your next door neighbor, but restaurant owners and everyone else in the community,” Mellor said.
Earlier in the week, the health department said they’d be looking into gyms and whether changes need to be made there – but as of Thursday, there are still no changes you need to worry about for your next workout.
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